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MENDEZ v. DRAHAM

January 31, 2002

ANGEL MENDEZ, VITO MIRABILE, JOHN YOUNG, AND GUSTAVO NIEVES, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER DRAHAM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orlofsky, District Judge.

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

It is not often that one encounters a recidivist violator of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Samuel A. Malat, ("Malat") the attorney for the Plaintiffs in this case, however, appears to be that unique individual. As the present motions include an unopposed Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions against Malat, a review of his recent history is necessary.

This is not the first time Mr. Malat has been before me on a Rule 11 motion. In August of 1999, I sanctioned him for filing three claims that were "patently frivolous." Carlino v. Gloucester City High School, 57 F. Supp.2d 1, 36-39 (N.J. 1999). I also concluded that Malat had "conducted absolutely no legal research whatsoever regarding these claims at any time before or during the pendency of [the Carlino] litigation." I ordered Malat to take two continuing legal education classes, one in Attorney Professionalism and the Rules of Professional Conduct, the other in Federal Practice and Procedure. I also fined him $500.

Only last month, Malat was sanctioned by my colleague, Judge Simandle, for conduct very similar to that at issue in this case. See Leuallen v. Borough of Paulsboro, 180 F. Supp.2d 615 (N.J. 2002). Malat apparently filed a highly redundant, 160-page Complaint, rife with "largely meritless allegations." Id. at 618 n. 5. Judge Simandle concluded, after a hearing, that there was absolutely no justification for Malat's behavior. Id. at 616-21. Accordingly, he imposed a set of four sanctions against Malat, including a published admonishment and a $1,000.00 fine. Id. at 621. Malat was also required to circulate copies of Judge Simandle's opinion to all of the Plaintiffs in the Leuallen case, and to write a 20-page summary of the obligations that Rule 11 imposes upon attorneys. Id.

Attorneys may not, consistent with their professional obligations, substitute the "cut and paste" function of their word processor for the research, contemplation, and draftsmanship that are the necessary elements of responsible legal representation. While that much should be obvious to any member of the bar, it should be especially clear to Malat in view of the fact that Judge Simandle sanctioned him for the same unprofessional behavior he is guilty of in this case, that is, substituting "mouse clicks" for legal judgment. See Leuallen, 180 F. Supp.2d at 618.

Unfortunately, Mr. Malat appears to regard Rule 11 as inapplicable to him. In this case, he filed a 392-page, 1,000 paragraph Complaint that is incomprehensible in its immensity. Worse, for all of its verbosity, many of the allegations of the Complaint are plainly frivolous. Despite Judge Simandle's Rule 11 sanction, a prior Rule 11 sanction by this Court, and a pending Rule 11 motion in this case, Malat has done nothing to remedy these clear violations of his Rule 11 obligations.

Therefore, for the reasons set forth more fully below, I will, by publication of this Opinion, admonish Malat once again for his repeated violations of Rule 11. I also warn him that, if his inappropriate and unprofessional conduct continues in this case, I will report his behavior to the Chief Judge of this Court for appropriate disciplinary action, including suspension or disbarment, as the Chief Judge deems appropriate.*fn1 Additionally, I will grant the State Defendants' Motion to Strike the Complaint. The Plaintiffs may move to file an Amended Complaint within 30 days of this Opinion and Order.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 17, 2000, the Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this Court seeking damages, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988[sic], for violations of their First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as under other state and common law theories. For reasons that will shortly become clear, the exact compass of the Complaint is difficult to discern. The Complaint, signed by Samuel A. Malat, Esq., ("Malat") named twenty-nine different state and federal official Defendants, each sued in both their individual and official capacities, see Compl. ¶ 71, as well as a variety of institutional Defendants, ranging from the South Woods State Prison to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The allegations of the Complaint spanned 1,020 numbered paragraphs and covered 392 pages. The Complaint was not tabbed, nor did it contain an index or table of contents.

On March 9, 2001, Ronald L. Bollheimer, Esq., Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, ("Bollheimer") wrote to Malat on behalf of the State Defendants. Ragonese Cert. Exh. A. Invoking the "safe harbor" provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c), Bollheimer warned Malat that he intended to move for sanctions under Rule 11 in the event Malat failed to correct what were, in Bollheimer's view, numerous flagrant violations of the Rule. Id. at 1. Most prominently, Bollheimer noted that the voluminous, largely duplicative Complaint appeared to be inconsistent with the requirement that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitle to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Id. Bollheimer also observed that many of the claims alleged in the Complaint appeared to be frivolous, especially the claims under § 1983 against state entities, state officers acting in their official capacities, and federal officers and entities. Id. at 2-3.

David Ragonese, Esq., another Deputy Attorney General, subsequently wrote again to Malat on March 22, 2001, warning Malat that he intended to file a motion for sanctions on March 30. Ragonese Cert. Exh. B. It appears that Malat responded, on March 30, 2001, with a request for an extension of time in which to bring the Complaint into compliance. Ragonese Cert. Exh. C. Ragonese agreed, indicating that he would wait until April 23, 2001, before proceeding.

The State Defendants filed this Motion to Strike and for Rule 11 Sanctions on April 24, 2001. Malat has made no response to the Motion in the eight months since it ...


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