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John Regelman v. Karen Weber

September 28, 2012

JOHN REGELMAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
KAREN WEBER, PROBATION OFFICER, ALLEGHENY COUNTY ADULT PROBATION (DOWNTOWN), DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

ECF No. 91

OPINION

LENIHAN, M.J.

Plaintiff, John Regelman, is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania. He initiated this matter on May 17, 2010, by filing a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following Defendants: Karen Weber, Probation Officer, Allegheny County Adult Probation; Judge Mariani; Allegheny County Jail ("ACJ") (collectively, the "Allegheny County Defendants"); and Allegheny Correctional Health Services ("ACHS"). Judge Mariani was terminated from the case on August 9, 2010. Plaintiff filed an original complaint (ECF No. 9), and Amended Complaint (ECF No. 12), a Supplemental Complaint (ECF No. 13) and another Amended Complaint (ECF No. 14).

Motions to Dismiss were filed by the Allegheny County Defendants (ECF No. 28) and Defendant ACHS (ECF No. 30). By order dated March 21, 2011, the motions were granted except as to Plaintiff's claims against Karen Weber in her individual capacity (ECF No. 66). The remaining claims in this action against Defendant Karen Weber derive from Plaintiff's confinement in the Allegheny County Jail on three separate occasions, allegedly as a result of his false arrest and imprisonment based on Defendant Weber's issuance of bench warrants and/or probation detainers when she should have known that Plaintiff was not on probation during the relevant time periods.*fn1

Following discovery, Defendant Karen Weber filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 91) and supporting exhibits (ECF Nos. 91-1 & 91-2), along with a Brief in support thereof (ECF No. 92), and a Concise Statement of Material Facts (ECF No. 93). Plaintiff filed response in opposition to summary judgment entitled, "Objections to Granting Summary Judgment to Defendants" (ECF No. 96) ("Pl.'s Obj. to Summ. J.") with supporting documents (ECF Nos. 96-1, 96-2 & 96-3).*fn2 Defendant Weber's motion is now ripe for review.

I. LEGAL STANDARD -- SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(a). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element essential to that party's case, and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence, or the lack thereof, which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Nat'l State Bank v. Fed. Reserve Bank of New York, 979 F.2d 1579, 1581-82 (3d Cir. 1992) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-25). Once that burden has been met, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in the complaint, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e) (1963). See also Orsatti v. New Jersey State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 484 (3d Cir. 1995) ("plaintiff cannot resist a properly supported motion for summary judgment merely by restating the allegations of his complaint, but must point to concrete evidence in the record that supports each and every essential element of his case.") (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

An issue is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Finally, while any evidence used to support a motion for summary judgment must be admissible, it is not necessary for it to be in admissible form. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; J.F. Feeser, Inc., v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1542 (3d Cir. 1990).

The same summary judgment standards apply to a pro se plaintiff. Williams v. Lane, Civ. A. No. 01-03396, 2007 WL 756731, *3 (E.D.Pa. Mar. 8, 2007) (citing Agogbua v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., No. 03-6897, 2005 WL 1353612, at *3 (E.D.Pa. May 31, 2005); Tunnell v. Wiley, 514 F.2d 971, 976 (3d Cir.1975)). Although the courts have liberally construed pro se complaints, they have still required pro se plaintiffs to set forth facts sufficient to survive summary judgment. Williams, 2007 WL 756731, at *3 (citing Ezeiruaku v. United States, No. 00-2225, 2000 WL 1751077, at *3 (E.D.Pa. Nov.29, 2000) (citing Shabazz v. Odum, 591 F.Supp. 1513, 1515 (M.D.Pa.1984))).*fn3 The court of appeals has also recognized that while an inmate who is proceeding pro se has a more difficult time generating record evidence in opposing summary judgment, the inmate may nonetheless meet his burden at the summary judgment phase with supporting affidavits. Smith v. Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641, 649 n. 4 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Brooks v. Kyler, 204 F.3d 102, 108 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Norman v. Taylor, 25 F.3d 1259, 1265 (4th Cir. 1994) (Hall, J., dissenting))). Thus, where a pro se litigant is given every opportunity to functionally respond in some meaningful way to a summary judgment motion and fails to do so, a movant who has met his burden of proof shall be entitled to summary judgment in his favor. Williams, 2007 WL 756731, at *3 (citations omitted); Tunnell, 514 F.2d at 976 (3d Cir.1975) (citations omitted).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On September 25, 2007, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to Receiving Stolen Property in the criminal case docketed at CP-02-CR-0013610-2007 (the "2007 Case") in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County ("state court"). Judge Anthony Mariani sentenced Plaintiff to one year probation and imposed additional conditions of drug and alcohol evaluation and restitution. (Ex. A to Weber Aff., ECF No. 91-2 at 7.) On May 15, 2008, Defendant Weber filed a Gagnon I*fn4 Probation Violation Report with the state court, citing Plaintiff as a technical violator of his probation for failure to report, failure to pay restitution, and failure to comply with the special order pertaining to the additional conditions of drug and alcohol evaluation. (Ex. B to Weber Aff., ECF No. 91-2 at 8-9.) Thereafter, Plaintiff was ordered to appear at a Gagnon I violation hearing before a court agent, a probation office hearing officer, on August 12, 2008; however, the Notice to Appear was returned to the court as undeliverable. (Weber Aff. at ¶¶2(c) & (d), ECF No. 91-2 at 3.) Defendant Weber asserts that, as a result, she was instructed by the court to file the appropriate paperwork for a warrant to be issued for Plaintiff's arrest. (Id. at ¶2(e), ECF No. 91-2 at 3-4.) Accordingly, a bench warrant for Plaintiff's arrest was issued by the state court judge on December 3, 2008. (Weber Aff. at ¶2(f), ECF No. 91-2 at 4; Ex. C to Weber Aff., ECF No. 91-2 at 10.)

In the meantime, on July 14, 2008, counsel for Plaintiff in the 2007 Case filed a Petition to Terminate Costs (Restitution). (Pl.'s App. Ex. B at 55-56, ECF No. 96-3 at 56-57.) The petition was granted on October 24, 2008. (Pl.'s App. Ex. B at 59, ECF No. 96-3 at 60.) The state court judge's order on October 24, 2008 did not, however, close interest in the 2007 Case, nor was there any evidence of an order closing interest or a motion requesting same in the court records, according to the Allegheny County Public Defender's Office. (Pl.'s App. Ex. A, ECF No. 96-1.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff remained an absconder until the bench warrant issued on December 3, 2008 was cleared and he was arrested on new attributable charges on June 7, 2009,*fn5 in further violation of his probation on the 2007 Case. (Weber Aff. at ¶2(g), ECF No. 91-2 at 4.)

Specifically, Weber states that Plaintiff was arrested on a Failure to Appear warrant issued in the criminal case docketed at CP-02-CR-0017964-2008 (the "2008 Case") for charges of habitual offender, presenting false identification to law enforcement, and driving under a suspended license. (Id.; see also Criminal Docket/Entries at 5, Commw. v. Regelman, Case No. CP-02-CR-0017964-2008, available at http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CP.aspx.) Plaintiff was also detained on the probation violation warrant issued in the 2007 Case and a detainer was lodged. (Weber Aff. at ¶2(g), and Ex. C & D thereto, ECF No. 91-2 at 4, 10-12.) A Gagnon I hearing was held on June 18, 2009 to address the probation violations, at which time the hearing officer lifted the detainer and Plaintiff was released. (Weber Aff. at ¶2(h) & Ex. E attached thereto, ECF No. 91-2 at 4 & 13.)

Plaintiff was also incarcerated from October 28, 2009 to November 18, 2009. Defendant Weber states that she received notification from the Allegheny County Jail on October 29, 2009 that Plaintiff had been arrested on a bench warrant for failure to appear at a court hearing in Case No. CP-02-CR-0017964-2008 (the "2008 Case"), on charges of habitual offender, presenting false identification to law enforcement, and driving with a suspended license. (Weber Aff. at ¶3(a) & Ex. F. thereto, ECF No. 91-2 at 4, 16.) After discussing the circumstances with her supervisor, Weber states that she issued a detainer on October 30, 2009 based on the attributable charges in the 2008 Case which had not yet been adjudicated, along with probation rule issues, thereby changing Plaintiff's probation status in the 2007 Case from a technical violator to a potential convicted violator. (Weber Aff. at ¶¶3(b) & 4(g), & Ex. G thereto, ECF No. 91-2 at 4-6, 17.)

On November 14, 2009, Plaintiff submitted a request to the Clerk of Courts/Department of Court Records (on a form entitled, "Inmate's Request to Staff Member") inquiring as to whether the Public Defender's Office filed a motion to close out his probation with Judge Mariani in the 2007 Case. (Pl.'s App. Ex. B at 3, ECF No. 96-3.) Plaintiff further stated in his request that he "may be being detained without just cause" as he believed his 2007 Case was closed out. (Id.) Thereafter, the Criminal Docket in the 2007 Case reflects that on November 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Lift the Detainer that had been lodged by Defendant Weber on October 30, 2009. (Crim. Docket/Entries at 5, Commw. v. Regelman, CP-02-CR-0013610-2007, available at http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CP.aspx.)

According to Defendant Weber, a hearing was held before Judge Mariani on November 18, 2009, on Plaintiff's motion to lift the detainer. (Weber Aff. at ¶3(c), ECF No. 91-2 at 5.) At the hearing, Judge Mariani lifted the detainer and Plaintiff was released on November 18, 2009. (Id.; Ex. F, G & H attached to Weber Aff., ECF No. 91-2 at 14-18.) However, Plaintiff disputes that this hearing took place. (Pl.'s Objections to Granting Summ. J. to Defendants, ECF No. 96 at 2.)

The third and last period of incarceration at issue in this lawsuit began on November 28, 2009,*fn6 and ended on January 28, 2010. Plaintiff was arrested on November 28, 2009 on new charges of Burglary, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Criminal Trespass and Prowling in Case No. CP-02-CR-0010323-2009 (the "2009 Case"). (Weber Aff. at ¶4(a) & Ex. I attached thereto, ECF No. 91-2 at 5, 19-21.) At that time, there was no active probation violation warrant issued through any of Defendant Weber's cases. (Id.) However, as of November 29, 2009, the charges of habitual offender, presenting false identification to law enforcement, and driving with a suspended license in the 2008 Case were still unadjudicated, and were attributable to the original probation imposed by Judge Mariani in the 2007 Case. (Weber Aff. at ¶4(f), ECF No. 91-2 at 6.) On November 30, 2009, Defendant Weber notified the state court judge that Plaintiff had been arrested on new charges in the 2009 Case and requested guidance as to how to proceed. *fn7 (Weber Aff. at ¶4(c), ECF No. 91-2 at 5-6.) According to Defendant Weber, in December 2009, the state court judge instructed her to file the appropriate paperwork for the court to issue a bench warrant for a probation violation. (Weber Aff. at ¶4(d), ECF No. 91-2 at 6.)

Thereafter, the state court judge issued a bench warrant on December 2, 2009 in the 2007 Case for a probation violation, based on the attributable unadjudicated charges in the 2008 Case. (Weber Aff. at 4(d) & Ex. J thereto, ECF No. 91-2 at 6 & 22; Pl.'s App. Ex. B at 15, ECF No. 96-3 at 16.) Since Plaintiff was already in custody from his arrest on the new charges in the 2009 Case, a detainer was lodged against him on December 16, 2009, based on the bench warrant issued on December 2, 2009 in the 2007 Case. (Ex. K attached to Weber Aff., ECF No. 91-2 at 23.) On December 21, 2009, Plaintiff submitted a request to the Clerk of Courts (again on an Inmate Request form) asking why he was being detained on a probation violation in the 2007 Case when that case had been closed out. (Pl.'s App. Ex. B at 16, ECF No. 96-3 at 17.) Plaintiff further requested that Judge Mariani (the sentencing judge in the 2007 Case) be notified that the detainer should be lifted and he should be released. (Id.)

The criminal docket in the 2007 Case reflects that a motion to lift the detainer was filed by Plaintiff on December 23, 2009. (Crim. Docket/Entries at 5, Commw. v. Regelman, CP-02-CR-0013610-2007, available at http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CP.aspx.) The court records further show that the detainer was cleared on December 23, 2009.*fn8 (Ex. K attached to Weber Aff., ECF No. 91-2 at 23.) Plaintiff was not released, however, until January 28, 2010, when he made bail on the new charges in the 2009 Case. (Id.)

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges that he was falsely arrested and imprisoned in the Allegheny County Jail on three separate occasions because Defendant Weber caused to be issued bench warrants and/or probation detainers when she should have known that Plaintiff was not on probation during the relevant time periods. In addition, Plaintiff submits that he did not receive the required Gagnon I & II hearings for the second and ...


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