September 26, 2011
JACQUELINE NGUYEN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
FRED SHAHROOZ SCAMPATO, P.C., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Union County, Docket No. DC-011080-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 6, 2011 -
Before Judge Payne and Messano.
Plaintiff Jacqueline Nguyen appeals from an order dismissing her complaint in the Law Division, Special Civil Part, against defendant, Fred Shahrooz Scampato, and a subsequent order denying plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. We affirm.
Plaintiff retained defendant to represent her in a suit filed in 2001 against her former employer, Sears, Roebuck and Company (Sears), bearing docket number L-696-01. On August 12, 2002, another firm, Spevack and Cannan, assumed representation of plaintiff in that litigation and filed a substitution of attorney.
Plaintiff's appendix includes certain documents filed by the attorney for Sears that provide some insight into the progress of the litigation. Spevack and Cannan subsequently moved to be relieved as plaintiff's counsel, and an order was entered granting that relief on May 9, 2003. Thereafter, Sears moved to dismiss the complaint with prejudice based upon plaintiff's failure to comply with discovery. The record does not include any order regarding resolution of that motion, however, we glean from the balance of the record that plaintiff's complaint against Sears was indeed dismissed with prejudice.
Before the Spevack firm's motion was granted, on February 4, 2003, plaintiff filed a pro se complaint in the Law Division, Special Civil Part, Union County, bearing docket number DC-2440-03. Generously interpreted, plaintiff alleged defendant committed legal malpractice in his representation of her in the Sears litigation and further alleged various ethical breaches by defendant. Defendant filed an answer denying plaintiff's allegations. It is undisputed that DC-2440-03 was dismissed with prejudice, although the exact circumstances leading to that result are unclear from the record.
On June 3, 2010, plaintiff filed another pro se complaint against defendant in the Special Civil Part bearing docket number DC-011080-10. Plaintiff alleged that she had "new evidence" of defendant's legal malpractice and ethical breaches. Defendant again filed an answer, as well as a counterclaim pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1, the frivolous litigation statute.
In support of his counterclaim, defendant alleged that after the dismissal of DC-2440-03, plaintiff continued to call and leave messages on his firm's answering machine. Defendant further claimed that he ultimately filed a complaint in the Westfield municipal court charging plaintiff with harassment. That complaint was dismissed after plaintiff agreed never to communicate with him again. Defendant averred that plaintiff's latest complaint was filed to harass him.
Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint and the matter was listed for oral argument on August 20, 2010.*fn1 The judge determined the motion was "more properly deemed" a [m]otion for [s]ummary [j]udgment, because it require[d] [him] to look at other facts . . . other court records . . . that establish . . . there was a prior case." The judge further determined that "that case, like this one, alleged . . . [defendant] failed to properly represent . . . [p]laintiff in connection with other legal matters." Noting DC-2440-03 "was dismissed with prejudice," the judge concluded that plaintiff was precluded from bringing a second suit "under the doctrine of res judicata."
The judge also ruled that plaintiff's current suit was barred under the "entire controversy doctrine," and, to the extent plaintiff sought relief under Rule 4:50-1, the request was time-barred. See R. 4:50-1 (providing the grounds for relief from final judgments); R. 4:50-2 (setting forth the time limits for seeking such relief). The judge did not "reach the statute of limitations argument." See Vastano v. Algeier, 178 N.J. 230, 236 (2003) (noting that "N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1 requires that a legal malpractice action commence within six years from the accrual of the cause of action"). The judge entered an order granting defendant summary judgment and dismissing DC-011080-10 with prejudice Plaintiff sought reconsideration, which the judge denied. This appeal followed.
Plaintiff's brief and appendix contain violations of the Rules of Court too numerous to mention. We quote plaintiff's legal argument which is contained in a single point heading:
CLAIMANT'S LEAVING LOWER COURT FOR PURSUE MY RELIEFS, VALUABLE DAMAGES BECAUSE OF FACTORS RELATED AS SUCH FATAL IMPACT ON PERSON IN CIRCUMSTANCES, ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE CRUEL UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT ON VICTIM(S), CONTRIBUTING TO A GOOD CAUSE, AND, THEREFORE, SHE SHOULD NOT BE DISQUALIFIED FROM THE RELIEFS.
The motion judge dismissed plaintiff's complaint because it essentially repeated the same allegations made in an earlier complaint that was dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff's legal argument fails to explain why that constitutes error, and it lacks sufficient merit to warrant further discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).