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J.C. v. Ford

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 18, 2017

J.C., individually, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
NICHOLAS FORD, et al., Defendants. JASON COLLURA, Plaintiff,
v.
NICHOLAS JAMES FORD, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          C. Darnell Jones, II J.

         The above-captioned cases were reassigned to this Court from the dockets of two different judges after a convoluted and antagonistic history that has resulted in unnecessary cost and delay. Regrettably, these cases must be randomly reassigned again because I have identified a basis upon which my “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” in this matter, and because knowledge of that situation risks “creat[ing] personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” 28 U.S.C. §§ 455(a), (b)(1). Nevertheless, for the sake of judicial economy and fairness to all parties, this Court issues this opinion, and corresponding case management order, before recusal to keep this matter on track towards a speedy resolution.

         This Memorandum and Order resolves the Honorable Gene E.K. Pratter's May 17, 2017 Order to show cause as to why these two related cases should not be consolidated (No. 13-4066, ECF No. 148; Case No. 15-4745; ECF No. 34), Plaintiff's subsequent motion to sever (Case No. 15-4745; ECF No. 42), and Defendants' pending motion to dismiss certain outstanding claims (No. 15-cv-4745, ECF No. 3).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As an initial matter, civil actions may be docketed as related under Local Rule 40.1 when one case “involves the same issue of fact” or “grows out of the same transaction” as another pending case. Local Rule 40.1(b)(3)(A); see also Montgomery v. Schering-Plough Corp., No. 07-194, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12709, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 22, 2007) (finding that three cases were related because they grew out of the same allegedly fraudulent scheme even though “there [were] some differences between the three actions”). Under Local Rule 40.1, a court may sua sponte order cases to be docketed as related. See, e.g., Wald v. 1 Fin. Marketplace Sec., LLC, No. 09-1117, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105905, at *2 nn.2-3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 6, 2009).

         Federal Rule 42(a)(2) also allows for consolidation of related cases where the “actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a)(2); see e.g., Cottman Transmission Sys., Inc. v. Metro Distrib., Inc., 796 F.Supp. 838, 845 (E.D. Pa. 1992) (granting motion to consolidate actions filed as “related cases”), vacated on other grounds sub nom. Cottman Transmission Sys., Inc. v. Martino, 36 F.3d 291 (3d Cir. 1994). Consolidation is often appropriate in cases involving the same plaintiff, the same defendants, and/or identical or similar claims arising out of the same incident or a common set of facts. See, e.g., In re Radian Sec. Litig., 612 F.Supp.2d 594, 597 n.1 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (noting consolidation of two separate cases against the same defendants); Seidman v. Am. Mobile Sys., Inc., 157 F.R.D. 354, 359 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (explaining that the court had consolidated two related cases, filed by the same plaintiff against different defendants, “to keep all defendants on the same litigation track”); Kenworthy v. Hargrove, 826 F.Supp. 138, 139 n.1 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (noting the consolidation of two section 1983 cases arising out of the same incident), aff'd, 855 F.Supp. 101 (E.D. Pa. 1994); Glaziers & Glassworkers Union Local 252 Annuity Fund v. Newbridge Sec., Inc., 823 F.Supp. 1185, 1186 (E.D. Pa. 1992), on reconsideration in part, 823 F.Supp. 1188 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (noting that court had consolidated several cases involving different claims arising out of the same set of facts into one lead case).

         The decision to consolidate is ultimately left up to the district court's sound discretion. Burton v. Ozburn Hessey Logistic, 615 Fed.Appx. 84, 87 (3d Cir. 2015) (affirming the district court's decision to consolidate two cases where the first action concerned plaintiff's “application for worker's compensation” and the other action involved her “termination from employment”).

         RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         I. The First Action

         Plaintiff Jason Collura, proceeding pro se, commenced the first action (No. 13-4066) on July 11, 2013, against eight defendants for various allegedly wrongful acts arising out of his time on probation in connection with a state criminal conviction. No. 13-cv-4066, ECF No. 1. The clearest articulation of Plaintiff's claims in that case is summarized in the second paragraph of the complaint (the “First Complaint”):

This is a civil action authorized by 42 U.S.C § 1983, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment direct, Fourteenth Amendment under 1983, all of the Federal Constitution, PA False Imprisonment, Article I § 7, Article I § 1, Article I Section 8, of the Pennsylvania Constitution, all equal protection clauses of federal and state law, all due process clauses of federal and state law, PA Malicious Prosecution and PA Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress to redress deprivations, under color of state law, of rights secured by the Constitutions of the United States and of Pennsylvania.

Id. ¶ 2.

         After extensive motion practice, initiated primarily by Plaintiff, Judge Pratter ruled that only the following claims remain: “§ 1983 claims against Nicholas James Ford, Mary Politano, Steffen Boyd, Steven Austin, Charles Hoyt, and Robert [Malvestuto] . . . for alleged violation of [Plaintiff's] due process, First Amendment, and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as several incidental state law claims.”[1] No. 13-4066, ECF No. 67 at p. 1; see also id. at pp. 25-44. Defendants filed an Answer, and the parties attempted to engage in discovery with unclear results. The last scheduling order indicates that the time for discovery closed on August 28, 2015, and summary judgement motions were due September 11, 2015. ECF No. 125. No summary judgment motions have been filed since then. After additional motion practice, the matter was reassigned to this Court on July 11, 2017. ECF No. 155.

         II. The ...


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