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Pew v. Torma

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 1, 2015

ALFONSO PERCY PEW, Plaintiff,
v.
JOANNE TORMA, DAVE ROBERTS, T'SHANNA KYLER, THOMAS A. FULCOMER, WILLIAM J. LOVE, JEFFERY A. BEARD, PHILIP L. JOHNSON, MECHLING, WILLIAM TERZA, VICUSI, LIEUTENANT 2 CULP, EVANS, WILLIAM A. STICKMAN, NIXON, JAMES META, CAROL A. DEWITT, COREY A. BISH, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER ECF No. 219

LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Magistrate Judge.

Alfonso Percy Pew (hereinafter "Plaintiff") has filed a Motion for Permanent Injunction on Settlement Agreement and a Motion for Sanctions. (ECF No. 219). Plaintiff's motions will be denied, as this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and venue is improper in this District.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill ("S.C.I. Camp Hill"), located in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and Defendants are employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections who have interacted with Plaintiff during his stay at various state correctional institutions.[1] In 2003, Plaintiff complained that the Defendants denied his requests for dietary accommodations based on his religious needs, and claimed that the Defendants violated the First Amendment of the Constitution and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-274, 114 Stat. 803 (2000).

The case was set for trial on October 10, 2006. On September 29, 2006 pro bono counsel for Plaintiff filed a Joint Motion for Stay alleging that the parties were involved in settlement negotiations and an agreement was imminent. (ECF No. 141). The Court granted the stay and a conference was held on October 13, 2006. At the conference counsel reported that the case had been settled. (ECF No. 143). A Notice of Settlement was filed on December 26, 2006, (ECF No. 146) which included a Settlement Agreement and a Release of Claims signed by Plaintiff on November 17, 2006. Pursuant to the Release of Claims, Plaintiff agreed to discontinue his action against Defendants pursuant to a settlement agreement (hereinafter "Settlement Agreement"). (ECF No. 146-1). The Settlement Agreement also called for Defendants to supply and Plaintiff to accept a diet that would comply with Plaintiff's religious needs. (ECF No. 146-1). Finally, the Settlement Agreement contemplated, and the Court agreed, that the Court would retain jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing its terms.

Shortly thereafter Plaintiff filed the first of many motions to enforce the settlement agreement, alleging that the diet he was being provided was not adequate and not in compliance with the terms of the agreement. (ECF No. 149).[2] The Court ordered two responses, including a requirement that the nutritional value of the meals be addressed by Defendant. (docket entries dated 3/24/10 and 5/19/10). After considering the evidence presented the first motion to enforce was denied. (ECF No. 155). Plaintiff filed seven subsequent motions to enforce[3], all alleging similar violations. ( See ECF Nos. 157, 162, 170, 177, 184, 188, 196).

On November 11, 2014, the Court referred Plaintiff to the Pro Se Prisoner Mediation Program[4] (ECF No. 199) and also, on December 11, 2014 held a hearing regarding the issues raised, with Plaintiff appearing via videoconference from his place of incarceration. (ECF No. 203). Also at this time, the Court secured representatives from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law to try to assist Plaintiff, observe the hearing and to later represent his interests. (ECF Nos. 199, 203 & 205).

Following much discussion, both in and out of the courtroom, a proposal was made that the case be re-opened and a second settlement agreement be agreed to that would not involve court oversight. (ECF No. 205).

Thereafter, Defendants filed a stipulation of dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 41(a)(1)(A)(ii) (ECF No. 208), to which Plaintiff agreed pursuant to his signing of a new settlement agreement (hereinafter "Second Settlement Agreement") and Release of Claims dated February 10, 2015 (ECF No. 207-1). The Court subsequently entered an order declaring the original Settlement Agreement null and void, and dismissing Plaintiff's underlying case with prejudice. (ECF No. 209).

Although the Court did not retain enforcement powers over the second agreement, in an effort to ensure compliance, the Court continued to hold status conferences to ensure Plaintiff's receipt of meals that complied with his religious dietary restrictions.[5] ECF Nos. 213, 215. For reasons unknown to the Court, Plaintiff refused to attend a conference that was to be held for his benefit on April 17, 2015 (ECF No. 216).[6] A dietary representative present at the conference informed the Court that Plaintiff had been receiving the diet established in the Second Settlement Agreement, and that he had not recently made any verbal or written complaints to dietary employees at S.C.I. Camp Hill. Despite the representative's statements reflecting Plaintiff's positive condition, Plaintiff continued to notice the Court about health issues (ECF No. 217) and the Defendants' failure to comply with the Second Settlement Agreement (ECF No. 218).

Plaintiff now seeks to enforce the Second Settlement Agreement through a Motion for Permanent Injunction and a Motion for Sanctions (ECF No. 219).

II. JURISDICTION

While the Parties have not challenged the Court's subject matter jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's present motions, the Court has an obligation to determine sua sponte whether subject matter jurisdiction is appropriate. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006). The present jurisdictional inquiry must begin with the nature of the documents signed by the parties, which purported to dismiss ...


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