United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
A. PESTO MAGISTRATE JUDGE
GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an inmate at SCI Somerset, filed this case on June 18, 2015,
against John Wetzel, Secretary of the PA Department of
Corrections, Gerald Rozum, Superintendent of SCI Somerset,
and Daniel Gehlmann, Deputy Superintendent of SCI Somerset.
(ECF No. 2.) Wheeler asserted a claim of deliberate
indifference to a serious medical need against all defendants
and a claim of retaliation against defendants Rozum and
to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule 72,
Wheeler's case was referred to a magistrate judge for
pretrial proceedings. After screening Wheeler's complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the magistrate judge
issued an order, report and recommendation (ECF No. 3),
recommending that Wheeler's complaint be dismissed in
part. Specifically, the magistrate judge recommended (1)
dismissal of the deliberate-indifference claim as to Wetzel
on the basis that Wheeler had failed to allege any personal
involvement on Wetzel's part, and (2) dismissal of the
retaliation claim altogether because it failed to state a
valid cause of action. (See id.). The magistrate
judge also granted Wheeler leave to amend his complaint to
attempt to state a claim against Wetzel. (Id. at 4.)
Wheeler did not file an amended complaint, but did file
objections to the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation (ECF No. 4.) Wheeler's sole objection was
an assertion that he did in fact allege Wetzel's personal
involvement. (See Id. ¶ 3.)
months later-while discovery was ongoing-Wheeler moved to
amend his complaint, purportedly to restate his original
claims "with greater particularity." (ECF No. 24
¶ 4.) In truth, Wheeler's proposed amended complaint
added several negligence claims and reasserted all claims
against defendant Wetzel. (Id.) The magistrate judge
denied Wheeler's motion to amend, finding that
Wheeler's proposed negligence claims would substantially
predominate over his federal claims. (ECF No. 25.) Wheeler
appealed the denial of his motion to amend to this Court (ECF
No. 26) and this Court affirmed, finding that the magistrate
judge's order was neither clearly erroneous nor contrary
to law (ECF No. 28). Wheeler thereafter filed a motion
requesting this Court reconsider its affirmance, arguing that
the denial of leave to amend was clearly erroneous. (ECF No.
29.) That motion remains pending. Since then, Wheeler has
requested leave to amend two more times (ECF Nos. 31, 47),
which the magistrate judge has denied (ECF No. 49), and
Wheeler has appealed those denials to this Court as well (ECF
No. 51). On January 20, 2017, Wheeler also moved for the
recusal of the undersigned judge on the basis that the
undersigned is related to or has a social connection with an
official employed at SCI Somerset, namely Sylvia Gibson. (ECF
No. 72.) Discovery in this case has now closed and Gehlmann
and Rozum have filed for summary judgment.
Court now finds as follows:
magistrate judge's first report and recommendation (ECF
No. 3) is adopted in full as the opinion of this Court.
Dismissal of defendant Wetzel was proper because Wheeler did
not allege personal involvement on defendant Wetzel's
part; although Wheeler occasionally referred generally to
"Respondent" and "Respondents"-by which
Wheeler presumably meant the defendants-at no point did he
identify a specific act or omission by Wetzel that would
support a claim of deliberate indifference. Defendant
Wetzel's dismissal was therefore proper. And dismissal of
Wheeler's retaliation claim was also proper; the facts he
alleged did not support a retaliation claim. See, e.g.,
Heleva v. Kramer, 214 F.App'x 244, 247 (3d Cir.
2007) ("The District Court was correct, however, in
concluding that defendants' alleged obstruction of prison
grievance procedures does not give rise to an independent
claim. Prisoners do not have a constitutional right to prison
grievance procedures." (citing Massey v.
Helman, 259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. 2001)).
Wheeler's objections to the contrary at ECF No. 4 have
been considered and are rejected.
therefore ORDERED that Wetzel is
DISMISSED from this case.
most-recent appeal of the denial of his motion for leave to
amend (ECF No. 51) is GRANTED. The
magistrate judge (and this Court in ECF No. 28) was remiss in
denying Wheeler's motion for leave to amend; Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) and caselaw provide that leave to
amend shall freely be given when justice so requires and
"this mandate is to be heeded." Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Wheeler has stated
sufficient grounds for amendment and correctly noted that it
is the rare case in which "the addition of
straightforward negligence claims based on the same facts as
the constitutional claims will cause the state issues to
substantially predominate." Borough of W. Mifflin v.
Lancaster, 45 F.3d 780, 790 (3d Cir. 1995).
therefore ORDERED that Wheeler has
30 days from his receipt of this memorandum
order to file an amended complaint. Wheeler is
not limited in the claims he may assert in his amended
complaint. In light of the Court granting Wheeler
leave to amend, his motion for reconsideration ECF No. 29 and
his objections at ECF No. 44 are DENIED AS
Court recognizes that granting Wheeler leave to amend at this
stage in the case- with summary-judgment briefing
complete-causes substantial disruption, but sees no way of
avoiding this. The principal questions at this point are
whether reopening discovery will be necessary and how to
address the pending summary-judgment motion.
is therefore ORDERED to file, along with his
amended complaint, a short statement with his views as to
whether reopening discovery will be necessary and, if so, the
specific points on which he believes discovery is needed and
why the discovery exchanged to date would be insufficient.
defendants are ORDERED to file a short
statement with their views as to whether reopening discovery
will be necessary. Defendants shall file their statement
within 14 days from the date Wheeler files his
amended complaint and short statement.
motion for recusal of the undersigned (ECF No. 72) is
DENIED. Wheeler moved for recusal under 28
U.S.C. § 144 and § 455. Under § 144, a judge
must recuse if a party files a "sufficient
affidavit" establishing that the judge has a personal
bias or prejudice against the party seeking recusal, or in
favor of the adverse party. Under § 455(a), a judge must
recuse where the judge's impartiality "might
reasonably be questioned." 28 U.S.C. § 455(a).
Wheeler has not met these requirements. He has not pointed to
facts from which a neutral observer could ...