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Stockton v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2019

RONALD STOCKTON, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN WETZEL, SECRETARY OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is pro se Plaintiff Ronald Stockton's motion to reinstate his action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). (ECF No. 19.) Mr. Stockton seeks reconsideration of this Court's June 28, 2019, decision dismissing his Complaint due to his failure to tender the filing fee in this matter or complete the Court's application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 17.) The Court will deny Mr. Stockton's motion for the reasons stated herein.

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure “60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment, and request reopening of his case, under a limited set of circumstances including fraud, mistake and newly discovered evidence, ” Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528-29, 125 S.Ct. 2641, 2645-46, 162 L.Ed.2d 480 (2005) as well as “inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) is a catch-all provision that permits a court to vacate a final judgment, order, or proceeding for “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6). Relief pursuant to Rule 60(b) is “extraordinary relief which should be granted only where extraordinary justifying circumstances are present.” Bohus v. Beloff, 950 F.2d 919, 930 (3d Cir. 1991). A Rule 60(b) motion “may not be used as a substitute for appeal, and that legal error, without more, cannot justify granting a Rule 60(b) motion.” Holland v. Holt, 409 Fed.Appx. 494, 497 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. Evans, 853 F.2d 155, 158 (3d Cir. 1988)).

         II. Background

         On April 27, 2019, Mr. Stockton, a state prisoner housed at SCI-Houtzdale, in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania, filed a pro se civil rights action concerning an alleged use of force event that occurred on January 27, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) On May 3, 2019, the Court advised Mr. Stockton that he either needed to pay the $400.00 filing fee or complete and file an application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 4.) A copy of the Court's application to proceed in forma pauperis was forwarded to Mr. Stockton. (ECF No. 4-1.) On May 7, 2019, Mr. Stockton filed an “in forma pauperis petition” which he drafted. (ECF No. 5.) Mr. Stockton stated he was litigating three other actions and therefore could not afford the additional garnishment of his inmate account at this time if granted in form pauperis status in this case. Instead, he proposed the Court to defer any payment of filing fee in this matter until he fully satisfied his other court imposed financial obligations. Mr. Stockton authorized prison officials to deduct the filing fees in this matter only when he completed his court fees in other matters. ECF No. 5 at 2 (“I am only authorize for such deductions to begin after the 20% deduction for case No.

         CP-51-CR-0002597-2007, as I has other court ordered obligations, and litigation pending.”)

         On June 4, 2019, the Court rejected Mr. Stockton's hand-written application to proceed in forma pauperis and again provided him with a copy of the Court's application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 9 and 9-1.) On June 10, 2019, Mr. Stockton filed a second handwritten application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 13.)

         Again, he conditioned his authorization allowing prison authorities to deduct the filing fee installments from his account when completed court ordered payments in his other cases.

Petitioner only authorizes a 20% deduction if it is after Plaintiff's Court ordered obligation for No. CP-51-CR-0002597-2007, that was in conjunction with No. CP-51-CR-0001236-2007, Phila. County.

(Id. at 1.)

Plaintiff is willing to pay if the order by this court explicitly states: “That the 20% deduction starts after other court ordered obligations.”

(Id. at 2.) As of April 29, 2019, Mr. Stockton's Inmate Account balance was $ 85.95. (ECF No. 13 at 7.)

         On June 28, 2019, the Court dismissed Mr. Stockton's Complaint without prejudice after he failed to pay the filing fee or submit the appropriate forms to allow him to seek in forma pauperis status. (ECF No. 17.) On July 2, 2019, Mr. Stockton filed a motion to ...


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