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Steven Jude Hoffenberg v. Jeff Grondolsky et al

January 14, 2011

STEVEN JUDE HOFFENBERG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFF GRONDOLSKY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon Steven Jude Hoffenberg's ("Hoffenberg") filing of his fifth round of pleadings, see Docket Entry No. 59. For the reasons detailed below, the pleadings will be dismissed; such dismissal will be with prejudice. In addition, a limited order of preclusion will be entered against Hoffenberg.

During the last year and a half, Hoffenberg initiated three actions in this District. Because this Court Order, accompanying the instant Opinion, imposes limited preclusion as a result of Hoffenberg's frivolous litigation practices, the Court finds it prudent to recite Hoffenberg's litigation activities.

I. Hoffenberg v. Warden of Fort Dix, Civil Action No. 09-3375

On July 9, 2009, the Clerk received Hoffenberg's petition, submitted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2241, see Hoffenberg v. Warden of Fort Dix, Civil Action No. 09-3375 ("Hoffenberg-Habeas") Docket Entry No. 1, which arrived unaccompanied by either his filing fee of $5.00 or his in forma pauperis application. See id. One week later, on July 16, 2009, the Clerk received a letter from Hoffenberg noting his concern with the fact that he had not received a "reply from Court Clerk's Office" and expressing his opinion that such lack of "reply" must have been indicative of Hoffenberg's prison officials' "obstruction" of his access to his legal mail. See id., Docket Entry No. 2. In response, the Clerk forwarded Hoffenberg a copy of the docket sheet in the Hoffenberg-Habeas matter. See id. On the next day, that is, on July 17, 2009, the Clerk received Hoffenberg's motion, see id., Docket Entry No. 3, reasserting Hoffenberg's claim that the warden at Hoffenberg's place of confinement must have been "obstructing" his access to legal mail because Hoffenberg had not received any correspondence from the Court during the whole eight days of the pendency of the Hoffenberg-Habeas matter. See id., Docket Entry No. 3, at 1. Hoffenberg, therefore, requested that all correspondence to him be mailed by "special mail," although he did not clarify his meaning of the term "special mail."*fn1 See, generally, id., Docket Entry No. 3.

Addressing Hoffenberg's challenges asserted in Hoffenberg-Habeas, this Court noted that Hoffenberg pled guilty -- and was sentenced -- in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ("SDNY"). See Hoffenberg v. United States, 436 F. Supp. 2d 609, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42222 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). The SDNY summarized Petitioner's underlying criminal proceedings as follows:

From 1974 until April 1993, Hoffenberg served as the chief executive officer, president, and chairman of the board of Towers Financial Corporation ("TFC"). In February 1993, following a lengthy investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") filed suit against Hoffenberg, TFC, and other TFC officials for, among other things, securities fraud through the circulation of false and misleading financial statements to investors regarding TFC's financial condition. Soon thereafter, in March 1993, TFC filed for bankruptcy. The collapse of TFC resulted in losses to investors totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. On April 19, 1994, Hoffenberg was indicted in the Northern District of Illinois on various fraud charges, including mail fraud. On April 20, 1994, Hoffenberg was indicted in the [SDNY] on numerous charges related to the SEC investigation and lawsuit, including mail fraud, securities fraud in connection with the sale of notes and bonds of TFC, unlawful conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. . . . The indictment pending in the Northern District of Illinois was transferred to the [SDNY]. On April 20, 1995, Hoffenberg pled guilty to four counts of a superseding information related to the April 20, 1994 indictment: (I) conspiracy to violate the securities laws by fraudulently selling securities . . . ; (ii) mail fraud . . . ; (iii) conspiracy to obstruct justice . . . ; and (iv) tax evasion . . . . Hoffenberg also pled guilty to one count of the indictment transferred from the Northern District of Illinois: mail fraud . . . . On March 7, 1997, [the SDNY] sentenced Hoffenberg to twenty years' imprisonment, followed by a three-year term of supervised release, as well as a $1 million fine, approximately $475 million in restitution, and a $50 special assessment on each of the five counts. Hoffenberg appealed his criminal conviction and sentence and on September 22, 1998 the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence. Hoffenberg filed a petition for rehearing and a petition for rehearing en banc, which the Second Circuit denied in a January 15, 1999 order. Hoffenberg is currently incarcerated and serving his sentence.

Id. at *2-5 (citations omitted).

The petition in Hoffenberg-Habeas presented a potpourri of challenges in the sense that some statements made in Hoffenberg's petition were "pegged" to the events underlying his criminal conviction, while other statements presented considerations relevant to habeas applications, with the remaining challenges seemingly aiming to assert civil rights claims. Specifically, for his habeas-like line of challenges, Hoffenberg qualified himself as an "elderly person" on the grounds that he turned 65. See id., Docket Entry No. 1, at 2. He, therefore, believed that he had to be transferred from his current place of confinement at Fort Dix (and from being incarcerated in "a" federal correctional institution, in general) to home confinement for the remainder of his sentence, under the Second Chance Act, even though he served only thirteen and one half years of his twenty-year prison sentence, and the Second Chance Act allows consideration of home confinement for persons over 65 who served the greater period between the period of 10 years and 75% of their imposed term. See id.. In his line of challenges "pegged" to his criminal conviction, Hoffenberg asserted that the very fact of his confinement in Fort Dix was illegal because it prevented collection of the restitution ordered in Hoffenberg's underlying criminal matter. See id. at 3. According to Hoffenberg's petition, the warden of Fort Dix "issued a number of written communication(s) stating that [the prison officials] will not comply with [the] restitution and fine court orders."*fn2 Id. (capitalization, bolding and underlining removed, alternative plural in original). From this statement, the Court gathered that Hoffenberg was trying to assert that the warden was acting in contempt of Petitioner's sentencing court.

In addition to the foregoing, Hoffenberg's petition contained a phrase reading, "obstruction of [Petitioner's] court access ongoing," id. at 4 (capitalization, bolding and underlining removed), and referred to an "exhibit 2," which -- however -- was not included in Hoffenbeg's submission. See id. In addition, the "Statement of Facts" section in Hoffenberg's petition concluded with the following phrase: "Leave to amend this motion into a civil rights litigation for jury trial under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 jurisdiction Federal Civil Rule 15 Foman v. Davis 9 L.Ed. 2d 222 (1962)." Id. at 5 (capitalization, bolding and underlining removed). Finally, the last page of the petition stated: "Should this Respondent seek to litigate this simple request for consideration of home detention, this . . . Court is requested to grant leave to amend this action. This . . . Court is requested to order this Petitioner to amend this action under Federal Civil Rule 15, Foman v. Davis 9 L.Ed. 2d 222 (1962), into the Petitioner[']s civil rights action, under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 federal question jurisdiction. Order leave for the Petitioner to amend this action under Federal Civil Rule 15 into the Petitioner[']s civil rights action, 28 U.S.C. § 1331 federal question, Bivens, B.O.P. staff violations of scope of employment, ongoing staff liability, jury trial." Id. at 5 (capitalization, bolding and underlining removed). The totality of these statements suggested Hoffenberg's interest in pursuing civil rights challenges.

In response to this panoply of poorly articulated claims, this Court issued a memorandum opinion and order dated August 31, 2009. See Hoffenberg-Habeas, Docket Entry No. 4. The Court dismissed Hoffenberg's Second Chance Act challenges as unexhausted*fn3 and pointed out that Hoffenberg's civil rights challenges, such as access to the courts claims, should be brought in a separate civil action by means of filing a civil complaint rather than a habeas petition. The Court, therefore, dismissed such potential civil rights challenges also without prejudice, leaving an avenue for Hoffenberg to litigate these matters in good faith.*fn4

II. Instant Action: Hoffenberg v. Grondolsky, Civil Action No. 09-4784

A. Procedural History

Seemingly in response to the Court's order issued in Hoffenberg-Habeas, Hoffenberg initiated the instant matter on September 21, 2009, by submitting his civil complaint. See Docket Entry No. 1.*fn5 The complaint, packed into a 100-page submission (and encompassing 371 virtually incomprehensible paragraphs heavily peppered by bolding, capitalization and underlining), arrived accompanied by Hoffenberg's application to proceed in this matter in forma pauperis. See id.

On September 30, 2009, this Court issued a memorandum opinion and order granting Hoffenberg in forma pauperis status and dismissing the complaint, without prejudice, for failure to comply with the requirements of Rules 8, 18 and 20. See Docket Entry No. 2 (explaining to Plaintiff the shortcomings of his complaint and providing Plaintiff with detailed guidance as to the requirements of Rules 8, 18 and 20). The Court directed the Clerk to administratively terminate this matter, subject to reopening in the event Hoffenberg submitted an amended complaint complying with requirements of the aforesaid Rules of Civil Procedure. See id. The Court also directed the Clerk to serve Plaintiff with a blank civil complaint form andstrongly encouraged Plaintiff to utilize the form in order to control the volume and content of Hoffenberg's amended pleading. See id. at 13 and n.2.

Hoffenberg thereafter filed a trio of voluminous motions. See Docket Entries Nos. 3, 6 and 7. Specifically, Hoffenberg filed: (a) a "motion for meaningful court access," see Docket Entry No. 3 (a 12-page 37-paragraph production, with some paragraphs consisting of four sub-paragraphs, expressing Hoffenberg's displeasures with his prison officials); (b) a "motion for declaratory relief," see Docket Entry No. 6 (a 20-page, 111-paragraph production expressing Hoffenberg's displeasures with the current state of law, this Court's order directing Hoffenberg to comply with the requirements of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the fact of the appointment of Hoffenberg's warden, the actions and inactions of the government officials situated at the Washington, D.C., etc.); and (c) a "motion to consolidate," see Docket Entry No. 7 (a six-page production demanding "consolidation" with his "motion for declaratory relief").

On October 14, 2009, and November 5, 2009, the Court denied these motions, and extended its time to file an amended complaint. The Court left the matter in administrative termination subject to reopening upon timely receipt of the amended complaint complying with the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Docket Entries Nos. 4 and 8.

On November 16, 2009, Hoffenberg filed his first amended complaint, accompanied by another set of motions. See Docket Entries Nos. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. Specifically, Hoffenberg filed: (a) another "motion for meaningful court access," see Docket Entry No. 11 (repeating the same 12-page 37-paragraph production, with some paragraphs consisting of four sub-paragraphs, expressing Hoffenberg's displeasures with his prison officials); (b) a repeat of same, one more time, see Docket Entry No. 12; (c) a "motion to correct docket" which the Court understood to read that the case was reopened, even though there was no determination by this Court as to the timeliness of content of Hoffenberg's amended complaint, see Docket Entry No. 13; (d) a "motion to reopen the case and serve [the process]," see Docket Entry No. 14 (a 30-page production consisting of a 21-paragraph repeat of virtually the same, a page of Hoffenberg's self-praise declaring him to be the savior of the New York Post newspaper and promising a book to that extent, a repeat of Hoffenberg's prior motion for "declaratory relief," etc.); (e) a "motion for declaratory relief to consolidate docket entries," see Docket Entry No. 15 (a seven-page production rehashing the same); and (f) another "motion for declaratory relief to consolidate docket entries," see Docket Entry No. 16 (one more repeat of the same). In addition to the aforesaid flock of motions addressed to this Court, Hoffenberg also filed a letter directing the Clerk to "consolidate" docket entries, even though the Court had not issued an order to that effect. See Docket Entry No. 17.

The amended complaint presented a copy of Hoffenberg's original complaint (i.e., the very same 371-paragraph patchy narrative consisting of conclusory statements) made even less understandable by Hoffenberg's numerous handwritten comments entered between the lines and/or on margins. See Docket Entry No. 10.

Therefore, on December 17, 2009, the Court issued another memorandum opinion and order dismissing the first amended complaint for failure to comply with the requirements of Rules 8, 18 and 20 (and addressing Hoffenberg's second round of motions). See Docket Entry No. 18. Moreover, even though Hoffenberg's amended complaint was virtually incomprehensible, the Court deciphered two claims in that complaint, explained to Hoffenberg the applicable substantive tests and the facial invalidity of these deciphered challenges and dismissed those claims with prejudice. The Court granted Hoffenberg leave to amend the remainder of his first amended complaint by filing his second amended complaint that would comply with the requirements of Rule 8. See id. In the process of addressing Hoffenberg's claims, the Court detailed again to Hoffenberg the pleading requirements of Rule 8, as explained by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and by the Court of Appeals in Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009), and Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court stressed that Hoffenberg's allegations had to be factual, and that they could not be self-serving conclusory statements or recitals of elements of claims. The Court's order ended with an unambiguous directive that Hoffenberg's second amended complaint had to be a clear and concise document. See id. at 18.

On January 5, 2010, Hoffenberg filed his second amended complaint,*fn6 a 56-page production consisting of 203 paragraphs, accompanied by 39 pages of exhibits written up by Hoffenberg between the lines and on the margins. See Docket Entry No. 20. The relevance of these exhibits to Hoffenberg's claims was just as incomprehensible as the content of Hoffenberg's second amended complaint, since these 203 paragraphs presented, effectively, a stream of consciousness laden with legal citations. See id. Therefore, on February 23, 2010, this Court issued one more memorandum opinion and order dismissing Hoffenberg's second amended complaint. See Docket Entry No. 23. Same as during its dismissal of Hoffenberg's first amended complaint, the Court took its best guess as to certain claims that the Court could decipher from the content of Hoffenberg's submission and explained to Hoffenberg that these allegations, if discerned correctly, did not state a cognizable claim. See id. at 3, n.1 (explaining non-viability of Hoffenberg's access-to-the-courts claims and allegations based on Hoffenberg's placement in segregated confinement and alleged fraudulent court testimony of certain witnesses). The Court's order concluded with the following unambiguous directive:

Because the Court is concerned that the filing of yet another amended complaint will result in an equally, if not more, incomprehensible submission, . . . Hoffenberg [must] submit a list of legal claims which Hoffenberg wishes to assert. After each claim, Hoffenberg shall set forth in no more than one page the facts he alleges that support such claim. If he cannot do so in one page, he shall so state his reasons in that one page.

Id. at 3-4 (emphasis removed).

On March 9, 2010, Hoffenberg submitted his third amended complaint (which represented Hoffenberg's fourth attempt). See Docket Entry No. 25. In flagrant disregard of this Court's prior directive, Hoffenberg presented a 43-page compilation filled with a total of 150 paragraphs. See id. The content of these 150 paragraphs was even more concerning: with adamant ignorance of this Court's guidance as to the requirements of Rule 8 (as clarified in Twombly, Iqbal, Phillips and Fowler), and the requirements of Rules 18 and 20, Hoffenberg's third amended complaint was not just a stream of unspecific and unrelated generalities but it also reiterated the very claims that were already expressly dismissed by this Court. See id.

Therefore, on April 27, 2010, this Court issued another memorandum opinion and order replicating an extensive excerpt from the "stream of consciousness" narratives comprising Hoffenberg's third amended complaint and noted the Court's grave concern with Hoffenberg's adamant ignorance of this Court's guidance as to the applicable requirements and Hoffenberg's refusal to comply with this Court's orders. In no ambiguous terms, the Court explained to Hoffenberg (stressing that this explanation was given for the last time) how to plead his claims by asserting facts, and facts only, in a clear and concise statement; the Court stressed that Hoffenberg's failure to comply with this Court's guidance would result in dismissal of Hoffenberg's claims with prejudice. See Docket Entry No. 26. For the last time, Hoffenberg was granted leave to file one more amended complaint; that leave was given in the following terms:

Plaintiff's fourth amended complaint MUST consist of -- AND ONLY OF -- a submission where, on the top of each page, [Hoffenberg] will write the name of each Defendant (or identifying features, if the name is unknown) and follow that name by stating specific facts of what exactly that Defendant did, and when, and what injuries [Hoffenberg] suffered as a result of that action. [Hoffenberg's] discussion of the facts related to any particular Defendant CANNOT exceed one double-spaced page, single sided. [Hoffenberg's] allegations shall consist of facts and only facts, stated simply and clearly, in accordance with Rule 8 requirements. [Hoffenberg's] allegations against all Defendants shall be transactionally related to the allegations against the first Defendant in the list, in accordance with Rules 18 and 20. [Hoffenberg's] failure to adhere to this simple directive, or [Hoffenberg's] recital of the claims dismissed with prejudice [in the Court's opinions addressing his second and third amended complaints, or Hoffenberg's] raising of claims which [Hoffenberg] has no standing to litigate [pursuant to the explanations already provided to him by this Court, or Hoffenberg's] other ignorance of the legal standards as explained to him in this and previous memorandum opinions and orders issued by the Court will be deemed contempt of this Court and will trigger appropriate sanctions. [Hoffenberg] is STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to take this Court's warning seriously.

Id. at 13 (capitalization in original).

As noted supra, this Court's memorandum opinion and order dismissing Hoffenberg's third amended complaint and granting him leave to file his fifth round of pleadings was issued on April 27, 2010. See id.

Hoffenberg's fourth amended complaint was filed eight months later, with 33 docket entries separating the Court's aforesaid order and Hoffenberg's filing of his pleadings. These 33 entries reflected Hoffenberg's litigation endeavors which, in light of the content of his latest amended complaint, are indicative of nothing but his intent to abuse the legal process availed to him.

Specifically, in response to the Court's memorandum opinion and order directing his filing of the fifth round of pleadings, Hoffenberg did not file an amended complaint; rather, he made the following filings:

a. First, his motion to "disqualify" this Court, a seven-page submission opening with the statement "motion seeking disqualification of [this Court for] deliberate abuse of sound judicial discretion [and] causing massive prejudice to [Hoffenberg] with his state pension fund(s) restitution victim(s) investment repayment(s) by [Hoffenberg] in this lawsuit under the March 2010 United States Congress Ethic(s) Committee approval in restitution [Hoffenberg] payment(s) intervention by the United States Congress Judiciary Committee . . . causing [Hoffenberg] prejudice in payment of some (7) seven court ordered restitution obligation(s) in the amount of some one billion dollars to [Hoffenberg] restitution victim(s) state pension fund(s) with other restitution securities . . . ." Docket Entry No. 29 (effectively asserting that this Court's demand for a clear and concise pleading denied Hoffenberg "meaningful access to the courts" and an opportunity to repay "billion dollars" to the victims of his fraud that underlies his criminal conviction and threatening this Court with a wrath of congressional officials allegedly supporting Hoffenberg).

b. Then, Hoffenberg filed his notice of appeal with regard to this Court's order dismissing Hoffenberg's third amended complaint without prejudice. See Docket Entry No. 30. (This appeal was later withdrawn by Hoffenberg, see Docket Entry No. 40; it seems that Hoffenberg's withdrawal was made in response to the Court of Appeals' order informing Hoffenberg that his appeal was to be considered for dismissal as legally frivolous, see Docket Entry No. 47. Hoffenberg's appeal was eventually dismissed as taken from an interlocutory decision not ripening this matter for appeal. See Docket Entry No. 51.)

c. The next filing was Hoffenberg's "exhibit" to his motion seeking "disqualification" of this Court, see Docket Entry No. 33 (filed after Hoffenberg's notice of appeal and, moreover, after this Court's denial of Hoffenberg's motion for "disqualification" of this Court). This "exhibit" consisted of a letter allegedly sent by Hoffenberg to Congressman John Conyers (representing the 14th Congressional District of the State of Michigan) requesting the Congressman's order to release Hoffenberg from confinement. See id.

d. The following filing was Hoffenberg's motion requesting "due process," see Docket Entry No. 34, and opening with the sentence reading, "motion . . . to disqualify [this Court because] the Ethic(s) Committee, in the United States Congress, approved [Congressman] John Conyers application, on the Judiciary Committee, to act, with [Hoffenberg's] restitution repayment(s) to major spate pension funds . . . causing [Hoffenberg's] need[] to file paper(s), in front of the Magistrate J [assigned to this action], discerning [this Court's] major damage to [Hoffenberg's] restitution repayment(s) with the related [Hoffenberg's] serious prejudice [in the form of this Court's demanding Hoffenberg's compliance with the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] showing the vital [this Court's] conflict with statute(s), well settled law and the Constitution." *fn7 Id. at 1.

e. Then followed another one of Hoffenberg's motion for "declaratory relief," see Docket Entry No. 36, seeking an order from this Court directing the Associated Press Agency to interview Hoffenberg.

f. The next filing was Hoffenberg's motion for reconsideration of this Court's orders denying Hoffenberg's motions for "disqualification" of this Court, see Docket Entry No. 41, accusing this Court of fabricating and filing of Hoffenberg's notice of appeal from this Court's own interlocutory decision. See id.

g. The next filing was Hoffenberg's letter to the Clerk scolding the Clerk for not marking the mailings to Hoffenberg with the writing "SPECIAL MAIL" and demanding such inscriptions on all mailings to Hoffenberg on the alleged grounds that the Clerk's failure to so mark results in "unjust prejudice" to Hoffenberg. See Docket Entry No. 39.

h. Then followed another one of Hoffenberg's "motion for declaratory relief," see Docket Entry No. 42, again seeking "disqualification" of this Court for "violations of well settled law."

I. Hoffenberg also filed a motion to "produce all court public information documents that name [this Court] in any part therein." See Docket Entry No. 45.

j. Hoffenberg thereafter filed his motion for reconsideration of this Court's order denying the prior motion, see Docket Entry No. 48, and asserting, mysteriously enough, that this Court "hung her hat" on Venen v. Sweet, 758 F.2d 117 (3d Cir. 1985).

k. Following that, Hoffenberg filed another letter to the Clerk, requesting a copy of the docket sheet and reminding the Clerk to mark all mailings to Hoffenberg with the writing "SPECIAL MAIL." See Docket Entry No. 49.

This massive chain of motions and letters from Hoffenberg (and this Court's need for examination of the same, see Docket Entries Nos. 32, 35, 37, 43, 44, 46 and 50 (the Court's decisions addressing these motions)) ended -- five months later -- upon the Court of Appeals' above-noted dismissal of Hoffenberg's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Upon such dismissal, this Court -- giving Hoffenberg the last benefit of the doubt -- issued an order allowing Hoffenberg another thirty days to file his fifth round of pleadings (which, at that time, still remained unfiled: five months after leave to file such amended pleading was granted). See Docket Entry No. 52.

In response, Hoffenberg requested an additional sixty days to prepare his fifth round of pleadings. See Docket Entry No. 55. Out of an abundance of caution, this Court granted Hoffenberg a ...


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