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Hill v. Lappin

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 17, 2019

DAVID E. HILL, Plaintiff
v.
HARLEY LAPPIN, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to pro se Plaintiff David E. Hill (“Plaintiff”)'s motion for reassignment (Doc. No. 212), motion to alter or amend judgment (Doc. No. 213), motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. No. 214), motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. No. 217), and the response thereto filed by Defendants Bledsoe, Hepner, Saylor, Edinger, and Carrasquillo (Doc. No. 223). For the following reasons, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend judgment (Doc. No. 213), deny his Rule 60(b) motions (Doc. Nos. 241, 217) as moot, deny his motion for reassignment (Doc. No. 212), and reopen the above-captioned case for further proceedings.

         I. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado (“USP Florence”), initiated the above-captioned action on August 29, 2011 by filing a complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (Doc. No. 1.) After several rounds of motions, the only remaining Defendants were Bledsoe, Hepner, Saylor, Edinger, and Carrasquillo (collectively, “Defendants”), and the only remaining claims were

(1) whether the decisions to place [Plaintiff] into four-point restraints on the afternoon of June 22, 2010, were based upon a desire to punish him for manipulative behavior or for a legitimate penological reason or reasons; and (2) whether [Plaintiff] was not released from his restraints to use the bathroom during the 43 hour period when he was in four-point restraints and was allegedly forced to lie in his own waste.

(Doc. No. 151.)

         Jury selection and trial were scheduled to begin on July 29, 2019. (Doc. No. 153.) On July 19, 2019, the Court received a document titled “Petitioner's Motion for Self-Dismissal Pursuant to Federal Rules, Civil Procedure, Rule 41(a)(1)” and signed by “Dave Hill.” (Doc. No. 206.) This document was dated July 7, 2019 and sought to voluntarily dismiss the above-captioned case. (Id.) Defendants filed their concurrence with the motion on July 19, 2019. (Doc. No. 207.) In an Order entered that same day, the Court dismissed the above-captioned case with prejudice and directed that Plaintiff be returned to his original place of incarceration. (Doc. No. 208.)

         On August 5, 2019, the Court received a letter from Plaintiff in which he stated that he had received the Court's July 19, 2019 Order, that he did not file the motion for self-dismissal, and that “someone falsely filed a document in [his] name” and “perpetrated a fraud upon the Court.” (Doc. No. 210.) In an Order entered August 7, 2019, the Court directed Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's letter, including records or affidavits related to the outgoing mail at USP Florence, particularly as they related to the motion for dismissal dated July 7, 2019. (Doc. No. 211.)

         Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff filed the various motions pending before the Court. (Doc. Nos. 212, 213, 214, 217.) On August 27, 2019, the Court granted Defendants' motion to file a consolidated response to Plaintiff's letter and motions. (Doc. Nos. 218, 219, 220.) After receiving an extension of time (Doc. Nos. 221, 222), Defendants filed their consolidated response on September 12, 2019 (Doc. Nos. 223, 224.) Overall, Defendants assert that mail “records and agency counsel's investigation into the filing of the motion have proven to be inconclusive in determining who authored and submitted the Rule 41(a) motion to the Court.” (Doc. No. 223 at 9.)

         II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS

         A. Motion for Reassignment

         Plaintiff requests that the Chief Judge of this Court reassign this matter to another judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 253(c), which provides that “[t]he chief judge . . . may designate any judge or judges of the court to try any case and, when the circumstances so warrant, reassign the case to another judge or judges.” Plaintiff suggests that the undersigned knew that the motion for voluntary dismissal was filed without his consent and “committed overt acts to achieve the desired effect, dismissal with prejudice.” (Doc. No. 212 at 4.)

         Presumably, Plaintiff believes that the undersigned is biased against him based upon the July 19, 2019 Order granting the motion for voluntary dismissal. While judges must recuse themselves in situations where “impartiality might reasonably be questioned, ” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), “a party's displeasure with legal rulings does not form an adequate basis for recusal.” Securacomm Consulting, Inc. v. Securacom Inc., 224 F.3d 273, 278 (3d Cir. 2000). Plaintiff's request for reassignment of this matter is simply unfounded. Accordingly, the Court will deny his motion for reassignment.

         B. Motion to Alter ...


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