BLOCKER v. COMMUNITY EDUCATION CENTERS, INC.
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION SETTING FORTH THE REASONS WHY THE COURT IS GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS. AN APPROPRIATE ORDER FOLLOWS. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GENE E.K. PRATTER ON 2/24/15. 2/24/15 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF AND E-MAILED TO COUNSEL.(rab, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
COMMUNITY EDUCATION CENTERS,
FEBRUARY 24, 2015
Not long after Angelina Blocker filed suit against her former employer, she ceased
participating in the litigation she initiated. After unsuccessful efforts to engage Ms. Blocker’s
participation, the Court granted her former counsel’s motion to withdraw based upon this lack of
participation. Now Defendant Community Education Centers moves to dismiss the case for lack
of prosecution. Consistent with the history of this case, Ms. Blocker has not responded to the
motion. The Court finds that Ms. Blocker has abandoned this suit and therefore will dismiss it.
Ms. Blocker filed a Complaint alleging racial discrimination and other related claims
against her former employer, Community Education Centers. 1 After resolution of an earlier
motion to dismiss, the only claims that remain are Ms. Blocker’s libel and slander claims, in
which she asserts that Community Education Centers libelled and/or slandered her by
“publishing and/or disseminating” a pretextual reason for her termination, namely, that she
falsified a report, to detectives, the Office of the District Attorney, the Department of Labor, the
According to her 37-page Complaint, Ms. Blocker, an African-American female, began her employment
at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility as a corrections officer on August 2, 2002. Defendant
Community Education Centers began operating the prison at which she was employed in 2009.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission,
and others at the prison.
As early as the Initial Pretrial Conference in June, 2014, Ms. Blocker’s attorneys
disclosed to the Court that they were having trouble communicating with their client. Just days
before the close of discovery, counsel for Ms. Blocker sent the Court a letter, stating that they
had not been able to get in touch with their client for months and seeking guidance from the
Court. On October 22, 2014, counsel for Ms. Blocker filed a motion to withdraw, again
outlining their inability to reach their client. The Court twice ordered counsel to supplement the
motion with additional evidence concerning efforts to reach Ms. Blocker and stayed the
remaining case deadlines while awaiting the supplements. Eventually, after a hearing that Ms.
Blocker did not attend despite ample notice, the Court granted counsel’s motion to withdraw.
After the Court lifted the stay, Community Education Centers filed a motion to dismiss
for lack of prosecution. In that motion, Community Education Centers outlines Ms. Blocker’s
lack of responsiveness, including multiple failures to respond to any discovery requests, and also
including her failure to appear for her deposition on two occasions. The Court twice set response
deadlines for any opposition to the motion and ordered Community Education Centers to serve
Ms. Blocker via first class mail and Federal Express with the motion and the Orders setting
response deadlines. Despite this notice, Ms. Blocker failed to respond to the pending motion,
which the Court concludes is ripe for resolution.
Under Rule 41(b), a defendant may move to dismiss an action when “the plaintiff fails to
prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order.” When Rule 41(b) is invoked, the Court
often is required to consider certain specific factors established by the Third Circuit Court of
Appeals. See Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984).
However, the Court need not undertake a Poulis analysis when a plaintiff willfully refuses to
prosecute his or her action. See Spain v. Gallegos, 26 F.3d 439, 455 (3d Cir.1994) (affirming the
district court's decision to sua sponte dismiss some of the plaintiff’s claims, because “in contrast
to situations in which a court must balance factors because the plaintiff does not desire to
abandon her case but has encountered problems in going forward, [the plaintiff] willfully refused
to prosecute her remaining claims after receiving an adverse ruling by the district court”).
As the procedural history of this case illustrates, Ms. Blocker has entirely disengaged
from this action. The Court is satisfied that Ms. Blocker’s conduct demonstrates that she does
not intend to proceed in prosecuting her case. She has failed to comply with the Court’s orders
and has not cooperated on discovery matters. Such behavior has forced the opposing party to
engage in costly and time consuming motion practice to achieve dismissal of the claims against
it. Moreover, Community Education Centers has been prejudiced by Ms. Blocker’s lack of
cooperation. This is particularly true for discovery purposes, as Defendant is handicapped in
defending Ms. Blocker’s claims when she will not even submit to a deposition to answer the
most basic questions about her case. Because of the burden that the Community Education
Centers would face in continuing its defense without Ms. Blocker’s required cooperation, it
would be inappropriate to prolong this action. Accordingly, the Court will grant the motion to
dismiss. See Shipman v. Delaware, 381 F. App’x 162, 163–64 (3d Cir. 2010) (dismissing a case
under similar circumstances for lack of prosecution); McLucas v. Kindred Healthcare, Inc., Civil
Action No. 11-7496, 2013 WL 4774459 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 6, 2013) (same); Joobeen v. City of
Phila., No. 09–1376, 2011 WL 710220 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 2011) (same).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for lack of
prosecution. An appropriate Order follows.
BY THE COURT:
S/Gene E.K. Pratter
GENE E.K. PRATTER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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