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Jamison v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 1, 2015

JOHN WETZEL, et al., Defendants.


MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

In its current form this case presents a singular set of circumstances. This is the second time that the plaintiff, a state inmate, has ignored a defense motion to dismiss filed in this action. The last time Jamison ignored such a motion we recommended dismissal of this action. Now that Jamison has followed this course on a second time, his inaction inspires a second recommendation of dismissal of these claims on our part.

This pro se civil rights action was initially brought by the plaintiff, a state prisoner, through the filing of a complaint naming some 45 correctional defendants on August 12, 2013. (Doc. 1.) As a pro se litigant the plaintiff was advised by this court at this outset of this lawsuit of his responsibilities in this litigation. Thus, on August 12, 2013, 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. 2, p.2.)

On October 28, 2013, the corrections defendants filed their first motion to dismiss in this case. (Doc. 14.) This motion raised a series of straightforward legal claims, including an argument that a number of the plaintiff's claims were untimely and were barred by the two-year statute of limitations which applied to federal civil rights claims. (Id.) Six weeks passed without any action on the plaintiff's part to litigate this dispositive motion.

In the face of this inaction, on December 6, 2013, we entered an order directing the plaintiff to "file a brief in response to the defendants' motion to dismiss by Friday, December 20, 2013.' (Doc. 16.) We also advised the plaintiff that: "Failure to file a brief in accordance with this order may result in the defendants' motion be deemed unopposed, and the motion may be ruled upon without further notice." (Id.) The plaintiff then sought additional time in which to respond to this motion, (Doc. 17.), a request which we granted on December 19, 2013, stating: "[T]he plaintiff's response to the outstanding motion shall be filed on or before January 10, 2014." (Doc. 19.)

This deadline then passed without any action by the plaintiff to litigate this matter. In the face of this continuing, and on-going, inaction we deemed the motion ripe for resolution, and recommended that the complaint be dismissed. (Doc. 20.) Only after we filed this Report and Recommendation did Jamison deign to respond to the defense motion. (Doc. 21.) This case was then remanded to us for further consideration of Jamison's belated response to this motion. (Docs. 23 and 24.)

Upon consideration of this response, we recommended that a number of claims and parties be dismissed from this action but that the plaintiff be given an opportunity to amend his complaint, (Doc. 25.), a recommendation which the district court adopted. (Doc. 27.)

Jamison then filed an amended complaint on April 9, 2015. (Doc. 31.) This amended complaint actually expanded and broadened the allegations set forth in Jamison's original, flawed complaint, named some 47 defendants in a 47-page, 259 paragraph pleading, which seemed to stitch together factually unrelated claims of retaliation and discrimination that occurred at separate times at two different institutions and allegedly involved disparate actors. (Id.) The defendants promptly moved to dismiss this amended complaint on April 23, 2015, alleging that claims in the complaint were both time-barred and misjoined. (Docs. 32 and 33.)

Presented with the second motion to dismiss in this case, Jamison has reprised the course of action he adopted when presented with the defendant's initial motion to dismiss in 2013: He has ignored the motion and has failed to respond to this motion within the time frame prescribed by the rules of this court, and the Standing Practice Order filed in this case.

Since Jamison has chosen not to respond to this dispositive motion, and the time for responding has passed, we will deem the motion to dismiss to be ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the motion to dismiss be granted.

II. Discussion

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

At the outset, under the Local Rules of this court the plaintiff should be deemed to concur in this 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 orders, 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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