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Shaw v. Obermier

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 6, 2014

MELISSA L. SHAW, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SCOTT OBERMIER, et al., Defendants.

Ms. Melissa L. Shaw Marlton, NJ, Plaintiff, pro se.

Mr. Salahuddin F. Smart Philadelphia, PA, Plaintiff, pro se.

Paola F. Kaczynski, Esq. WILLIAM J. FERREN & ASSOCIATES Philadelphia, PA, Attorney for Defendants Scott Obermier, Richard Worst, Mark, Pickard, Mario Straccialini, James W. Shriver, Harry Earle, and Chief of Police.

OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This opinion addresses the main issue of whether the case of a pro se plaintiff who repeatedly fails to appear for court-ordered conferences should be dismissed for plaintiff's failure to prosecute.

This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Defendants Scott Obermier, Richard Worst, Mark Pickard, Mario Straccialini, James W. Shriver, Harry Earle, and Chief of Police to dismiss for lack of prosecution against Plaintiff Melissa Shaw.[1] [Docket Item 72.] This action arises from two traffic stops in Gloucester Township in the early morning of November 10, 2010 which followed observations by the local police of suspected drug activity involving pro se Plaintiffs Melissa Shaw and Salahuddin Smart. Prior to the traffic stops, detectives conducting surveillance in the area observed Plaintiff Smart in the parking lot of a Howard Johnson Motel entering a vehicle operated by Plaintiff Shaw and returning to his vehicle, which was later revealed to be a vehicle rented by Plaintiff Shaw. Ultimately, both Plaintiff Smart and his passenger, Melissa Librojo, were charged with possession of a controlled substance.

In this consolidated action, Plaintiffs assert claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 for alleged violations of their 4th Amendment rights stemming from the traffic stop and subsequent criminal prosecution. In the instant motion, Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff Shaw's claims under Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984) because she has repeatedly ignored the Court's orders and failed to appear at court-scheduled conferences and her own deposition despite the threat of sanctions, including dismissal.

For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' motion and dismiss Plaintiff Shaw's case in its entirety with prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The Court recounts the following facts from Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint only to provide background for the instant motion. In the early morning hours of November 10, 2010, detectives from the Gloucester Township Police Department ("GTPD") were conducting surveillance in an area known for criminal activity near the Howard Johnson Motel in Gloucester Township. The detectives observed a car driven by Plaintiff Smart circle the Howard Johnson's parking lot repeatedly before ultimately parking next to second vehicle, a white SUV driven by Plaintiff Shaw, which pulled to the rear of the lot. The detectives watched as Plaintiff Smart entered the rear passenger compartment of the white SUV, returned to his vehicle, then entered the white SUV a second time before returning to his vehicle and exiting the parking lot. The detectives positively identified Smart, who was known to them due to previous encounters and arrests for criminal activity. Detectives believed Plaintiff Smart's license was suspended and called for his vehicle to be stopped. During the stop, Smart and his passenger were ordered to exit the vehicle. Upon being advised that a female officer was going to conduct a pat down of her person, the passenger, Melissa Librojo, stated that she placed a bag down the front of her pants. She was then found in possession of two plastic bags containing small pills. The officers conducted a K-9 search of the perimeter of the vehicle which indicated negative results. Both Smart and Librojo were charged with possession of a controlled substance.

That same evening, members of the GTPD also executed a traffic stop of the white SUV driven by Plaintiff Shaw. During the stop, Shaw explained that she worked for an assisted living facility and she had just picked up a patient who was sitting in the passenger seat. Shaw consented to a search of her vehicle, but no contraband was found. When asked about her stop at the Howard Johnson parking lot, Shaw explained that she met Smart there because she rented the car Smart was driving and he gave her money. Shaw ...


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