United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM ORDER RE: ECF NOS. 73, 74 AND 75
MAUREEN P. KELLY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for Relief .from
Judgment, Order or Proceeding ("Motion for Relief), ECF
No. 73; Plaintiffs Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief
in Support of Motion for Relief from Judgment, Order or
Proceeding ("Motion for Extension"), ECF No. 74;
and Plaintiffs Motion to Stay to File Brief in Support of
Motion for Relief from a Judgment, Order or Proceeding
("Motion to Stay"), ECF No. 75. For the reasons
that follow, the motions are denied.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Bienvenido Rodriguez ("Plaintiff) is currently
incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Forest
("SCI Forest"). This action arises from Plaintiffs
incarceration at State Correctional Institution Pine Grove
("SCI Pine Grove"). Plaintiffs claims arise out of
allegations that Defendants, employees of the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections ("DOC"), violated
Plaintiffs First Amendment rights and the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") by
failing to make religious accommodations for the practice of
Plaintiffs religion, Yoruba Santeria, and by improperly
confiscating consecrated prayer beads that Plaintiff wore in
connection with his faith.
represented by Attorneys Christy Foreman and Alexandra
Morgan-Kurtz, filed his Complaint in this action on November
28, 2016. ECF No. 1. The Court conducted an initial case
management conference, ECF No. 15, and the case was referred
to the alternative dispute resolution in the form of
mediation, ECF No. 17. The Honorable Kenneth Benson (ret.)
conducted the mediation on April 14, 2017, and Plaintiff
attended in person. ECF Nos. 20 and 21. At the conclusion of
the mediation, the case was resolved. ECF No. 21.
there was some initial dispute over the language of the
settlement agreement and release, ECF Nos. 24, 25, 28 and 29,
that required the assistance of this Court, ECF Nos. 30 and
32, the settlement agreement and release was executed by the
parties in May 2018. ECF No. 33. The settlement agreement and
release provided that a check in the amount of $6, 500.00 was
to be deposited in Plaintiffs inmate account. On July 26,
2018, this Court approved the Stipulation of Dismissal with
prejudice and closed the case. ECF Nos. 34 and 35.
two years after the settlement was reached at the mediation,
this case having been fully resolved and all claims released,
Plaintiff, without his counsel of record,  filed a Motion to
Re-Open Civil Action on July 5, 2019. ECF No. 44. Plaintiff
sought leave to reopen the case for what he characterized as
a breach of the settlement agreement and for ineffective
assistance of counsel. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for
Leave to File Amended Complaint. ECF No. 46. In these
Motions, Plaintiff broadly alleged that Defendants violated
his religious freedoms and the terms of the parties'
settlement agreement, but only specifically identified two
instances of purported breach: (1) Defendants' placement
of settlement funds into escrow; and (2) not permitting
Plaintiff to purchase his Yoruba Santeria beaded necklaces.
ECF No. 53 ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff further claimed
that, following the execution of the settlement agreement,
"more constitutional claims have arisen."
Id. at ¶ 12. Defendants filed a Brief in
Opposition. ECF No. 57.
review, the Court found that a settlement of all claims was
reached, the settlement agreement was fully executed by the
parties and apparently complied with by the parties. ECF No.
61 at 3. With respect to Plaintiffs request for leave to
amend his Complaint, the Court further found that Plaintiff
had not established the requisite good cause for delay in
moving to amend his Complaint. Id. The Court noted
that, to the extent Plaintiff wished to bring a new lawsuit
alleging new claims, he was free to do so. Id.
extent Plaintiff sought to. have the Court address any issues
relative to the handling of settlement funds, however, the
Court granted Plaintiff permission to request that the Court
schedule a conference with Plaintiffs former counsel and
defense counsel, with Plaintiff participating by telephone.
Id. at 4. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested, and the
Court granted, the scheduling of a video status conference.
ECF Nos. 63 and 64.
Court held a status conference on November 12,
2019. Plaintiff and Defendants' counsel
participated in the conference, with Plaintiff participating
remotely from SCI Forest. ECF No. 68. Plaintiff participated
by audio conference as a result of technical issues with the
video feed at SCI Forest. Id.
the conference, the Court addressed two issues that Plaintiff
complained about in relation to the previous settlement: that
he had not received a consecrated Santeria beaded necklace
and his complaint relative to the payment of $6, 500 in
as to the necklace, the settlement agreement expressly
provided that Plaintiff was "permitted to purchase a
consecrated black and red beaded necklace and consecrated
yellow beaded necklace." ECF No. 77 at 11:7-9. Plaintiff
It's a little complicated because when you're
initiated under the mysteries of Santeria Orisha, which is a
saint, the person who initiated you has to reconsecrate the
beads all over again, or a priest that is initiated under the
same mysteries of the same Orisha saint that I was initiated
under. That's probably where the problem comes in because
they can't probably find a priest that-because those
practices have to be strictly followed.
Court asked Plaintiff to identify the name and address of the
person who could consecrate the beads.
PLAINTIFF: I can't do that, right, but the person who
initiated me under those mysteries of Orisha Oshun said the
beads were destroyed. They would have to get another chicken
and they're not going to permit that on prison grounds.
They're going to charge me another $2, 500 just-the beads
don't cost nothing, the beads only cost like maybe $5.00,
depending what store you buy it from, but just the
consecrated thing, they're going to charge me $2, 500 all
THE COURT: Your issue is-the issue is not the cost of the
beads themselves, the issue is ...