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Henry Unseld Washington v. James Grace

February 7, 2012

HENRY UNSELD WASHINGTON
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES GRACE, ET AL. DEFENDANTS. HENRY UNSELD WASHINGTON
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES GRACE, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones

Magistrate Judge Carlson

Judge Jones

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Introduction

These cases present a striking illustration of both the challenges which can arise in pro se litigation, and the reasons why case law limits the ability of plaintiffs to endlessly attempt to amend complaints, holding that courts need not entertain amendment of pleadings, when the exercise of amending the pleading is itself an exercise in futility.

In this case, we are presented by an inmate pro se plaintiff who has been working on various amended complaints for the past five years, since 2007, none of which have yet been sufficiently clear or coherent to serve. As part of this protracted process, in September of 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, considered the legal sufficiency of one of Washington's amended complaints, dismissed the vast bulk of the plaintiff's prolix and confusing third amended complaint, and found that only 14 averments out of the plaintiff's 360 paragraph amended complaint warranted service and further litigation. Washington v. Grace, No. 10-4434, 2011 WL 4436277, *2 (3d Cir Sept. 26, 2011).

Following the remand of this matter, we offered Washington the opportunity to prepare a simple, concise amended complaint reciting these remaining claims. Washington has responded to this simple direction by filing multiple motions for extension of time to amend his complaint, motions and pleadings in which Washington estimates that it may take him as much as an additional 18 months to complete this elementary task. Washington has also tendered to the Court what he describes as the first installment on this proposed amended complaint which may take a year and a half to complete--a 75 page tome which names more than 150 defendants, repeats dozens of dismissed claims, and contains in excess of 140 separately numbered paragraphs, many of which re-allege claims that have already been found wholly wanting. Given Washington's assertion that this document represents only 25% of his entire proposed amended complaint, it is anticipated that when Washington completes this pleading, which he currently estimates may be sometime in the summer of 2013, the amended complaint will be 300 pages in length and will contain more than 560 separately numbered paragraphs.

On these facts, recited by Washington, we find that granting further leave to amend would be futile. Therefore, we will deny Washington's motions to amend and for further extensions of time in which to amend this complaint. Instead, we will order service of Washington's last previously filed amended complaint on the defendants, and will direct the defendants to respond only to those averments that were previously specifically identified by the court of appeals as meriting a response.

II. Statement of Facts and of the Case

These cases have been referred to the undersigned for pre-trial management following the remand of this matter from the court of appeals on September 26, 2011. Washington v. Grace, No. 10-4434, 2011 WL 4436277 (3d Cir. Sept. 26, 2011). That appellate court opinion aptly captured the essential quality of Washington's claims and allegations, stating that:

On June 24, 2008, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania prisoner Henry Unseld Washington commenced this lawsuit, the second of at least two he lodged against a similar, capacious set of defendants. As before, his lengthy, handwritten complaint charged a series of constitutional and other violations, most predicated on conspiratorial retaliation, ranging from the serious (physical and sexual assault) to the trivial (denial of toenail clippers; targeted, tobacco-saturated expectorate) to the outright bizarre (contamination of cell with "renowned cancer-causing juice"). The defendants were, again, staff members and others associated with a series of Pennsylvania state prisons: SCIs Greene, Fayette, Huntingdon, Dallas, and Pine Grove. Washington requested, inter alia, compensatory damages, replacement of his damaged property, injunctive relief (including commutation of his life sentence, facially prohibited by Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973)), and surgery to reverse his "genital dysmorphism."*fn1 This new case, which addressed conduct spanning from June 30, 2004, to (by the third amended complaint) May 2010, substantially overlapped with the previous case, M. D. Pa. Civ. No. 4--07--CV--00867; indeed, several of the allegations were identical.

Washington v. Grace, 2011 WL 4436277 at *1 (footnotes omitted).

The appellate court then conducted a painstakingly careful review of Washington's third amended complaint, which had previously been dismissed in its entirety upon a screening review. While that review affirmed the dismissal of literally hundreds of claims, averments and parties named by Washington in this amended complaint, out of an abundance of caution the court of appeals remanded a handful of claims for further scrutiny by this Court. In this regard, the court of appeals' opinion in this case narrowly and specifically defined Washington's surviving claims, plainly stating as follows:

Since Washington initiated this lawsuit on June 24, 2008, see Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276 (1988), the two-year statute of limitations for 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions in Pennsylvania bars recovery for conduct taking place before June 24, 2006. See Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d Cir.2009); see also Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 1 (3d Cir.1994) (explaining that a complaint can be dismissed for statute-of-limitations violations when "the complaint facially shows noncompliance with the limitations period and the affirmative defense clearly appears on the face of the pleading"). Looking to the third amended complaint, which was used by the District Court in making its final disposition, we observe that paragraphs one through 92 refer exclusively to activity before the two-year cutoff. Therefore, none of those factual grounds can properly support a claim (with one exception, discussed infra). We are similarly in accord with the majority of the District Court's reasoning on Washington's Eighth Amendment and First Amendment retaliation claims. Washington did not successfully plead deliberate indifference by the defendants to his serious medical needs, see Woloszyn v. Cnty. of Lawrence, 396 F.3d 314, 320 (3d Cir.2005), nor did he show that most of the alleged retaliation by the defendants would deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising his constitutional rights, see Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir.2003); moreover, many of the defendants were not shown to have personal involvement in any underlying constitutional violation, see Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir.2005).However, we have identified several claims ...


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