additional discovery or specify how additional discovery would
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Plaintiff's affidavits
merely reiterate her belief that Hess should be required to
answer the interrogatories she has previously served upon him. As
I pointed out in my memorandum opinion of January 23, 1991, the
interrogatories to which Gambrell refers seek information
regarding the relationship between the defendants, information
that is relevant only to the merits of her conspiracy claim. The
motions of Hess and Ackerman are based solely on the doctrines of
res judicata, collateral estoppel and the applicable statute of
limitations. The merits of Gambrell's conspiracy claim are
irrelevant to the application of these doctrines to this case.
The information Gambrell seeks could not therefore raise a
factual dispute sufficient to withstand the motions for summary
judgment. Because plaintiff has not sufficiently supported the
need for additional discovery and because she has filed answers
to the summary judgment motions of Hess and Ackerman, I will
proceed to rule on those motions.
A. The Summary Judgment Motions
Standard for Summary Judgment
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment
should be entered if "there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and [the] moving party is entitled to a judgment as
a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "The inquiry performed is
the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need
for a trial — whether in other words, there are any genuine
factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of
fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute concerning a
material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. In ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the court must consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, Baker v. Lukens Steel Co.,
793 F.2d 509, 511 (3d Cir. 1986); however, the non-moving party must
present some "affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly
supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at
251, 106 S.Ct. at 2511.
Gambrell's claims against Judge Ackerman in this case are
clearly barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The doctrine of
res judicata "provides that when a final judgment has been
entered on the merits of a case, `it is a finality as to the
claim or demand in controversy, concluding parties and those in
privity with them not only as to every matter which was offered
and received to sustain or defeat the claim or demand, but as to
any other admissible matter which might have been offered for
that purpose.'" Nevada v. United States, 463 U.S. 110, 129-30,
103 S.Ct. 2906, 2917-18, 77 L.Ed.2d 509 (1983) (quoting Cromwell
v. County of Sac, 94 U.S. 351, 352, 24 L.Ed. 195 (1877)). Res
judicata, also known as claim preclusion, "gives dispositive
effect to a prior judgment if the particular issue, albeit not
litigated in the prior action, could have been raised." Bradley
v. Pittsburgh Bd. of Educ., 913 F.2d 1064, 1070 (3d Cir. 1990).
Once a final judgment has been entered, it "puts an end to the
cause of action, which cannot again be brought into litigation
between the parties on any ground whatever." Nevada v. United
States, at 130, 103 S.Ct. at 2918 (quoting Commissioner v.
Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591, 597, 68 S.Ct. 715, 719, 92 L.Ed. 898
(1948)). The purpose of the doctrine is "to secure the peace and
repose of society by the settlement of matters capable of
judicial determination," Id. at 129, 103 S.Ct. at 2917 (quoting
Southern Pacific R. Co. v. United States, 168 U.S. 1, 49, 18
S.Ct. 18, 27, 42 L.Ed. 355 (1897)).
In this circuit, res judicata, or claim preclusion, will bar a
subsequent action where there has been "(1) a final judgment on
the merits; (2) a prior suit involving the same parties or their
privies; and (3) a subsequent
suit based on the same cause of action." Napier v. Thirty or More
Unidentified Federal Agents, 855 F.2d 1080, 1086 (3d Cir. 1988);
United States v. Athlone Industries, Inc., 746 F.2d 977, 983 (3d
Cir. 1984). With respect to defendant Ackerman, the first two
prongs of the test are clearly satisfied. This is the fourth time
he has been sued by Gambrell. There has been a final judgment in
Ackerman's favor in each of the previous three suits.
Moreover, it is also apparent that the third prong is
satisfied. In United States v. Athlone Industries, Inc., supra,
the Third Circuit Court of Appeals stated that there was no
"precise definition of a cause of action," and that there was no
"one magic formula or test" for determining if successive suits
were based on a single cause of action. Id. at 984. It did note,
however, that the inquiry focuses on the "essential similarity of
the underlying events giving rise to the various legal claims."
Id. The "focal points" of the analysis "are whether the acts
complained of were the same, whether the material facts alleged
in each suit were the same and whether the witnesses and
documentation required to prove such allegations were the same."
The complaint in this action alleges that Judge Ackerman, in
combination with the other defendants, in some way fraudulently
or improperly disposed of her Title VII action over which he
presided. Each of the Gambrell's three previous actions against
Judge Ackerman were quite clearly based on the same events and
make substantially the same allegations. Judge Debevoise noted in
Gambrell II, that the complaint in that action was "obviously for
the same conduct about which she complained in [Gambrell I]."
Gambrell II, Opinion and Order of July 19, 1984 at 2. The
complaint in this, Gambrell's fourth action based on the
dismissal of her Title VII case, is no different. It is also
quite obviously based on the same conduct about which she
complained in the previous three actions. Moreover, the fact that
the relief sought by Gambrell has differed from case to case does
not alter the conclusion that all her actions are based on the
same cause of action. United States v. Athlone Industries, Inc.,
746 F.2d at 984; Clemens v. Central Railroad Company of New
Jersey, 399 F.2d 825, 828 (3d Cir. 1968), cert. denied,
393 U.S. 1023, 89 S.Ct. 633, 21 L.Ed.2d 567 (1969). Gambrell's claims
against Judge Ackerman are thus barred by the doctrine of res
judicata and cannot be relitigated.
Gambrell appears to be arguing that res judicata should not
apply, because the earlier judgments were in some way "changed"
by the disciplinary action taken by the New Jersey Supreme Court
against her former attorney. Affidavit of January 29, 1991 at 2.
While it is true that res judicata may not apply to a subsequent
action in instances in which there has been an intervening change
in the law or significant facts, see e.g. Commissioner v. Sunnen,
333 U.S. 591, 599-602, 68 S.Ct. 715, 720-21 (1948); State Farm
Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Duel, 324 U.S. 154, 162, 65
S.Ct. 573, 577, 89 L.Ed. 812 (1945), that is not the case here.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey took disciplinary action
against Arthur N. Martin, Jr. on the basis of his actions in a
number of matters, including his handling of Gambrell's Title VII
action. The court adopted the findings of the Disciplinary Review
Board that Martin engaged in grossly negligent and unethical
conduct in the handling of Gambrell's Title VII case, but did not
state or even suggest that he had engaged in a conspiracy with
Judge Ackerman or anyone else. See In the Matter of Arthur N.
Martin, Jr., 118 N.J. 239, 571 A.2d 288 (1990) at 5-7. These
findings are entirely consistent with the disposition of her
earlier cases and do not constitute a change in any significant
fact in this case. Judge Sarokin and Judge Biunno both noted that
Gambrell may well have a claim for malpractice against her former
attorney. His misconduct, however, does not provide Gambrell with
a sufficient basis for a civil rights action.
Moreover, even if the actions of the New Jersey Supreme Court
did in some way constitute a change in the law or facts
governing Gambrell's civil rights action, they would not alter
the fact that Judge Ackerman is absolutely immune to damage
claims arising from acts he performed as a judicial officer. See
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 355-56, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 1104, 55
L.Ed.2d 331 (1978); Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 335,
347, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1872); Turack v. Guido, 464 F.2d 535, 536 (3d
Cir. 1972). "A judge will not be deprived of immunity because the
action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in
excess of his authority; rather, he will be subject to liability
only when he has acted in the `clear absence of all
jurisdiction.'" Stump v. Sparkman 435 U.S. at 356-357, 98 S.Ct.
at 1104-05 (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. at 351).
The doctrine of absolute judicial immunity applies even when a
complaint alleges that the judge acted corruptly, Glick v.
Gutbrod, 782 F.2d 754, 756 (7th Cir. 1986) (per curiam), and
complaints against judges alleging fraud and conspiracy in the
handling of cases have been uniformly dismissed for that reason.
See Darr v. Wolfe, 767 F.2d 79, 80 (3d Cir. 1985); Ashelman v.
Pope, 793 F.2d 1072, 1078 (9th Cir. 1986) (en banc); Van Sickle
v. Holloway, 791 F.2d 1431, 1434 (10th Cir. 1986); Glick v.
The complaint in this action seeks damages for Judge Ackerman's
alleged wrongdoing while presiding over Gambrell's Title VII
case. Because he was clearly acting in his judicial capacity in
dismissing the Title VII action, Judge Ackerman is immune from
the damage claims in this action and entitled to summary judgment
Despite the fact that defendant Hess was not a party to
Gambrell I, the judgment in that case nonetheless bars Gambrell's
claims against him in this case. Although the Third Circuit Court
of Appeals continues to include the requirement that for res
judicata to apply, the prior suit must have been between the
parties to the present suit or their privies, see Napier v.
Thirty or More Unidentified Federal Agents, 855 F.2d at 1086;
United States v. Athlone Industries, 746 F.2d at 983, it has
broadened the concept in such a way that Hess is entitled to take
advantage of the judgment in Gambrell I.
In Gambocz v. Yelncsics, 468 F.2d 837 (3d Cir. 1972), the
plaintiff brought an action against several alleged conspirators.
Following the dismissal of the action with prejudice, the
plaintiff brought a second action naming additional defendants
who allegedly participated in the same conspiracy. Apart from the
naming of different defendants, the material facts of the two
actions were identical. Relying on Bruszewski v. United States,
181 F.2d 419 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 340 U.S. 865, 71 S.Ct. 87,
95 L.Ed. 632 (1950), the court held that res judicata barred the
second action even as to those defendants who were not parties to
the first action. It held that "res judicata may be invoked
against a plaintiff who has previously asserted essentially the
same claim against different defendants where there is a close or
significant relationship between successive defendants." Id. 468
F.2d at 841. It found that where the first action alleged the
existence of a conspiracy involving certain individuals and
the sole material change in the later suit was the addition of
certain defendants, some of whom had been named in the original
complaint as participating in the conspiracy but had not been
had been named as parties defendant at that time . . . the
relationship of the additional parties to the second complaint
was so close to parties to the first that the second complaint
was merely a repetition of the first cause of action and,
therefore it is barred by the application of [res judicata].
Id. 468 F.2d at 842.