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Sanders v. Downs

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 3, 2014

CYRUS R. SANDERS, Plaintiff,
STEPHEN DOWNS, et al., Defendants.


A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Mehalchick's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") (Doc. 146) that Plaintiff Cyrus R. Sanders' Motion for Relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) ("Rule 60(b)") (Doc. 140) be denied. Plaintiff seeks relief from the judgment in favor of the defendants in this case, which I entered on June 26, 2013 (Doc. 131). Also before me are Plaintiff's Objections to the R & R (Doc. 147). Specifically, Plaintiff seeks relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1), mistake, and Rule 60(b)(2), newly discovered evidence. Because Plaintiff Sanders fails to put forth any evidence of mistake or of newly-discovered evidence that is material and could not have been discovered with reasonable diligence prior to the judgment from which he seeks relief, the Report and Recommendation will be adopted and the motion will be denied.

I. Background

The facts of this case are detailed in Magistrate Judge Mehalchick's R & R (Doc. 146) and in my order of June 26, 2013 (Doc. 131). For purposes of this review, it is sufficient to note that Plaintiff Sanders' claim arises from his arrest on January 9, 2006 at his Bradford County residence pursuant to an arrest warrant. At the time of his arrest, the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP") officers at the scene searched Sanders' property and seized several items.

Sanders claims that he refused the officers' requests to search his property, but they coerced or conspired with Defendant Cynthia Dunlap, a co-occupant of his residence, to obtain permission to do so, even though she lacked authority to give permission. The PSP asserts that its officers, who knew that the stolen property that had prompted the arrest warrant had not yet been recovered, sought and received permission to search Sanders' property from Dunlap, who identified herself as his common law wife and demonstrated control over the property by opening locked doors for them. Sanders was subsequently convicted of receiving stolen property and has been incarcerated since June 2006.

On August 20, 2008, Plaintiff Sanders commenced this action by filing a pro se complaint alleging numerous violations of his civil rights (Doc. 1). Sanders alleged claims against four groups of defendants: police officers from the PSP and Bradford County, including Trooper Kern; prosecutors from Bradford and Sullivan Counties, including former District Attorney Downs; various officials of the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas; and Dunlap, a co-occupant of his residence at the time of his arrest.

Sanders filed an Amended Complaint on April 3, 2009 (Doc. 21), which Defendants moved to dismiss (Docs. 41, 45, 47, 53). In a Memorandum and Order dated March 9, 2010 (Doc. 70), I adopted the Magistrate Judge's R & R (Doc. 58) and dismissed the Amended Complaint. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal in part and vacated in part, remanding the Fourth Amendment unlawful search claims to the Court for further proceedings. (Docs. 80-81.)

On May 1, 2012, Defendant Downs filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 110). Defendant Kern filed a Motion for Summary Judgment the following day (Doc. 115). On October 10, 2012, the Magistrate Judge notified Plaintiff of his intent to consider sua sponte the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant Dunlap and directed Sanders to file a brief in opposition. (Doc. 122.) Sanders did not. On November 5, 2012, the Magistrate Judge issued a R & R recommending that the Court grant the pending summary judgment motions of Defendant Downs and Defendant Kern, as well as sua sponte summary judgment in favor of Defendant Dunlap. (Doc. 123.) Sanders did not file objections to the R & R, and the Court adopted it on January 24, 2013 (Doc. 125).

On March 11, 2013, Sanders asked the Court for additional time to respond to the R & R, which he asserted he had not received. (Doc. 126.) The Court granted Sanders' Motion for Rule 60(b) Relief (Doc. 127) on June 5, 2013, allowing him to file objections to the R & R, which he did on June 24 (Doc. 129). On June 26, I adopted the R & R, granting the summary judgment motions filed by Defendant Downs and Defendant Kern and granting sua sponte summary judgment in favor of Defendant Dunlap. (Doc. 130.)

Following this Order, Sanders appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on September 13, 2013 (Doc. 135). On January 9, 2014, the appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because it was untimely. (Doc. 139.) On February 21, 2014, Sanders filed a second "Motion and Memorandum of Law in Support of Relief under Rule 60(b)" (Doc. 140), which is now before me. Defendant Downs filed a Brief in Opposition on May 9, 2014 (Doc. 144) and Sanders filed a Reply Brief on May 19 (Doc. 145).

On July 9, 2014, Magistrate Judge Mehalchick issued her R & R (Doc. 146), recommending that Sanders' Motion for Relief from Judgment be denied. On July 21, Sanders filed Objections to the R & R (Doc. 147). This matter is ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

Where objections to a magistrate judge's R & R are filed, the Court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions. Sample v. Diecks , 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)). This only applies to the extent that a party's objections are both timely and specific. Goney v. Clark , 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In conducting a de novo review, a court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard , 829 F.Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo , the law permits the court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz , 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney , 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n , 849 F.Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the ...

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