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Smalls v. Riviera Towers Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

September 21, 2017

PATRICIA SMALLS, Plaintiff,
v.
RIVIERA TOWERS CORP., et al., Defendants.

         [Dkt. Nos. 24, 25, 27, 29, 34, 35, 36, 39, 40, 52, 76, 78, and 83]

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon several motions: (1) the Motion of Defendants' PHH Mortgage Corporation (“PHH”), Federal National Mortgage Association (“FNMA”), and American Express Bank FSB (“Amex”) (collectively the “Loan Defendants”), to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 24]; (2) the Motion of Defendants Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services, LLC d/b/a, Coldwell Banker Residential Mortgage, and Lourdes Mercado to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 25]; (3) the Motion of Defendants Robert J. Buckalew, Esq. and Buckalew Frizzell Crevina LLP(collectively, the “Buckalew Defendants”) to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 27]; (4) the Motion by Defendant Judge Carlo Abad to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 29]; (5) the Motion by Defendant Fein, Such, Kahn & Shephard, P.C. (“Fein, Such”) to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 34]; (6) the Motion by Defendants Riviera Towers Corporation (“Riviera Towers”) and Kenneth Blane (collectively the “Riviera Defendants”) to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 35]; (7) the Motion by Defendant Senator Robert Menendez to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 36]; (8) the Motion by Defendant Amariles Diaz to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 39]; (9) the Motion by Defendant West New York Police to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 40]; (10) the Motion by Defendants The Honorable Stanley Chesler and The Honorable Theodore McKee (the “Federal Judges”) to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 78]; (11) the Motion by Defendants The Honorable Glenn A. Grant, Governor Chris Christie, and Hudson County Prosecutor's Office to Dismiss the Complaint [Docket No. 83]. Several of the foregoing Defendants also move for Imposition of a Pre-Filing Injunction [Docket Nos. 24, 35, 78]. Defendant Michael Signorile also moves to Vacate Default [Docket No. 76] (All defendants are collectively referred to as the “Defendants”). Finally, Plaintiff Patricia Smalls also moves for a Change of Venue [Docket No. 52].

         For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Signorile's Motion to Vacate Default [Docket No. 76] is GRANTED; all Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motion for Change of Venue [Docket No. 52] is DISMISSED as moot. Plaintiff shall also show cause why she should not be barred from filing additional pleadings relating to the subject matter of this lawsuit, as well as three prior federal lawsuits, that is, the eviction from her West New York, New Jersey, apartment.

         BACKGROUND

         This is not Plaintiff Patricia Smalls' first complaint involving claims by her that she was wrongfully evicted from her apartment in Riviera Towers, a co-op located in West New York, New Jersey.

         In or around 2011, Defendant Riviera Towers filed suit against Plaintiff, in a case captioned Riviera Towers Corp. v. Patricia Smalls, Docket No. HUD-L-438-11, based on allegations that Smalls failed to pay certain maintenance charges associated with her apartment. See Docket Sheet in Docket No. HUD-L-438-11 (Tomlin Cert. Ex. D).[1] Riviera Towers did not join PHH or otherwise give PHH notice of the lawsuit. Riviera Towers obtained a default judgment against Smalls on December 7, 2011. See December 7, 2011, Order in Docket No. HUD-L-438-11 (Tomlin Cert. Ex. E). Among other things, Smalls was found liable to Riviera Towers in the amount of $10, 056.15, [2] and Smalls' interest in the apartment, including any ownership in the co-op, was terminated. Id. Riviera Towers was awarded possession of the unit and authorized to sell it to pay off the outstanding maintenance charges. Id. Smalls then was evicted, and the unit was sold in April 2014. See Complaint at p. 6 [Docket No. 1], Tomlin Dec. Ex. L. See also Schedule of Disbursement of Sale Proceeds (Tomlin Dec. Ex. G).[3]

         Plaintiff thereafter filed an action in this District, Civil Action No. 12-6312, against Defendant Riviera Towers and Blane, as well as ten other defendants who are not named here (the “First Federal Action”). In an Opinion and Order entered August 9, 2013, The Honorable Stanley R. Chesler, now a defendant herein, set forth the facts as follows:

Plaintiff, a former shareholder and tenant of Riviera Towers, a 427-unit co-op located in West New York, New Jersey, has brought suit against a total of 12 defendants for their roles in evicting her on August 1, 2012. Plaintiff, who is an African-American woman, had been a shareholder/owner of Riviera Towers since September 1998. In 2010, Plaintiff apparently fell behind on some portion of her monthly maintenance costs. In or about January 2011, the RTC Board brought suit in New Jersey Superior Court to recover the past-due maintenance fees. Plaintiff alleges that the Riviera Towers Corporation . . . failed to provide her with monthly maintenance statements from December 2009 to November 2011. Plaintiff failed to timely answer the complaint and was marked in default, though Plaintiff asserts that she was never properly served. Plaintiff appeared before the Superior Court to object to an entry of default judgment, and the Court entered a judgment of $8, 133.50 in favor of RTC. On July 23, 2012, RTC advised Plaintiff that she would be evicted on August 1, 2012, if she did not satisfy the judgment. Plaintiff failed to pay, and RTC followed through on its eviction warning by changing the locks on the apartment and barring Plaintiff from entering the building. Plaintiff alleges that she was singled out because of her race and gender, and that the RTC Board did not evict its other shareholders who were behind in their maintenance payments.
Plaintiff asserts the following causes of action: (1) violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241 (“Conspiracy Against Rights”); (2) violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242 (“ Deprivation of Rights”); (3) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3601 (“Fair Housing Act and Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing”); (4) violation of 15 U.S.C. § 689 (“Unlawful Acts and Omissions”); (5) violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876 (“Mailing Threatening Communications”); (6) breach of fiduciary duty; (7) breach of the duty of loyalty; (8) lack of good faith; (9) breach of the duty of care; (10) unequal treatment of shareholders; (11) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (12) race discrimination; (13) sex discrimination; and (14) age discrimination.

See Smalls v. Riviera Towers Corp. , Civil Action No. 12-6312 (SRC), Docket No. 50, at 1-2.

         Upon the Defendants' motion, Judge Chesler dismissed the First Federal Action without prejudice. Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration as well as a motion for recusal, and Judge Chesler denied both motions. Upon failing to amend her complaint within the time provided for by the Court, Judge Chesler dismissed the complaint with prejudice on January 16, 2014. See id. [Docket Nos. 63, 68].

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed another action in this District against Defendants Buckalew, Frizzell, PHH, Fein Such, and several other defendants not named herein. See Smalls v. Buckalew Frizzell Crevina, , Civil Action No. 13-4637 (the “Second Federal Action”). As Judge Chesler observed, this action dealt with the alleged participation of the defendants in the eviction of Plaintiff from her West New York, apartment. On June 25, 2014, Judge Chesler dismissed the complaint without prejudice and Plaintiff never sought leave of court to file an amended complaint. See Civil Action No. 13-4637 [Docket No. 47].

         At the same time the Second Federal Action was pending, Plaintiff filed a third federal action, Civil Action No. 13-4698, against defendants who were involved in the state court eviction proceeding. See Smalls v. Sarkisian , Civil Action No. 13-4698 (the “Third Federal Action”). Eight of these defendants, the Honorable Hector R. Velazquez, P.J.Ch., the Honorable Mitchel E. Ostrer, J.A.D., the Honorable Marie P. Simonelli, J.A.D., Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, John Tonelli, the Executive Director of New Jersey's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, and Lieutenant Robert McGrath of New Jersey's Division of Criminal Justice were dismissed by Judge Chesler in an Opinion and Order entered December 13, 2013. In a subsequent Opinion and Order entered June 2, 2014, Judge Chesler dismissed the remaining defendants, former Assistant United States Attorney Susan Handler-Menahem, Felix Roque, the Mayor of West New York, and West New York police captain Michael Zitt.

         Turning to the within action, the fourth federal action filed by Plaintiff, the Court agrees with the moving Defendants' general characterization that the allegations here are the same as those in the First Federal Action. Although Plaintiff's Complaint ...


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