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Tindell v. Commonwealth, Department of Corrections

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

April 15, 2014

ARCHIE TINDELL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al, Defendants.

AMBROSE DISTRICT JUDGE

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

I. RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that the motion for summary judgment filed by the Commonwealth Defendants [ECF No. 210] be GRANTED. The Clerk of Courts should be directed to close this case.

II. REPORT

A. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff, an incarcerated individual representing himself, presented this civil rights complaint on August 15, 2011 by way of "removal" from the Forest County Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiff alleges that numerous named Defendants have violated his constitutional rights in numerous ways. The majority of the named Defendants[1] are employees of the Department of Corrections and are represented by the Office of the Attorney General.[2] As relief in this action, Plaintiff seeks both compensatory and punitive monetary damages, as well as various forms of injunctive and declaratory relief.[3]

Plaintiffs Amended Complaint [ECF No. 10] is the operative complaint in this action. See ECF No. 190. The Commonwealth Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 210) and, despite being given the opportunity to do so, Plaintiff has failed to file an opposition to the pending motion for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 215, 217).

There is currently an appeal pending in this case. On August 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed a notice to appeal to the Third Circuit, appealing District Judge Ambrose's order denying his motion to certify an interlocutory appeal. ECF No. 207. Generally, the filing of a notice of appeal divests a district court of its jurisdiction over a case. See U.S. v. Wolfe, 2010 WL 1372448, at *1 n.1 (W.D. Pa. 2010) citing Griggs v. Provident Consumer Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58-59 (1982). However, if the appeal is frivolous, as it is here, the district court retains jurisdiction over the matter. Id. citing U.S. v. Leppo, 634 F.2d 101, 105 (3d Cir. 1980).

The legal issues presented in the motion for summary judgment are ripe for disposition by this Court.

B. Standards of Review

1) Pro Se Litigants

Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, " must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. See Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Brierley, 414 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969)("[W]e should recognize that a habeas corpus petition prepared by a prisoner without the aid of counsel may be inartfully drawn and should therefore be read 'with a measure of tolerance.'"); Smith v. U.S. District Court, 956 F.2d 295 (D.C.Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Department of Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Abdul-Akbar v. McKelvie, 239 F.3d 307 (3d Cir. 2001). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)(discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Company, 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990)(same). Because Plaintiff is apro se litigant, this Court will consider facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.

2) Motion for summary judgment

Federal Ruled of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted if 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." When applying this standard, the court must examine the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 578 (1986).

The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007); UPMC Health System v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004). The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989) (the nonmovant must present affirmative evidence-more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance-which supports each element of his claim to defeat a properly presented motion for summary judgment). The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show specific facts by affidavit or by information contained in the filed documents (i.e., depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions) to meet his burden of proving elements essential to his claim. Celotex. 477 U.S. at 322. See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). The non-moving party "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue." Garcia v. Kimmell, 2010 WL 2089639, at * 1 (3d Cir. 2010) quoting Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and ...


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