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Opinions

The Middle District of Pennsylvania offers a database of opinions for the years 1999 to present, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter the keyword or case number in the search box above.

Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner

Presently before the court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) in which petitioner, Darrell Wayne Breighner (“Breighner”), asserts that the Superior Court of Pennsylvania acted unreasonably in finding sufficient evidence to support his conviction for arson. Resolution of this issue requires the court to determine whether recent amendments to the federal habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, mandate that federal courts accord a “presumption of correctness” to factual findings of a state court when the state court has previously considered and rejected the petitioner’s claims for relief. For the reasons that follow, the court holds that the presumption of correctness does not apply in such cases.

With respect to the merits, petitioner’s assertions of constitutional error by the state court are unavailing. Consequently, the court will deny petitioner his requested relief.

Presently before the court in this interpleader action are cross-motions for summary judgment by defendants, Patrick Kelley and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), seeking disbursement of payments owed under a pension benefit plan administered by plaintiff, Asbestos Workers Local No. 23 Pension Fund (“Fund”), and governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1401. Patrick Kelley, named as designated beneficiary under the plan, became entitled to a guaranteed amount of benefits following the death of his father, Richard Kelley, the participant in the plan. The IRS contends that tax liens against Richard Kelley’s property attached to the term benefits payable to Patrick Kelley. The Fund filed this interpleader action to resolve the rights of the IRS and Patrick Kelley to the benefit payments.

Judge James M. Munley

Before the court for disposition is plaintiff’s motion to compel the production of witnesses John Retinger, David Farquharson, Bob Zagaski and William Geary at trial on February 10, 2004.

According to a policy of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”), prison visitor vehicles parked on facility grounds are subject to random searches after the owner or operator consents in writing. If a prison visitor refuses to provide written consent permitting SCIH corrections officers to search his or her vehicle, then the visitor will not be allowed to enter the prison to visit any prisoner on that day.
On various dates, the plaintiffs visited Teresa Neumeyer’s father, Preston Pfeifly, at the SCIH. On May 28, 2001, and May 27, 2002, the plaintiffs’ vehicle was searched by SCIH corrections officers after it was parked on institutional property. Prior to the searches, Plaintiff Teresa Neumeyer had signed a “Consent To Search Vehicle” form, which gave her consent to having the vehicle searched.

Plaintiffs contend that having their vehicle subjected to search under these circumstances violates the Fourth Amendment. They have brought suit under 42 U.S. §1983 seeking declaratory injunctive relief but not damages. Defendants have moved for summary judgment arguing that as there is no dispute that the plaintiffs consented to both searches, the proper analysis must be made under the First Amendment’s right of association and that conditioning visiting prisoners on the visitor agreeing to permit searching their vehicle when parked on state correctional institution property is constitutional. Plaintiffs have also filed a motion for summary judgment.
 

Lehigh was in the anthracite coal business located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. It ceased doing business in January 2001. The company was a contributing employer to the Fund, a multiemployer plan providing retirement benefits to employees of the anthracite coal industry under the provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (hereinafter “ERISA”), as amended 28 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. The contributions to the Fund were in the form of royalties for each ton of anthracite coal produced for use or sale.
In the instant case, subsequent to Lehigh ceasing its business operation in January 2001, the Fund assigned it a withdrawal liability in the amount of $1,875,264, which was due in monthly installments for approximately 38 months. Lehigh has challenged this assignment of withdrawal liability through arbitration. Plaintiffs now seek to have the court order the defendant to make payments on the withdrawal liability until arbitration is completed.

Judge William W. Caldwell

Slobodan Milosevic, a citizen of Serbia subject to a final order of removal that would return him to his native country, has filed a counseled, amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking an order requiring the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) to reopen his appeal of the removal order so that he can adjust his status on the basis of his marriage to an American citizen, the marriage occurring after the Board had denied his appeal.

Judge A. Richard Caputo

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted filed by Defendant Jeffrey Sodl and Defendant Stroudsburg Area School District (hereinafter School District). Because the Plaintiffs have failed to allege that the School District or Sodl created a danger which caused the injuries to Catherine R. Giovinco, I will grant Defendants’ motion. Since granting the motion to dismiss will dispose of all the federal claims, I will remand the remaining claims to state court. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 for the claims against Sodl and the School District and 28 U.S.C. § 1367 for the state law claims against Defendants Danielle Foster and Patricia Foster.

Presently before the Court is Defendant Mercy Health’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The motion will be denied because there are material issues of fact as to whether McAndrew was disabled, whether she was a qualified individual, and whether Mercy Health discriminated and/or retaliated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because the Court will not grant summary judgment for the Americans with Disabilities Act claims, I will also continue to maintain supplemental jurisdiction over the state Workers’ Compensation retaliation claim.

Judge Richard P. Conaboy

The plaintiff has brought this civil action under the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the claim of the plaintiff for Social Security disability insurance benefits.

On June 14, 1995, the plaintiff, Virginia A. Leslie, applied for disability insurance benefits. She claimed that she became disabled on April 30, 1992, as the result of chronic degenerative changes, and herniated or bulging discs. Her claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. The plaintiff filed a request for a hearing, and a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on March 11, 1999. Tr. 25-67.

Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Complaint and for a More Specific Complaint, (Doc. 6), filed on September 29, 2003. On June 30, 2003, Plaintiffs filed a complaint asserting five counts against Defendants: Count I - Violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985; Count II - Abuse of Process; Count III - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; Count IV - Slander and Defamation; Count V - Negligence. (Doc. 1.) Federal jurisdiction is based on federal question jurisdiction of the §§ 1983 and 1985 claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343 and supplemental jurisdiction of the common law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
 
In the pending motion, Defendants request the Court to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the alternative, to dismiss all counts except Count IV for defamation and require Plaintiffs to file a more specific complaint as to that count. (See Doc. 7 at 4.) Defendants filed a brief in support of their motion on October, 2003, (Doc. 7), and Plaintiffs filed an opposing brief on October 24, 2003, (Doc. 11). Defendants did not file a reply brief and the time for such filing has passed. Therefore, the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motion is granted in part and denied in part. In addition, we grant Plaintiffs leave to supplement their complaint regarding the § 1983 liability of Defendants Sugarloaf Township, Sugarloaf Township Police Department and Sugarloaf Township Supervisors.

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