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Eubanks v. Harrisburg Police Dept.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 3, 2013

RHONDA EUBANKS, Plaintif.
v.
HARRISBURG POLICE DEPT., Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

THOMAS M. BLEWITT, Magistrate Judge.

I. BACKGROUND.

On July 30, 2013, Plaintiff Rhonda Eubanks, [1] an inmate at SCI-Muncy, Muncy, Pennsylvania, filed, pro se, this action on a 4-page form civil rights Complaint, under 42 U.S.C. ยง1983.[2] Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis and an Authorization that same day. (Docs. 2 & 3). On August 1, 2013, the Clerk of Court issued an Administrative Order to the Warden of SCI-Muncy directing a certified copy of the inmate's trust fund account be submitted, so as to evaluate the Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis, and directing the Warden to remit from Plaintiff s inmate account the full filing fee in monthly installments. (Doc. 5). Subsequently, the Business Manger at SCI-Mucny submitted a copy of Plaintiff's Inmate Account balance indicating the Plaintiff had an account deficit of $9.75 as of August 6, 2013. (Doc. 8).

Named as original Defendants in Plaintiff's Complaint were the Young Women's Christian Association ("YWCA"), the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, and the Harrisburg Police Department. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-2).

In the Statement of Claim of Plaintiff's Complaint, Doc. 1, p. 2, Plaintiff simply stated, "[i]llegal eviction and spraying of mace into my eyes."

As relief in her Complaint, Plaintiff requested that Defendants:

Pay all court cost.
Pay all hospital bills.[3]
Pay all attorney Cost.
Settlement of 25 million dollars in cash.

(Doc. 1, p. 3).

In her Complaint, Plaintiff indicated that she has not exhausted administrative remedies as related to her claims. (Doc. 1, p. 2). However, since Plaintiff was not complaining about conditions of confinement at SCI-Muncy, and she did not name Defendants who are employed by SCI-Muncy and did not allege that prison officials violated her constitutional rights, we found that the DOC administrative remedy process did not apply to her claims.[4]

As mentioned, Plaintiff requested, in part, money damages for the alleged violations of her constitutional rights in the amount of twenty-five (25) million dollars in cash.

We then screened Plaintiff's Document 1 Complaint on August 7, 2013, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. See Banks v. County of Allegheny, 568, F.Supp.2d 579, 587-88 (W.D. Pa. 2008). We issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") and recommended as follows:

(1) Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant Harrisburg Police Department be dismissed without prejudice so that Plaintiff may amend her Complaint with regard to this claim.
(2) Defendants YWCA and YWCA of Greater Harrisburg be dismissed with prejudice, as they are not "state actors" under Section 1983, and thus cannot be held liable in the present action.
(3) Plaintiff's state law claim for "illegal eviction" be dismissed without prejudice to file an appropriate state law action in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas as it is a state law claim, and not a cognizable constitutional claim under Section 1983.
(4) The Court remand this case to the undersigned for further proceedings.

(Doc. 6).

On September 5, 2013, the Court adopted our R&R. (Doc. 9). The Court dismissed without prejudice Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant Harrisburg Police Department and directed Plaintiff to amend her Complaint with regard to this claim within twenty days. The Court dismissed with prejudice Defendants YWCA and YWCA of Greater Harrisburg. The Court also dismissed without prejudice Plaintiff's state law claim for "illegal eviction" so that Plaintiff could file an appropriate state law action in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. Further, the Court remanded this case to the undersigned for further proceedings.

Thus, Plaintiffs Amended Complaint with respect to her Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant Harrisburg Police Department was due by September 26, 2013. Plaintiff failed to file her Amended Complaint as directed by the Court and she failed to request more time within which to do so. We sua sponte gave Plaintiffs an additional six (6) days from September 26, 2013, to file her Amended Complaint. Because Plaintiff failed to file her Amended Complaint as ordered, we will now recommend that this case be dismissed without prejudice for Plaintiff's willful failure to prosecute her case and to abide by the Court's Doc. 9 Order.

II. DISCUSSION.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) allows for the dismissal of an action for "failure of the plaintiff to prosecute or comply with these rules or order of court ..." Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) (emphasis added). See Emerson v. Thiel College, 296 F.3d 184, 190 (3d Cir. 2002). In the instant case, Plaintiff has failed to prosecute her action and, has failed to comply with the Doc. 9 Order of this Court by her failure to timely file her Amended Complaint. Plaintiff has taken no action with respect to this case since August 9, 2013, when she filed a 1-sentence letter requesting a copy of her Complaint and the dates of filing deadlines. (Doc. 8). The Court's September 5, 2013 Order provided Plaintiff with her deadline to file her Amended Complaint with respect to her Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant Harrisburg Police Department and it directed the Clerk of Court to send Plaintiff a copy her original Complaint. As stated, the Court directed Plaintiff to file her Amended Complaint by September 26, 2013. (Doc. 9). We then afforded Plaintiffs sua sponte, an additional six (6) days to comply with the Court's Order to file her Amended Complaint. However, Plaintiff failed to timely file her Amended Complaint and, she failed to request an extension of time. Further, Plaintiff has not filed any document with the Court explaining why she failed to comply with the Doc. 9 Order.

We find that the stated behavior of Plaintiff constitutes a willful failure to prosecute her case, as opposed to a situation in which she had problems in pursuing her case, but made efforts to comply with this Court's Order. We find that Plaintiff's "behavior has been so egregious as to make self-evident the factual findings and analysis [of the Poulis factors]." Williams v. Kort, 223 Fed.Appx. 95, 103 (3d Cir. 2007). We find that due to Plaintiff's willful failure to file her Amended Complaint as directed by the Order from the Court, this case cannot proceed forward.

Rule 41(b) allows for the dismissal of an action where the Plaintiff fails to prosecute or fails to comply with rules or orders of the court. Therefore, we shall recommend that this case be dismissed without prejudice under Rule 41(b) due to Plaintiff's willful failure to prosecute it and due to her willful failure to comply with the Court's Order. Plaintiff should be deemed as abandoning this action. Id.; see also Spain v. Gallegos, 26 F.3d 439, 454-55 (3d Cir. 1994); Guyer v. Beard, 907 F.2d 1424 (3d Cir. 1990) (the district court's requirement to perform an analysis under Poulis is obviated where Plaintiff's conduct is so egregious as to demonstrate an abandonment of his case).

Even though we find that Plaintiff's conduct clearly shows that she intended to abandon her case, out of an abundance of caution, we analyze the factors of Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.3d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984), before recommending that this case be dismissed under Rule 41(b). See Emerson v. Thiel College, 296 F.3d at 190.

In U.S v. $8, 221, 877.16 in U.S. Currency, 330 F.3d 141, 161 (3d Cir. 2003), the Court stated that "the sanction of dismissal is disfavored absent the most egregious circumstances. See Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863, 867-68 (3d Cir.1984)." The Court in U.S v. $8, 221, 877.16 in U.S. Currency, 330 F.3d at161-62, then stated that "six important factors must be weighed by a district court in determining whether the harsh sanction of dismissal is justified:"

(1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense.

(Citing Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868).

In analyzing and balancing all of the Poulis factors, we find that Plaintiff's stated conduct in delaying her case is attributed to her personally. Initially, Plaintiff was required to have filed her Amended Complaint by September 26, 2013. (Doc. 9). Plaintiff failed to comply with the Court's Order. We then afforded Plaintiffs, sua sponte, an additional six (6) days to comply with the Court's Order to file her Amended Complaint. To date, Plaintiff has failed to timely file her Amended Complaint and, she failed to request an extension of time. Thus, Plaintiff has not properly filed any amended pleading as directed by the Court's Order.

Plaintiff has failed to comply with the Court's Order, and thus, we shall now recommend that her case be dismissed without prejudice in accordance with Rule 41(b). As stated, this case cannot proceed without Plaintiff's compliance with the Court's Order to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs original Complaint did not state a cognizable Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant Harrisburg Police Department as required in a S1983 action. Because we shall recommend that Plaintiff's case be dismissed without prejudice and because Plaintiff has not paid the filing fee, we find that other sanctions would not be effective in this case.

As stated, Plaintiff has not properly filed any amended pleading as directed by the Court's Order, and he also has given no indication that she intends to pursue this action. Plaintiff has failed to contact the Court to provide an explanation as to why she failed to comply with its Order.

We also find that Plaintiff has caused prejudice to the remaining Defendant Harrisburg Police Department since it has been named in a federal lawsuit over sixty (60) days ago, and no proper action has been taken against it to date.

Moreover, since Plaintiff has failed to file a proper pleading and has failed to file her Amended Complaint as specified in the Court's September 5, 2013 Order (Doc. 9), it does not appear that Plaintiff has a meritorious claim against Defendant Harrisburg Police Department.

Thus, we find that the Poulis factors weigh in favor of dismissing this case without prejudice and that Plaintiff's willful failure to comply with the Court's Order to file her Amended Complaint demonstrates she has abandoned her case.

III. RECOMMENDATION.

Based on the foregoing, it is respectfully recommended that the Plaintiff's case be dismissed without prejudice. It is also recommended that Plaintiff's in forma pauperis Motion (Doc. 2) be granted solely for the purpose of filing this action.


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