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Harding v. Oshea

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 11, 2014

JOSHUA MOSHA HARDING, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES PATRICK OSHEA, III, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

On March 13, 2014, the plaintiff, acting pro se, filed this federal civil rights action from the confines of the York County Prison. In his initial complaint, Harding sued his arresting officers, alleging that he suffered serious injuries due to excessive force used by police in effecting his arrest. (Id.) Along with this pro se complaint, Harding filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, (Doc. 7.), which we granted.

Prior to service of this complaint, or the filing of any responsive pleadings by the original defendants, Harding filed an amended complaint, (Doc. 16-1.), which adds institutional defendants, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Conewago Township Police Department and Adams County. (Id.) While we granted Harding leave to amend his complaint, we also placed Harding on notice that this amended complaint would be subject to a screening review and that certain claims and defendants may be subject to dismissal.

As a pro se litigant the plaintiff was also advised by this Court at this outset of this lawsuit of his responsibilities in this litigation. Thus, on March 14, 2014, the District Court entered its Standing Practice Order in this case, an order which informed the plaintiff of his responsibility to reply to defense motions, and warned him in clear and precise terms of the consequences which would flow from a failure to comply with briefing schedules on motions, stating:

If the party opposing the motion does not file his or her brief and any evidentiary material within the 14-day time frame, Local Rule 7.6 provides that he or she shall be deemed not to oppose the moving party's motion. The motion may, therefore, be granted if: (1) the court finds it meritorious; or (2) the opposing party fails to comply with Local Rule 7.6 despite being ordered to do so by the court.

(Doc. 4, p. 2.)

Following the filing of this amended complaint by Harding, on a screening review of that amended complaint, we recommended dismissal of the Pennsylvania State Police as an institutional defendant. (Doc. 19.) The District Court adopted this recommendation, and dismissed the state police from this action on July 10, 2014.

The complaint was then served upon the remaining defendants and defendant Adams County moved to dismiss the amended complaint on August 19, 2014. (Docs. 28 and 29.) In its motion Adams County aptly noted that, other than naming the county as a defendant in the caption of the case, the complaint contains no well-pleaded factual allegations against the county as a defendant. The plaintiff has not responded to this motion and the time for responding has now passed. Therefore, in the absence of any timely response by the plaintiff, we will deem this motion to be ripe for resolution.

For the reasons set forth below, we recommend that this motion to dismiss be granted. Further, upon an additional screening assessment of the amended complaint we recommend that the Conewago Township Police Department also be dismissed as an institutional defendant.

II. Discussion

A. Under The Rules of This Court This Motion to Dismiss Filed by Adams County Should Be Deemed Unopposed and Granted

At the outset, under the Local Rules of this Court the plaintiff should be deemed to concur in Adams County's motion to dismiss, since the plaintiff has failed to timely oppose the motion, or otherwise litigate this case. This procedural default completely frustrates and impedes efforts to resolve this matter in a timely and fair fashion, and under the Rules of this Court warrants dismissal of the action, since Local Rule 7.6 of the Rules of this Court imposes an affirmative duty on the plaintiff to respond to motions and provides that

Any party opposing any motion, other than a motion for summary judgment, shall file a brief in opposition within fourteen (14) days after service of the movant's brief, or, if a brief in support of the motion is not required under these rules, within seven (7) days after service of the motion. Any party who fails to comply with this rule shall be deemed not to oppose such motion. Nothing in this rule shall be construed to limit the authority of the court to grant any motion before expiration of the prescribed period for filing a brief in opposition. A brief in opposition to a motion for summary judgment and LR 56.1 responsive statement, together with any transcripts, affidavits or other relevant documentation, shall be filed within twenty-one (21) days after service of the movant's brief.

Local Rule 7.6 (emphasis added).

It is now well-settled that "Local Rule 7.6 can be applied to grant a motion to dismiss without analysis of the complaint's sufficiency if a party fails to comply with the [R]ule after a specific direction to comply from the court.' Stackhouse v. Mazurkiewicz , 951 F.2d 29, 30 (1991)." Williams v. Lebanon Farms Disposal, Inc., No. 09-1704 , 2010 WL 3703808, *1 (M.D. Pa. Aug.26, 2010). In this case the plaintiff has not complied with the Local Rules, or this Court's Standing Practice Order, by filing a timely response to this motion. Therefore, these procedural defaults by the plaintiff compel the Court to consider:

[A] basic truth: we must remain mindful of the fact that "the Federal Rules are meant to be applied in such a way as to promote justice. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. Often that will mean that courts should strive to resolve cases on their merits whenever possible. However, justice also requires that the merits of a particular dispute be placed before the court in a timely fashion...." McCurdy v. American Bd. of Plastic Surgery , 157 F.3d 191, 197 (3d Cir.1998).

Lease v. Fishel , 712 F.Supp.2d 359, 371 (M.D.Pa. 2010).

With this basic truth in mind, we acknowledge a fundamental guiding tenet of our legal system. A failure on our part to enforce compliance with the rules, and impose the sanctions mandated by those rules when the rules are repeatedly breached, "would actually violate the dual mandate which guides this Court and motivates our system of justice: that courts should strive to resolve cases on their merits whenever possible [but that] justice also requires that the merits of a particular dispute be placed before the court in a timely fashion'." Id . Therefore, we are ...


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