Collura v. Ford, CIVIL ACTION No. 13-4066

Decision Date14 July 2014
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION No. 13-4066
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania
PartiesJASON COLLURA, Plaintiff, v. NICHOLAS JAMES FORD et al., Defendants.


Jason Collura brings 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Nicholas James Ford, Mary Politano, Steffen Boyd, Steven Austin, Charles Hoyt, and Robert Malvesuto ("Defendants" or "Probation Officer Defendants") for alleged violation of his due process, First Amendment, and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as several incidental state law claims. In the absence of timely responses to Mr. Collura's Complaint, the Clerk of Court entered default against the Defendants and in favor of Mr. Collura.1

The central issue now before the Court is whether to set aside the Clerk's entry of default. The parties have, in effect, cross-moved on the issue: after the entry of default, the Probation Officer Defendants appeared and moved to set aside the entry of default (Docket No. 18). Mr.Collura subsequently filed a Motion for Default Judgment (Docket No. 21). He later filed a Motion for Full or Partial Judgment on the Pleadings (Docket No. 58).

For the reasons set forth below, the Court lifts the entry of default and denies Mr. Collura's Motion for Default Judgment and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The Court also strikes several of the "affirmative defenses" in Defendants' Amended Proposed Answer with instructions to file an accordingly modified Answer.

Finally, the Court resolves several other pending motions filed by Mr. Collura that seek reconsideration and, potentially, recusal; disqualification of opposing counsel; the striking of sealed defense exhibits; and an ECF account.


The Court lays out the facts of this case according to the differing perspectives of Mr. Collura and the Probation Officer Defendants before describing the relevant phases of the case's procedural history. The lengthy recitations appear here because of the role that factual assertions have in the considerations the Court must balance in the context of several of the pending motions.2

A. Mr. Collura's Version of Events3

At his scheduled April 12, 2012 probation meeting, Mr. Collura discovered that he had a new probation officer, Defendant Nicholas Ford, who "start[ed] giving attitude to [Mr. Collura] from virtually second one" and then got "more and more abrasive and demanding," at which point Mr. Collura responded, that "there was no issue" with his "coming in today" and that "he knows probation law" and "his rights will not be violated." Compl. ¶ 13. Mr. Ford allegedly replied, "ok you wanna be smart, here you have a urine (drug test)." Compl. ¶ 13. Mr. Collura objected.

Not happy that Mr. Collura was "sticking up for himself," Mr. Ford told Mr. Collura that his reporting time, which previously was every two months, would now be weekly. Compl. ¶ 13. The two then began to argue, and Mr. Ford eventually told Mr. Collura that he was "going to have [Collura] locked up," Compl. ¶ 13, and that Mr. Collura was "going to be stuck with" Mr. Ford, who would "give [Mr. Collura] a unit evaluation and . . . hit [him] with conditions" that Mr. Collura would be unable to meet and thus "wind up not reporting," with the end result of "incarceration for non-compliance," Compl. ¶ 14, at 14. Mr. Collura replied that this threatened evaluation "would come up in a negative result," at which point Mr. Ford retorted that a CJC4 doctor would perform the evaluation in such manner that Mr. Collura "would not get out of theunit" by subjecting Mr. Collura to a catch-22: "if your doctor gives you a positive result, then you [are still in the unit], but if he doesn't then you [are still in the unit]." Compl. ¶ 14.

Mr. Collura, who had earlier demanded to speak with a supervisor, protested that this situation was unfair "because the eval has to be fair if it is taken." Compl. ¶ 14. Steffan Boyd, a supervisor, arrived and listened to Mr. Collura's account of "Ford's behavior" but did "nothing at all, except change the report time from Ford's 1 week to 1 month." Compl. ¶ 14. Mr. Ford then informed Mr. Collura that Mr. Ford would email the judge for an evaluation date and order. Mr. Collura asked for at least 20 days['] notice and notified Mr. Ford that he would be filing a complaint regarding their conversation, including, specifically, "the illogical eval demand." Compl. ¶ 14, at 15. Mr. Collura "then took the drug screening in the building and passed." Compl. ¶ 14, at 15.

Later that day, Mr. Collura called Mr. Boyd and left a message "to file a grievance about" (1) Mr. "Ford and his disturbing behavior including threatening to lock [Mr. Collura up] for a bogus reason"; (2) Mr. Collura's demand for a change of probation officers; (3) the change in his reporting frequency; and (4) "the evaluation situation." Compl. ¶ 15. Mr. "Boyd did nothing." Compl. ¶ 15.

Mr. Collura reported again on May 10, 2012. Compl. ¶ 16. Mr. Ford told Mr. Collura that no judge had responded to Mr. Ford's email regarding scheduling an evaluation, and Mr. Collura again requested 20 days' notice. Mr. Ford again refused to entertain Mr. Collura's complaints about the evaluation in general, or about Mr. Collura's reporting frequency. Mr. Ford gave Mr. Collura another drug test, which Mr. Collura again passed. Compl. ¶ 16.

On May 31, 2012, Mr. Collura attempted to telephone another supervisor, Steven Austin, who did not pick up. Mr. Collura "left a message simply stating his first name and [that] he had important issues that needed to be resolved and left his contact number." Mr. Austin did not callMr. Collura back. Mr. Collura tried again, unsuccessfully, to reach Mr. Austin on June 11, 2012. Compl. ¶ 17. Mr. Collura "left a message that he had left one earlier that was ignored, has several important issues that need attention, and if he continued to fail to do his job then [Mr. Collura] would go [back] to his supervisor and if needed get a lawyer involved." Compl. ¶ 17. Mr. Collura withheld any details or names "because that as for a live conversation," so Mr. "Ford did not know there was a complaint about him being made to Austin." Compl. ¶ 17.

Mr. Collura reported again on June 7, 2012, at which point a different probation officer appeared and told Mr. Collura that Mr. Ford was not in that day and that Mr. "Ford has [Mr. Collura] down for the 12th," notwithstanding that Mr. Collura's "signed card" said June 7. Compl. ¶ 18, at 17. The unidentified probation officer further stated that Mr. Ford "was planning to tell [Mr. Collura] on the 12th about a unit evaluation on the 13th." Compl. ¶ 18, at 17. Mr. Ford then appeared and claimed that there had been a "misunderstanding," and that Mr. Ford "had [Mr. Collura] down for the 13th." Compl. ¶ 18, at 17. Further, Mr. Ford told Mr. Collura that, on May 11, 2012, Mr. Boyd had "set up a date for the evaluation which was June 13th at 12 p.m." Compl. ¶ 18, at 17.

Mr. Collura then asked Mr. Ford if Mr. Ford was planning to tell him "on the 12th at 4:00 p.m. about an evaluation 19 hours later," and Mr. Ford "said yes," thereby confirming, in Mr. Collura's estimation, Mr. Ford's intent to give him only "19 hours['] notice." Compl. ¶ 18, at 17. In fact, Mr. Boyd had given Mr. Ford a form that stated, "I have not contacted the p/p about his appointment. You will need to do that." Compl. ¶ 18, at 17. The meeting ended with Mr. Ford telling Mr. Collura that such evaluations could only be rescheduled once, but, nonetheless, telling Mr. Collura (1) that the evaluation could not be rescheduled and (2) to call him. Compl. ¶ 18, at 18. Mr. Ford refused to give his email address to Mr. Collura for rescheduling purposes or otherwise. Compl. ¶ 18, at 18.

On June 11, 2012, Mr. Collura called the evaluation unit to confirm whether he had an appointment. Compl. ¶ 19, at 18. Although Mr. Collura knew no one in the evaluation unit, he "expected a problem with [the evaluation]" because of Mr. Boyd's and/or Mr. Ford's involvement. Compl. ¶ 19, at 18. Mr. Collura first spoke with "a clerk," who was "extremely rude, loud, belligerent, [and] said she didn't know anything about scheduling, who does it, how to reschedule, nothing." Compl. ¶ 19, at 18. At his request to speak with a supervisor, Mr. Collura was transferred to Mary Politano, whose supervisor, like Mr. Ford's, was Mr. Boyd. Compl. ¶ 19, at 19. Ms. Politano "picked up where the clerk left off in terms of loudness[,] attitude[,] and rudeness," but eventually informed Mr. Collura that after "trial a probation supervisor can request a unit evaluation," whereas "pre-trial . . . only a judge can." Compl. ¶ 19, at 19.

Mr. Collura attempted, over Ms. Politano's "cut offs and . . . talking," to "explain[] his situation in detail" and "simply request[] to reschedule the evaluation." Compl. ¶ 19, at 19. The two continued to argue about whether Mr. Collura was in fact on the list, and, if so, for which date, and Ms. Politano ultimately told Mr. Collura that she could not do anything to reschedule the appointment, because the probation officers, rather than the evaluation unit, were responsible for scheduling the evaluations. Compl. ¶ 19, at 19-20. The appointment was neither canceled nor rescheduled. Compl. ¶ 19, at 20. The next day, on June 12, 2012, Mr. Collura left a message with Ford regarding how to reschedule the appointment and informing Ford that Mr. Collura would need "at least 20 days' notice." Compl. ¶ 20.

On June 14, 2012, Mr. Austin called Mr. Collura. Compl. ¶ 22, at 20. The call quickly devolved into an argument when Mr. Collura attempted to explain his grievances and Mr. Austin persisted in asking, instead, "why [Mr. Collura] was complaining to him." Compl. ¶ 22, at 20-21. The call ended with no resolution. Compl. ¶ 22, at 21. Mr. Austin later called back and "left amessage claiming that he was willing to talk if he got his way." Compl. ¶ 22, at 21. Mr. Collura returned this call later the...

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