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Michael Yeager v. Lackawanna County Correctional Facility and Lackawanna County

July 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Munley)


Before the court for disposition are the Defendants Lackawanna County Correctional Facility and Lackawanna County Sheriff's Department's motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 30, 32). The motions have been briefed and are ripe for disposition. Background*fn1

Plaintiff Michael Yeager ("Yeager") was charged with Theft by Unlawful Taking, Receiving Stolen Property and Criminal Mischief and a warrant was issued for his arrest. (Doc. 31, Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Materials Facts ("DSF") ¶ 1; Doc. 31, Ex. 1, Def.'s Summ. J. R. ("SJR") at 2).*fn2 He was arrested on March 20, 2009, taken to the Lackawanna County Correctional Facility ("Correctional Facility") and released on bail that same day. (DSF ¶ 3; SJR at 8-9). Yeager failed to appear for a preliminary hearing on March 25, 2009, which prompted the issuance of a bench warrant by the Honorable Michael J. Barrasse of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas on March 30, 2009. (DSF ¶¶ 2, 4; SJR at 4, 36). The bench warrant is stamped as filed on March 31, 2009. (SJR at 36) Generally, after the bench warrant is ordered, the arresting police department, in the instant case the Scranton Police Department, would enter the warrant into the system for distribution. (Doc. 31, Ex. 1, Attorney Prejean's Statement at 88).

On March 30, 2009, Yeager appeared in the Public Defender's Office and spoke with Attorney Sidney Prejean.*fn3 (Id.) Yeager explained that he had a family emergency which prevented him from appearing at the preliminary hearing. (Id.) Yeager provided a postal money order for his restitution and completed an application for representation. (Id.) Attorney Prejean then called, or "checked," with the Lackawanna County Sheriff's Department ("Sheriff's Department"), speaking with whom he believes to be "Sergeant Oakey" or "Deputy Patrick." (Id.) They indicated that there was no warrant in the system. (Id.) Also on March 30, 2009, Attorney Prejean recalls speaking with Assistant District Attorney Hayes and Judge Barrasse. (Id.) Attorney Prejean explained to them that it was his belief that no bench warrant had been issued for Yeager, therefore, Judge Barrasse did not issue a "lift order." (Id.) After the meeting, Yeager left the courthouse and awaited notification of his next court appearance. (Id.)

On April 9 or 10, 2009, the Scranton Police Department arrested Yeager pursuant to the bench warrant that was issued for his failure to appear at the preliminary hearing and he was brought to the Correctional Facility. (Id.; DSF ¶ 9). Attorney Prejean believed that between the ordering of the warrant on March 25 and Yeager's appearance in his office on March 30, the Scranton Police Department did not have the opportunity to enter the warrant into the system. (Doc. 31, Ex. 1, Attorney Prejean's Statement at 88). At some point after Yeager appeared in Attorney Prejean's office, the Scranton Police Department entered the warrant into the system and executed it. (Id.) A computer search done by the Correctional Facility at the time of Yeager's incarceration indicated that there was an outstanding warrant for Yeager due to his failure to appear at the preliminary hearing. (DSF ¶ 6; SJR at 50). A copy of the bench warrant indicates that it was filed on March 31, 2009, the day after he appeared in Attorney Prejean's office. (See Doc. 31, Ex. 1, "Bench Warrant Failure to Appear" at 36).

Upon admittance to the Correctional Facility, Yeager was provided with an Admission Kit, which contained a writing instrument, paper, envelopes and three stamps. (DSF ¶ 5; SJR, "Inmate Initial Issue Form" at 42). Yeager was also provided with a "Inmate Telephone ID Number Release Form," explaining the Lackawanna County Prison's telephone system. (DSF ¶ 7; Doc. 31, Ex. 1 at 56.). Yeager's form was signed and dated on April 10, 2009. (Doc. 31, Ex. 1 at 56).

Yeager's telephone record indicates that he attempted to make twenty phone calls during his incarceration. (DSF ¶ 14; Ex. 1, "Inmate Attempted Call Search Results" at 89). A prisoner may make a telephone call from the prison by either depositing money into an account or by making a collect call. (DSF ¶ 14; Doc. 31, Ex. 1, "Affidavit of Timothy M. Betti," at 91-93). Yeager did not place a deposit into his account, therefore, the individual to whom the calls were being placed would have to agree to accept the charges. (Id.) Unfortunately, during his incarceration, no one accepted the charges. (DSF ¶ 14). Yeager was incarcerated from April 10, 2009, Good Friday of the Easter holiday, until April 15, 2009. (DSF ¶ 9).*fn4 Yeager was released when a correctional counselor contacted the Lackawanna County Public Defender's Office on Yeager's behalf. (Id.)

On July 23, 2010, Yeager filed a complaint. (Doc. 1). He asserts claims against the Correctional Facility and the Sheriff's Department pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 ("Section 1983"). On October 4, 2010, the Correctional Facility and the Sheriff's Department filed motions to dismiss the complaint. (Docs. 9, 10). On March 28, 2011, this court granted in part and denied in part the motions. We found that the Yeager sufficiently alleged claims against the Correctional Facility for violation of his constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and claims against the Sheriff's Department for violations under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Doc. 19). We also dismissed Yeager's state-law claim. (Id.)

On February 28, 2012, the Correctional Facility and the Sheriff's Department filed the instant motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 30, 32). Yeager's counsel requested and we granted two extensions of time to file a brief in opposition to the defendants' motions. (Docs. 39, 41). On May 23, 2012, after counsel failed to file a brief by the appropriate deadline, the court ordered that Yeager to file a brief within ten days from the date of the order. (Doc. 42). Yeager has not submitted a brief in opposition and the time for such filing has elapsed. These motions are, therefore, ripe and will be treated as unopposed with all of defendants' factual averments accepted as true. See Anchorage Assocs. v. V.I. Bd. of Tax Review, 922 F.2d 168, 175-76 (3d Cir.1990); L.R. 56.1. Jurisdiction

The court has federal question jurisdiction over this case brought under Section 1983 for violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."); 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343(a)(3), (4) (granting district courts jurisdiction over civil actions brought to redress deprivations of constitutional or statutory rights by way of damages or equitable relief).

Legal Standard

Granting summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury Corp., 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Int'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to ...

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