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Williams v. City of Erie Police Department

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

May 6, 2014

ROSHA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF ERIE POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants

Cohill District Judge

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge

I RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that Plaintiffs' motions to reopen case [ECF Nos. 67, 68] be granted.

II REPORT

A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

Plaintiff Rosha Williams initiated this action by filing a pro se civil rights complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County Pennsylvania at Erie County Docket No. 09-11497. The action was removed to this Court by a Notice of Removal filed by the Defendants on January 20, 2010 [ECF No. 1]. Plaintiff named as Defendants: the City of Erie Police Department ("EPD"); Officers Jonathan Nolan ("Nolan") and Ryan Victory ("Victory") of the EPD; and Michael Burns, Erie County Assistant District Attorney ("Burns").

In his complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Defendants subjected him to false arrest, illegal search and seizure without probable cause, and malicious prosecution in violation of his rights under the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution. On January 23, 2010, Defendant Burns filed a motion to dismiss and more definite statement, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff s claim of malicious prosecution against him, based upon the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity, and requesting a more definite statement of Plaintiff s false arrest and illegal search and seizure claims against him. [ECF No. 6]. The remaining Defendants filed an answer to the complaint. [ECF No. 14].

By Memorandum Order dated April 29, 2011, District Judge Maurice B. Cohill adopted this Court's Report and Recommendation and granted Defendant Burns' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs malicious prosecution claim. [ECF No. 28]. Judge Cohill also granted Defendant Burns' motion for more definite statement as to Plaintiffs false arrest and illegal search and seizure claims, and ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. [Id.]. In accordance with this Order, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint as to Defendant Burns only with regard to his false arrest and illegal search and seizure claims. [ECF No. 30].

Defendant Burns subsequently filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs amended complaint [ECF No. 31], on the basis of absolute prosecutorial immunity. By Memorandum Order dated November 3, 2011, District Judge Cohill adopted this Court's recommendation and dismissed Plaintiffs claims against Defendant Burns. [ECF No. 48]. Defendants EPD, Nolan, and Victory then filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Plaintiffs Amended Complaint. [ECF No. 50].

On or about February 21, 2012, Plaintiff retained Anthony Rodriques, Esquire, to represent him in this matter. [See ECF No. 56]. On June 6, 2012, Defendants EPD, Nolan, and Victory filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 62], asserting that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against any of said Defendants because Plaintiffs amended complaint does not contain any allegations against them. Plaintiffs response to this motion was originally due to be filed by June 18, 2012. (See Text Order dated June 7, 2012). After Plaintiff failed to file a response to Defendants' motion, this Court held a telephone conference on September 4, 2012, in which both Plaintiffs counsel and Defendants' counsel participated. During the telephone conference, this Court explained to Plaintiffs counsel that he needed to file a response to Defendants' motion by September 21, 2012, indicating whether or not Plaintiff intended to retain his original claims against Defendants EPD, Nolan, and Victory. Despite this admonition from the Court and counsel's promise to file a response, Plaintiffs counsel failed to file any response to Defendants' motion. As a result, this Court issued a Report and Recommendation on October 16, 2012, recommending that Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted and that Plaintiffs case be dismissed [ECF No. 65]. On November 7, 2012, District Judge Cohill entered an Order adopted this Court's recommendation and dismissing this case. Accordingly, this case was closed at such time.

Plaintiff has now filed two separate motions to reopen case on April 3 and April 25, 2014, respectively [ECF Nos. 67, 68], stating that he was never informed by either this Court or Attorney Rodriques that this case was closed. Plaintiff state further that he just learned that the case was closed due to Attorney Rodriques's failure to file a response to Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and that he was "under the false interpretation that Attorney Anthony Rodriques was complying with all court orders and filing all responses to any and all motions the defendants had filed" (ECF No. 68 at ¶ 6). As a result, Plaintiff argues that it would be a "miscarriage of justice" to uphold the dismissal of this case due to his attorney's negligence ( Id. at ¶ 8).

B. Discussion

Even though this case was dismissed based upon the grant of Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 62], in actuality the dismissal occurred due to the failure of Plaintiffs attorney to comply with this ...


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