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[U} Gendron v. New Jersey Transit Rail Operations

June 14, 2007

RE: GENDRON
v.
NEW JERSEY TRANSIT RAIL OPERATIONS, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jose L. Linares United States District Judge

CHAMBERS OF JOSE L. LINARES JUDGE

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. FEDERAL BUILDING & U.S. COURTHOUSE 50 WALNUT ST., ROOM 5054 P.O. Box 999 Newark, NJ 07101-0999 973-645-6042

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

LETTER OPINION

Dear Counsel:

This matter comes before the Court on the objection of Defendant New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, Inc. (hereinafter "N.J. Transit" or "Defendant") to the May 11, 2007 Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Claire C. Cecchi regarding Plaintiff Louis P. Gendron's motion to transfer venue or, in the alternative, to disqualify defense counsel [CM/ECF Docket Entry No. 26] and Defendant's motion for sanctions [CM/ECF Docket Entry No. 38]. By way of her May 11 Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Cecchi recommended that this Court enter an Order denying Plaintiff's motion to transfer venue or, in the alternative, to disqualify defense counsel, and denying Defendant's motion for sanctions. (May 11 R&R at 1). Defendant has filed an objection to the portion of the May 11 Report and Recommendation denying its request for sanctions. Plaintiff has filed no objection to same. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will adopt Magistrate Judge Cecchi's May 11 Report and Recommendation in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that neither party objected to Magistrate Judge Cecchi's recommendation that Plaintiff's motion to transfer venue or, in the alternative, to disqualify defense counsel, be denied.*fn1 This Court has reviewed the parties' positions, and is satisfied that there is no clear error on the face of the record to warrant denial of Magistrate Judge Cecchi's recommendation regarding same. As a result, the Court hereby accepts Magistrate Judge Cecchi's recommendation that Plaintiff's motion be denied in its entirety.*fn2

Although the Court, therefore, need not address Plaintiff's motion to transfer venue or, in the alternative, to disqualify Anthony R. Mautone as defense counsel, having accepted the portion of Magistrate Judge Cecchi's Report and Recommendation regarding same, the Court will nevertheless provide a brief summary of said motion, as it relates to the series of events leading up to Defendant's filing of the instant motion for sanctions.

Defense counsel, Anthony R. Mautone, is a part-time magistrate judge in this district, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 632(b).*fn3 On February 2, 2007, Plaintiff moved to transfer the instant action to another federal district or, in the alternative, to disqualify defense counsel Anthony R. Mautone from representing N.J. Transit in this case. Plaintiff essentially challenged the constitutionality of 28 U.S.C. § 632(b), which allows part-time United States magistrate judges to simultaneously engage in the practice of law. In particular, Plaintiff argued the following:

The scrupulous adherence to the principles of avoiding even the appearance of judicial impropriety, to promote public confidence in the judiciary, is inconsistent with requiring a party to be opposed by an attorney who is a Magistrate Judge, who is in the "inner circle" of the federal judges who will try his case, and who is privy to the hallways, dining facilities, parking area and other secret nooks and crannies of the federal courthouse that are off limit to every litigant and their counsel.

(Pl. Br. at 2). Plaintiff conceded, however, that defense counsel Anthony R. Mautone "is neither acting improperly or illegally because he is acting in accordance with federal statute." (Pl. Mot., ¶ 8). In opposition, Defendant pointed out that Plaintiff offered no legal authority, whatsoever, in support of the argument that 28 U.S.C. 632(b) is unconstitutional, or that Mr. Mautone's representation of N.J. Transit in the instant matter is or "appears" otherwise improper. (Def. Opp'n Br. at 3). Moreover, Defendant explained that Plaintiff's counsel has unsuccessfully asserted this very argument, in this particular district, on three prior occasions. (Def. Opp'n Br. at 4-5).

As a result, Defendant moved to impose sanctions on Plaintiff on the basis that the "arguments raised by counsel for plaintiff in seeking to disqualify Anthony R. Mautone and/or change the jurisdiction are not warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument. In fact, these arguments raised in both Dembowski*fn4 and Carroll*fn5 were found by Judge Hedges and Judge Bissell, respectively, to be 'without merit.'" ...


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