Richard Reichart v. John Wetzel, et al
NOT PRECEDENTIAL OPINION Coram: FISHER, KRAUSE and MELLOY*, Circuit Judges. Total Pages: 4. Judge: KRAUSE Authoring. *The Honorable Michael J. Melloy, Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, sitting by designation.
Date Filed: 12/27/2016
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
JOHN WETZEL, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Secretary of the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; STEVEN GLUNT, Individually and in his
Official Capacity as Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections;
DAVID J. CLOSE, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Deputy Warden of the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; KENNETH HOLLIBAUGH, Individually and
in his Official Capacity as Deputy Warden of the Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections; MR. BOONE, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Maintenance
Supervisor of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; PA DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS; WEXFORD HEALTH SERVICES, in their Individual and Official
Capacity as Health Care Provider of Corrections; DR. MUHAMMAD GHASSAN NAJI,
Individually and in his Official Capacity as Medical Director of the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections
On Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Western District of Pennsylvania
(D.C. Civil Action No. 3-14-cv-00021)
District Judge: Honorable Kim R. Gibson
Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a)
on Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Before: FISHER, KRAUSE, and MELLOY, ∗ Circuit Judges
(Opinion filed: December 27, 2016)
The Honorable Michael J. Melloy, Circuit Judge for the United States Court of
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, sitting by designation.
Date Filed: 12/27/2016
KRAUSE, Circuit Judge.
Richard Reichart, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Houtzdale,
Pennsylvania, appeals two orders of the District Court dismissing his amended complaint
and denying his motion to alter or amend judgment. For the reasons set forth below, we
will vacate and remand. 1
On January 30, 2014, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, Reichart filed a
civil rights action against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and various DOC
employees and affiliated medical providers, alleging Defendants provided negligent and
reckless medical care after Reichart injured his foot by stepping into a hole in a prison
walkway. Screening Reichart’s complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a Magistrate
Judge recommended dismissal without prejudice to proceeding in state court and afforded
Reichart fourteen days to file an amended pleading stating a federal claim.
Reichart timely amended his complaint, asserting Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment claims arising out of Defendants’ failure to maintain safe premises and
This disposition is not an opinion of the full Court and pursuant to I.O.P. 5.7
does not constitute binding precedent.
Counsel for Reichart is appearing pro bono. We express our gratitude to counsel
for accepting this matter pro bono and for the quality of his representation. Lawyers who
act pro bono fulfill the highest service that members of the bar can offer to indigent
parties and to the legal profession.
Date Filed: 12/27/2016
to provide necessary and appropriate medical treatment for injuries to his foot. On March
4, 2014, the District Court adopted the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation
and dismissed the amended complaint by summary order, finding Reichart failed to state
a federal claim and disallowing further leave to amend.
Within one week, Reichart moved to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), and the Magistrate Judge recommended denial. Reichart
objected to the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation and filed a second
amended complaint comprising new claims against Defendants. On October 17, 2014,
the District Court summarily denied the motion without acknowledging Reichart’s
second amended complaint, and this appeal followed. Reichart challenges both orders of
the District Court. 2
We apply plenary review to a district court’s sua sponte dismissal of a complaint
for failure to state a claim under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Allah v. Seiverling,
229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000), and we review denial of a motion pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) for abuse of discretion, Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc.,
662 F.3d 212, 220 (3d Cir. 2011). As a general rule, district courts are required to offer
amendment in civil rights cases, particularly to pro se plaintiffs, unless doing so would be
“inequitable or futile.” Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482
F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2007). We have advised that “[t]he refusal to grant leave without
any justification for the denial can be an abuse of discretion.” Cureton v. Nat’l
The District Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367, and
we have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.
Date Filed: 12/27/2016
Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 252 F.3d 267, 276 (3d Cir. 2001); see Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d
360, 373 (3d Cir. 2000). Further, it is axiomatic that pro se pleadings must be construed
liberally. Higgs v. Att’y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
Here, the District Court’s abuse of discretion is manifest. Its orders, both of which
dispose of an intervening pleading filed by Reichart following the Magistrate Judge’s
Report and Recommendation, offer no substantive analysis for our review. The first
order—dismissing the case in toto—addresses Reichart’s amended complaint in a cursory
manner, adopts wholesale the Report and Recommendation that preceded its filing, and
proscribes further pleading without explanation. The second order—denying Reichart’s
Rule 59(e) motion—fails to acknowledge the presence of Reichart’s second amended
complaint and provides no reasons for the decision to deny. Thus, the District Court’s
scant analysis forecloses us from conducting meaningful review and deprives Reichart of
the fair process due all litigants.
We also note that Reichart’s filings were timely and appear to be made in good
faith. His amended complaint met the fourteen-day deadline established by the first
Report and Recommendation, and his motion to alter or amend was submitted within one
week of the District Court order dismissing his case. Moreover, each new iteration of his
complaint carefully supplements his allegations in an attempt to state a federal claim. In
sum, the perfunctory screening Reichart received constitutes an abuse of discretion, and
we are compelled to vacate and remand with instructions to the District Court to consider
and to provide a reasoned analysis of Reichart’s proposed amended pleadings.
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