United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
RONALD E. KAMMERDIENDER, Plaintiff,
ARMSTRONG COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
Maureen P. Kelly Magistrate Judge
Bissoon United States District Judge
case has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge
Maureen P. Kelly for pretrial proceedings in accordance with
the Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and
(B), and Local Rule of Civil Procedure 72.
August 7, 2019, Magistrate Judge Kelly issued a Report
(hereinafter “R&R, ” Doc. 24) recommending
Counts I-IV of Plaintiff Ronald Kammerdiener's
(hereinafter, “Plaintiff's”) Complaint,
alleging federal Constitutional violations, be dismissed with
prejudice as each is barred by Heck v.
Humphrey and, alternatively, by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (R&R at 10-15; 23.) As
to Count V, which arises under state law, Magistrate Judge
Kelly recommended that the Court decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the claim and dismiss it
without prejudice to Plaintiff's filing in state court.
(Id. at 22-23.)
reasons that follow, the Court will adopt in part and reject
in part the Magistrate Judge's R&R.
November 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against
Armstrong County, Regina Himes, Erika Kirkpatrick and Phillip
Shaffer, (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging
Defendants violated his Constitutional and other rights by
denying him access to a lawyer or a hearing for six months
after Plaintiff was incarcerated for being in contempt of the
Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas. (See
generally Complaint, Doc. 1.) Defendants Regina Himes
and Erika Kirkpatrick filed a Motion to Dismiss on January 7,
2019, (hereinafter, “Motion to Dismiss, ” Doc.
11), and Plaintiff filed a Response opposing the Motion to
Dismiss on January 25th (hereinafter, “Response,
” Doc. 15). On June 12th, Magistrate Judge Kelly
ordered the parties to file briefs addressing whether either
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine or Heck may
preclude federal jurisdiction in this case. (Doc. 19.) All
parties' briefs in response to Judge Kelly's order
were filed on June 21st. (See Docs. 21-23.)
Court has conducted a de novo review of the
Complaint, the Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff's Response,
and the supplemental briefing of the parties, together with
the R&R. At this stage, the Court cannot agree with the
R&R's conclusion that all of Plaintiff's claims
are barred by Heck and by the
core of the R&R rests on the Magistrate Judge's
determination that Plaintiff's lawsuit requires this
Court to question the validity of two sets of Consent
Orders issued in both of Plaintiff's state
criminal cases, the first set on March 6, 2015 and the second
set on May 8, 2017 (hereinafter, “2015 Orders”
and “2017 Orders, ” respectively). After
reviewing the Orders, the record is not developed enough to
say conclusively that Counts I through IV of the Complaint
are barred. Plaintiff's Complaint is at times confusing,
and this Court agrees with Magistrate Judge that those
aspects of the Complaint that attack the 2015 and 2017 Orders
are barred by Heck. (R&R at 10-15.) However, the
Court disagrees that amendment would be futile.
Plaintiff's Complaint is not the only filing to be
considered. Plaintiff's supplemental briefing clarifies
that the gravamen of his allegations appears to be that he
was injured by Defendants' conduct that was not dictated
or necessitated by the contempt conviction or the 2015
Orders. He articulates that he challenges neither
his contempt conviction nor his initial incarceration subject
to the 2015 Orders. Plaintiff states:
Plaintiff's Complaint does not attempt to overturn
Plaintiff's convictions for contempt of court.
Plaintiff's issues are not with the state court for
finding Plaintiff in contempt of court for failure to make
payments of fines and costs. The injuries that Plaintiff
suffered are not from the state court judgment but from
Plaintiff not being able to speak to an attorney and not
having a hearing for the six months that Plaintiff was
Brief, ” Doc. 19, at 4 (emphasis added)).
true that the 2015 Orders accelerated Plaintiff's
incarceration to the day immediately following his first
noncompliance, and authorized a bench warrant to be issued
and him to be initially incarcerated without notice or
hearing. Plaintiff appears to agree that the 2015 Orders did
so and he states in his Brief that he does not challenge
those aspects of the Orders in this suit. Heck is no
bar if Plaintiff is not challenging his conviction for
contempt nor actions by Defendants caused by the 2015 Orders.
See Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 (“[I]f the district
court determined that the plaintiff's action, even if
successful, will not ...