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Sosa v. Grillo

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 10, 2013

FRANCISCO SOSA, Plaintiff.
v.
JOSEPH GRILLO, Defendant.

ORDER

SUSAN E. SCHWAB, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction.

The plaintiff, Francisco Sosa, claims that the defendant, a prison counselor, violated his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in connection with a sex-offender-treatment program, used excessive force against him, and planned to transfer him in retaliation for his filing of this action. We previously denied Sosa leave to file a fourth amended complaint, and he has now moved for reconsideration of that order. Soas has also filed a motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint. We will deny both of those motions.

II. Background and Procedural History.

Sosa is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pennsylvania. Prior to being transferred to SCI-Frackville, Sosa was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Waymart, Pennsylvania, and, on August 29, 2012, while incarcerated at that institution, Sosa filed a complaint, which he later amended. Docs. 1 and 8. In these complaints, Sosa sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thirteen correctional officials, and three private attorneys who represented him in criminal matters that led to his conviction and incarceration. Sosa advanced a hodgepodge of claims against this array of defendants. In these complaints, Sosa alleged: (1) that he was verbally and mentally abused by prison staff; (2) that prison supervisors failed to act promptly and favorably upon his various grievances; and (3) that he was denied due process in the course of disciplinary proceedings which resulted in a sanction of 120 days in restricted housing. Doc. 1. Sosa also sued his criminal defense counsel for their alleged shortcomings in defending him during probation-revocation proceedings and postconviction proceedings. Doc. 8. Finally, Sosa's complaint contained contradictory allegations regarding whether he had been physically assaulted by staff, with some pleadings asserting a claim that Sosa was assaulted, and other pleadings contradicting this claim. Docs. 1 and 7.

Along with these pro se complaints, Sosa filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which the court granted. As part of the court's legally mandated screening of in forma pauperis cases, Magistrate Judge Carlson carefully reviewed these two complaints, and he concluded that they failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, Judge Carlson recommended that the complaints be dismissed without prejudice to Sosa attempting to correct the deficiencies noted in the Report and Recommendation, a recommendation which Judge Munley adopted in October of 2012. Docs. 9 and 14.

In the meantime, in an apparent effort to comply with Judge Carlson's guidance regarding deficiencies in his prior pleadings, Sosa filed a document styled as an amended complaint. Doc. 13. This second amended complaint, however, had its own flaws and shortcomings. First, this complaint had no caption and did not clearly identify any defendants, leaving the court to speculate as to which defendants may be named in this pleading. Id. Furthermore, while the second amended complaint appeared to abandon claims against Sosa's former defense counsel, it still seemed to persist in bringing claims based on alleged verbal harassment, processing of inmate grievances, supervisory liability, and the conduct of disciplinary proceedings, claims that the court previously found to be legally deficient. Id. The second amended complaint also clarified that Sosa wished to bring an excessive force claim against some correctional defendants, but it did not clearly identify those defendants purportedly because Sosa alleges that he was unconscious at the time of the assault and does not know who his assailants were. Id.

Judge Carlson carefully reviewed this second amended complaint, and he concluded that it failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. He recommended that the second amended complaint be dismissed with prejudice as to all claims against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Department of Corrections, all claims against prison official defendants Klopotoski, Gavin, Murphy, Banta, DeLucy, Delrosso, Elleh, Kosicuk, Vivanasky, and Smith arising out of allegations of supervisory liability and complaints concerning the processing of prison grievances, all claims against disciplinary hearing examiner Plaksa, all claims against Sosa's former counsel, and all claims of verbal harassment. Doc. 16. Judge Carlson further recommended that the excessive force claim be dismissed without prejudice to Sosa filing an amended complaint which would correct the defects noted in his Report and Recommendation. Id. Judge Munley adopted that Report and Recommendation. Doc. 18.

On November 20, 2012, Sosa filed a third amended complaint naming two defendants. Doc. 19. Sosa named a prison counselor, Joseph Grillo, as a defendant, and Sosa made a series of specific and detailed allegations against defendant Grillo. Id. Sosa also named the prison superintendent, Wayne Gavin, as a defendant, but he merely alleged that Mr. Gavin is liable because he was responsible for the operation of the prison and failed to adequately investigate Sosa's prior complaints, allegations the court previously found to be legally insufficient. Id. Judge Carlson recommended that Sosa's third amended complaint be dismissed with prejudice as to defendant Gavin, but he recommended that it be served on defendant Grillo. Id. In early January of 2013, Judge Munley adopted that Report and Recommendation and remanded the case to the undersigned for further proceedings. Doc. 32.

Sosa filed a fourth amended complaint, which we ordered stricken from the record because Sosa did not seek or obtain either the opposing party's written consent or leave of court as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) and because the fourth amended complaint included claims that the court had already dismissed with prejudice. Doc. 35. Thereafter, Sosa filed motions for leave to file a fourth amended complaint, docs. 37 & 42, but because Sosa's proposed fourth amended complaint included claims and defendants that the court had already dismissed with prejudice, we denied those motions. Doc. 91.

Undeterred in his quest to add claims and defendants to this case, Sosa then filed a motion for reconsideration of the denial of his motions for leave to file a fourth amendment complaint and a separate motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint. Docs. 93 & 100. We will deny those motions.

III. Motion For Reconsideration.

Sosa has filed a motion for reconsideration of the Order of April 12, 2013 denying his motions for leave to file a fourth amended complaint. Because Sosa has not met the exacting standards to justify reconsideration, we will deny his motion.

As "[t]he purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence, " Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985), "[t]he scope of a motion for reconsideration... is extremely limited." Blystone v. Horn, 664 F.3d 397, 415 (3d Cir. 2011). "A proper Rule 59(e) motion therefore must rely on one of three grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010). Mere disagreement with the court, however, does not translate into a clear error of law or fact. Petruzzi's, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., Inc., 983 F.Supp. 595, 611 (M.D. Pa. 1996). "A motion for reconsideration is not a tool to relitigate and reargue issues which have already been considered and disposed of by the court." Id. "Nor is it to be used to put forth additional arguments which could have been made but which the party neglected to make before judgment." Waye v. ...


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