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McCandless v. Nutter

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 4, 2017

RAYMOND MCCANDLESS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL NUTTER, LOUIS GIORLA, M. FARRELL, and MAJOR ABELLO, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EDWARD G. SMITH, J.

         The pro se plaintiff was an inmate in the City of Philadelphia Prison System when he commenced this action claiming that the defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by placing him in a three-person cell. After the court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, the court provided the plaintiff with a period of 30 days to file an amended complaint. The plaintiff did so, but the court also dismissed that amended complaint for the failure to state a claim, and gave the plaintiff a period of another 30 days to file a second amended complaint. The court also warned the plaintiff that if he failed to timely file a second amended complaint, the court would dismiss this action with prejudice. The plaintiff has failed to timely file a second amended complaint.

         As stated further below, the plaintiff's failure to file a second amended complaint would, in itself, warrant dismissal of this action without prejudice without considering the factors set forth in Poulis v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984). Nonetheless, even if the court were to consider the Poulis factors, the court would still dismiss the action for failure to prosecute because it is the only appropriate sanction for the plaintiff's failure to file a second amended complaint.

         I. ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The pro se plaintiff, Raymond McCandless, filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis and a proposed complaint against the defendants, Michael Nutter, the former mayor of Philadelphia, Louis Giorla, the former commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System, Michele Farrell, the warden of Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (“CFCF”), and Major Abello, the deputy warden of CFCF, on March 26, 2015.[1] Doc. No. 1. The Honorable Norma L. Shapiro, now deceased, entered an order granting the plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and the clerk of court docketed the complaint. Doc. Nos. 4, 5.

         In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that while he was a pretrial detainee at CFCF, the defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by forcing him into a three-person cell. Complaint at 3. He also alleges that while at CFCF he lacked access to legal materials, he was not provided clean sheets or uniforms, and that treatment of pretrial detainees was generally unconstitutional. Id. With regard to his requested relief, the plaintiff seeks $300 for each day during which he was housed in a triple cell, transfer to a two-person cell, regular cell cleaning, and liberal use of the law library. Id. at 5.

         It appears that the United States Marshals Service served the summonses and copies of the complaint upon the defendants, and the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on August 1, 2016. Doc. No. 6. In the motion to dismiss, the defendants generally contended that the court should dismiss the complaint because the plaintiff failed to allege that they were personally involved in the alleged wrongs. Memorandum of Law in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim at 1-3, Doc. No. 6. Also on August 1, 2016, Chief Judge Petrese B. Tucker reassigned this case, along with 12 other cases, to the Honorable Mitchell S. Goldberg. Doc. No. 7. Despite the passing of more than four months, the plaintiff never filed a response to the motion to dismiss. Chief Judge Tucker then reassigned the case from Judge Goldberg to the undersigned on December 20, 2016. Doc. No. 9.

         On December 22, 2016, the undersigned entered an order granting the defendants' motion to dismiss and dismissing the complaint without prejudice. Doc. No. 10. The court held that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim because he failed to allege that the defendants were personally involved in the alleged constitutional violations or to present facts demonstrating a policy, practice, or custom that resulted in the deprivation of his constitutional rights. Id. The court gave the plaintiff a period of thirty days to file an amended complaint. Id.

         On December 29, 2016, the court received a returned envelope from the United States Postal Service indicating that Chief Judge Tucker's order reassigning the case to the undersigned was undeliverable. Unnumbered Docket Entry between Doc. Nos. 10 & 11. The notice also indicated that the plaintiff had been discharged from CFCF and “sent upstate.” In spite of his change in circumstances, the plaintiff failed to fulfill his obligation of notifying the clerk of court of his change of address in accordance with Rule 5.1(B) of this court's Local Rules of Civil Procedure. On January 6, 2017, the court used the publicly-available inmate locater to determine that the plaintiff had been transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Albion (“SCI Albion”), directed that the clerk of court send all filings to the plaintiff and warden at SCI Albion, and provided the plaintiff thirty more days to file an amended complaint. Doc. No. 11.

         After requesting an extension from the court, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint on February 15, 2017. See Doc. Nos. 12-14. While the defendants did not file a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, the court dismissed it on March 23, 2017, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), which requires that the court dismiss a complaint of a litigant proceeding in forma pauperis if the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. Doc. No. 15. Specifically, the amended complaint suffered from the same deficiencies as the original complaint. Id. The court again gave the plaintiff a period of thirty days to file a second amended complaint, and warned the plaintiff that the court would dismiss the action with prejudice if he failed to file a second amended complaint within the time set forth in the order. Id. To date, the plaintiff has not filed a second amended complaint or requested an extension of time from the court.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). The court may also sua sponte dismiss an action for lack of prosecution, in the absence of a motion to dismiss, “in order to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.” Allen v. American Fed'n of Gov't Emps., 317 F. App'x 180, 181 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam).

         Ordinarily, district courts in the Third Circuit must decide whether to dismiss an action with prejudice for lack of prosecution by evaluating the six factors set forth in Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). See Spain v. Gallegos, 26 F.3d 439, 454-55 (3d Cir. 1994) (“Ordinarily, when a court is determining sua sponte or upon motion of a defendant whether to dismiss because of a plaintiff's failure to prosecute” the court must consider the Poulis factors); see also McLaren v. New Jersey Dep't of Educ., 462 F. App'x 148, 149 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (“Typically, district courts are required to evaluate the factors set forth by [Poulis] to determine whether dismissal is appropriate.”). The plaintiff's failure to file an amended complaint, however, warrants dismissal of this action for lack of prosecution without considering the Poulis factors. Allen, 317 F. App'x at 181 (“The refusal to file an amended complaint, would have left the District Court uncertain of the contours of Allen's claims. Under these particular circumstances, we do not think it was error that the District Court did not explicitly weigh the Poulis factors.”).

         Even if the court were to analyze the plaintiff's failure to prosecute under the Poulis factors, however, dismissal would still be appropriate. In Poulis, the Third Circuit set forth six factors for the court to consider in determining whether to dismiss an action with prejudice for the failure to prosecute. The six factors are: (1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the extent of prejudice to the adversary; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal including an analysis ...


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