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Talley v. City of Atlantic City New Jersey

July 10, 2007

JAMES TALLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jerome B. Simandle

[relates to Docket Items 50 & 51]

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon two motions: (1) Plaintiff James Talley's (acting pro se) motion to reopen the case and (2) Defendants' motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11, Fed. R. Civ. P. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion to reopen the case, finding the motion wholly without merit. In addition, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of Plaintiff's termination from employment as a firefighter with the City of Atlantic City, New Jersey. As a firefighter, Plaintiff was required to undergo random drug testing. In June of 1995, Plaintiff tested positive for cocaine and was subsequently terminated. In April of 1997, Plaintiff was reinstated, conditioned, however, upon his acceptance of the terms of the City of Atlantic City's "Last Chance Agreement" wherein Plaintiff agreed that another positive drug test would result in his immediate termination. Less than eight months later, Plaintiff tested positive for cocaine and, after a disciplinary hearing, was terminated on March 13, 1998.

Approximately two years later, Plaintiff began what can only be described as an odyssey through the New Jersey state courts and federal courts during which Plaintiff initiated two actions alleging wrongful termination and filed more than a dozen motions, virtually all of which were unsuccessful. On March 7, 2000, Plaintiff filed a complaint in New Jersey Superior Court seeking to file an affidavit requesting permission to file a late Tort Claim Notice under N.J.Stat. Ann. 59:8-1. That request was denied. Plaintiff then moved to have the denial vacated but that motion was also denied. Plaintiff appealed that decision to the New Jersey Appellate Division, which denied the appeal. Finally, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Petition for Certification in the New Jersey Supreme Court, which was dismissed for lack of prosecution in 2003.

Having exhausted matters in the state courts, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court on March 10, 2004. An Amended Complaint, which included twelve counts, was filed on June 7, 2004 (the "Amended Complaint"). In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges state claims and unspecified violations of his Fourth Amendment rights, specifically that (1) he was wrongfully terminated; (2) the City of Atlantic City breached the "Last Chance Agreement"; and (3) the City violated other unspecified civil rights based on the drug testing procedure. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on July 27, 2004. [Docket Item No. 7.] The unopposed motion was granted on January 26, 2005 due to lack of jurisdiction and, alternatively, for failure to state a claim as to all counts of the Amended Complaint. [Docket Item No. 21.]

After this Court's dismissal of the Amended Complaint in its entirety, Plaintiff filed a number of motions. On February 8, 2005, Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of this Court's January 26, 2005 Opinion and Order [Docket Item No. 23] and a motion for summary judgment. [Docket Item No. 24.] Plaintiff thereafter filed a motion for sanctions on February 23, 2005. [Docket Item No. 24.] Next, on March 17, 2005, Plaintiff filed an eleven-page document titled "F. Civ. R. 7(G)." [Docket Item No. 32.] Finally, Plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief on June 2, 2005. [Docket Item No. 37.] Defendants filed opposition to all of these motions and their own motion for sanctions. [Docket Item No. 28-30, 38.]

In a Memorandum Opinion and Order on June 16, 2005, this Court denied Plaintiff's motions for reconsideration, for sanctions, for summary judgment and for a preliminary injunction. [Docket Item No. 39.] The Court also addressed Defendants' motion for reasonable attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(A), Fed. R. Civ. P. Although recognizing that "Defendants make a strong argument for why Rule 11 sanctions against Plaintiff might be appropriate," the Court ultimately denied Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees and costs holding that sanctions are "improper at this time" because it was "loathe to impose sanctions upon a pro se party who clearly does not appear to comprehend the Federal and Local Rules of Civil Procedure." Talley v. City of Atlantic City, No. 04-1146, Slip. op. at 5 (D.N.J. June 16, 2005).

The Court went on to warn Plaintiff, however, that Should Plaintiff engage in a pattern of litigation abuse in the future by filing frivolous motions with the Court, a renewed motion of sanctions by Defendants may be appropriate at that time . . . [and] the Court will then consider imposition of all appropriate sanctions against Plaintiff under Rule 11 arising from his frivolous and vexatious filing of this sanctions motion, as well as any other misconduct occurring in this case. A word to the wise should be sufficient.

Id. at 5-6 (emphasis added).

After an unsuccessful appeal of this Court's decision,*fn1 and after passage of another year, Plaintiff began a new round of motion practice before this Court. On February 9, 2007, Plaintiff filed a motion to reopen his case under Rule 60(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., to relitigate his 1998 termination. In response, Defendants (1) opposed Plaintiff's motion to reopen and (2) renewed their motion for sanctions. On July 3, 2007, Plaintiff filed a motion titled "Rule 201. Judicial Notice of Adjudicate Facts" but has failed to directly either reply to Defendants' opposition or oppose Defendants' motion for sanctions. The Court has considered all of the parties' submissions without oral argument.

II. DISCUSSION

Two motions are presently before the Court: Plaintiff's motion to reopen the case and Defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions against Plaintiff. The ...


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