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Ralph D. Gwilym, Jr v. Warden Duane Black

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


May 7, 2013

RALPH D. GWILYM, JR., PLAINTIFF
v.
WARDEN DUANE BLACK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

(Judge Rambo)

MEMORANDUM

I. Background

Plaintiff Ralph D. Gwilym, Jr., an inmate currently incarcerated at the Centre County Prison in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, commenced this civil rights action with a complaint filed on December 17, 2012, pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) In his complaint, Plaintiff makes several allegations with respect to inadequate medical care for his multiple sclerosis at Centre County Prison.

By order dated January 2, 2013, the court directed service of the complaint on all Defendants named therein.*fn1 (Doc. 7.) On February 15, 2013, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and a supporting brief. (Docs. 12 & 13.) Pursuant to M.D. Pa. Local Rule 7.6, Plaintiff had fourteen (14) days from the service of Defendants' motion and brief to file a brief in opposition to the motion. Within that time period, Plaintiff neither made the appropriate filing nor requested an extension of time in which to do so. As a result, by order dated April 10, 2013, the court directed Plaintiff to file a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss on or before April 23, 2013. (Doc. 14.) The order also forewarned Plaintiff that if he failed to oppose the motion within that time period allotted by the court, the court would grant the motion to dismiss without a merits analysis. See M.D. Pa. Local Rule 7.6; Stackhouse v. Mazurkiewicz, 951 F.2d 29, 30 (3d Cir. 1991). Although two (2) weeks have passed since Plaintiff's opposition to the motion to dismiss was due, he has neither made the appropriate filing nor filed an extension of time in which to do so.

Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be deemed unopposed and granted without a merits analysis, Plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed with prejudice for failure to prosecute and for failure to comply with a court order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), and the Clerk of Court will be directed to close the case.

II. Discussion

Generally, a dispositive motion may not be granted merely because it is unopposed. However, when a plaintiff fails to prosecute or comply with a court order, the court may dismiss the action pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Link v. Wabash Railroad Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629 (1962). In Link, the Supreme Court stated:

The authority of a federal trial court to dismiss a plaintiff's action with prejudice because of his failure to prosecute cannot seriously be doubted. [footnote omitted] The power to invoke this sanction is necessary in order to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion in the calendars of the District Courts. The power is of ancient origin, having its roots in judgments of non-suit and non prosequitur entered at common law . . . . It has been expressly recognized in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) . .

Id. at 629-30.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held in Stackhouse that a district court should not dismiss a civil rights complaint brought by a former prisoner for failure to comply with a local rule requiring a response to a dispositive motion without examining the merits of the complaint. 951 F.2d at 30. However, in reaching this holding, the Court of Appeals did not vitiate the Supreme Court's decision in Link, Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or the inherent power of the district court to impose the sanction of dismissal for failing to comply with a court order. Instead, the Court of Appeals specifically stated:

In reaching our result, we do not suggest that the district court may never rely on the local rule to treat a motion to dismiss as unopposed and subject to dismissal without a merits analysis. There may be some cases where failure of a party to oppose a motion will indicate that the motion is in fact not opposed, particularly if the party is represented by an attorney and in that situation the rule may be appropriately invoked. Nor do we suggest that if a party fails to comply with the rule after a specific direction to comply from the court, the rule cannot be invoked.

Stackhouse, 951 F.2d at 30 (emphasis added); see also Mindek v. Rigatti, 964 F.2d 1369, 1373 (3d Cir. 1992) ("Poulis did not provide a magic formula whereby the decision to dismiss or not to dismiss a plaintiff's complaint becomes a mechanical calculation . . . . [N]ot all of the Poulis factors*fn2 need be satisfied in order to dismiss a complaint . . . . Instead, the decision must be made in the context of the district court's extended contact with the litigant. Ultimately, the decision to dismiss constitutes an exercise of the district court judge's discretion and must be given great deference by [the Court of Appeals].").

In the instant case, Plaintiff was advised of the requirements of Local Rule 7.6*fn3 in the Standing Practice Order issued in this case on December 17, 2012.

(Doc. 6.) Further, he specifically was directed to comply with Local Rule 7.6 in the court's April 10, 2013 order directing him to file a brief in opposition, and was warned of the consequences of failing to timely file his opposition. (Doc. 14.) Even so, to date Plaintiff has failed to file a brief in opposition or seek an extension of time in which to do so. In all, Plaintiff's as-yet unfiled response is more than 8 weeks delinquent from its original deadline. As a result, the court concludes that Plaintiff's dilatoriness outweighs any of the other considerations set forth in Poulis. See supra note 2, at 4. Accordingly, the court will deem the pending motion to dismiss to be unopposed and will grant the motion, dismiss the complaint in this action pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to prosecute and for failure to comply with a court order, and direct that this case be closed.

An appropriate order will issue.

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

RALPH D. GWILYM, JR., Plaintiff v. WARDEN DUANE BLACK, et al., Defendants

CIVIL NO. 1:CV-12-2508 (Judge Rambo)

ORDER

In accordance with the accompanying memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1) The unopposed motion to dismiss (Doc. 12) is GRANTED.

2) Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) for failure to prosecute and for failure to comply with a court order.

3) The Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this case.

4) Any appeal from this order will be deemed frivolous, without probable cause, and not taken in good faith.

Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

Dated: May 7, 2013.


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