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Francis v. Joint Force Headquarters National Guard

June 24, 2009

JANET FRANCIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOINT FORCE HEADQUARTERS NATIONAL GUARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

HON. JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

On October 7, 2008, in light of the absence of factual allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, this Court granted Defendants' motion for a more definite statement and ordered Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint with sufficient factual matter to comply with Rule 8(a), Fed. R. Civ. P. Plaintiff refused to comply with this Order [Docket Item 63] and with the Court's numerous Orders entered thereafter [Docket Items 101, 110, 124] which had afforded her multiple opportunities to file a sufficiently detailed pleading in order to prosecute her claims. Upon Plaintiff's repeated refusals, over the course of more than a year, to file a pleading stating each claim and setting forth a factual basis for any of her claims, the Court, in its March 19, 2009 Opinion and Order [Docket Items 143 and 144] dismissed Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration [Docket Item 149] of the March 19, 2009 Opinion and Order. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Janet Francis, who filed this lawsuit pro se, is a former employee of the New Jersey Army National Guard. She filed this lawsuit on October 11, 2005, naming as Defendants the Joint Force Headquarters National Guard, the Department of the Army, and a number of individuals whom the Court assumes are members of the New Jersey National Guard. (Am. Compl. at 1.) The Amended Complaint contains almost no factual allegations. The single paragraph of the Amended Complaint which purports to set forth Plaintiff's claims and the factual basis therefor reads:

Denied me the right to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Reprisal, Harassment, discrimination, not given an equal employment opportunity, retaliation, wasn't given a hearing for the adverse action against me, Breach of contract, defamation of character, denied promotion, didn't complete the procedures outlined in NGR 600-22/ANGI 36-3, didn't meet time frame to investigate complaint, unauthorized officer filed documents. (Id. at 1-2.)

In its September 19, 2006 Opinion and Order [Docket Items 14 and 15], the Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that, under the intramilitary immunity doctrine, it lacked jurisdiction to entertain Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff appealed the order of dismissal to the Court of Appeals, which, on March 3, 2008, entered an order affirming in part and denying in part this Court's judgment. (App. No. 06-4246, Mar. 3, 2008 Opinion and Judgment.) The Court of Appeals held that this Court "properly rejected plaintiff's motion for entry of default," and likewise affirmed the Court's dismissal of Plaintiff's claims for monetary relief under the doctrine of intramilitary immunity, but held that "Francis's claims for injunctive relief were not barred by the intramilitary immunity doctrine." (Id. at 3-4.) The Court of Appeals remanded the matter to this Court for further proceedings as to Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief, but noted, in light of the absence of factual allegations in Plaintiff's pleadings, that "the District Court may wish to examine the complaint for compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8." (Id.)

After this docket was reopened, Defendants moved for a more definite statement and to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against the Individual Defendants, and Plaintiff moved for the appointment of pro bono counsel and for the entry of default. On September 24, 2008, Magistrate Judge Donio entered an order [Docket Item 61] granting Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of pro bono counsel from the Civil Pro Bono Panel. Shortly thereafter, finding that "the inadequacies of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint prevent [Defendants] from 'reasonably prepar[ing] a response,' Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e)," the Court granted Defendants' motion for a more definite statement and denied Plaintiff's motion seeking the entry of default.*fn1 (Docket Item 62 at 13.) Noting that Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of pro bono counsel had been granted, but that an attorney had not yet been appointed, the Court ordered that Plaintiff "file an amended complaint that conforms with the requirements articulated in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the directives set forth herein within twenty (20) days of the entry of appearance of pro bono counsel, or the Court will 'strike the pleading' and dismiss this case." (Id. at 13) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e)).

Plaintiff thereafter rejected the pro bono attorneys who were appointed to assist her in the prosecution of her claims [Docket Items 65 and 87], and moved for recusal of the undersigned, reconsideration of the Court's prior Opinions, and an order holding Defendants in contempt. The Court denied Plaintiff's motion in its January 12, 2009 Opinion and Order [Docket Items 100 and 101],*fn2 and advised Plaintiff that, in view of her rejection of the services of pro bono counsel, she would be required to file a more definite statement in accordance with the Court's prior Orders. Plaintiff refused to comply with this Order, and instead sought to appeal the January 12, 2009 Order, notwithstanding the fact that none of the matters decided therein could be appealed on an interlocutory basis. In view of the patently non-appealable nature of the January 12, 2009 Order, the Court declined to stay proceedings in this matter pending appeal [Docket Item 110],*fn3 and, thereafter, entered an Order [Docket Item 124] explaining that Plaintiff had still failed to comply with its numerous Orders requiring a more definite statement complying with Rules 8 and 10, Fed. R. Civ. P., and affording Ms. Francis yet an additional opportunity to file such an amended pleading so that her case could proceed.

On February 23, 2009, Plaintiff wrote to the Court to "defend her point for a fourth time of why she feels she doesn't have to amend her complaint." (Docket Item 126 at 1.) Plaintiff's letter indicated that she believed that the Court of Appeals had already determined that her Amended Complaint is sufficiently specific to state a claim, a misunderstanding this Court has repeatedly endeavored to clear up. (Id. at 2.) The Court then extended Plaintiff yet another opportunity to comply with its order for a more definite statement [Docket Item 137], but Plaintiff again refused to clarify her pleadings [Docket Item 139]. Her Amended Complaint presently consists of an amalgam of labels and defendants, undifferentiated by counts or by the bases of a claim against any of the listed defendants.

In view of Plaintiff's protracted refusal to comply with its Orders calling for a more definite pleading, the Court, in its March 19, 2009 Opinion and Order [Docket Items 143 and 144] dismissed Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. The Court explained that "[a]lthough 'it is a power which is not to be exercised lightly,' Rule 12(e) 'confers power upon a court to dismiss a claim for failure to amend the pleadings as directed.'" (Docket Item 143 at 14) (quoting Schaedler v. Reading Eagle Publication, Inc., 370 F.2d 795, 797-98 (3d Cir. 1967)).

Recognizing the strong presumption in favor of trying cases on their merits, see Scarborough v. Eubanks, 747 F.2d 871, 878 (3d Cir. 1984), the Court looked to the factors set forth in Poulis v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 869 (3d Cir. 1984), to determine whether dismissal of Ms. Francis's Amended Complaint for failure to comply with the Court's ...


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