United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Murrell et al.
City of Hackensack et al., Candela et al.
City of Hackensack et al.,
CHAMBERS OF MARK FALK, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon the motion of Plaintiffs
James Murrell, Jr. (“Murrell”) and Christopher
Haw (“Haw”) to consolidate this action (the
“Murrell Action”) with another pending action in
this district, Candela et al.v City of Hackensack et
al., 16-9335 (the “Candela Action”). The
motion is opposed. For the reasons that follow, the motion
[CM/ECF No. 13] is denied.
is employed by the City of Hackensack (“City”) as
a gardner with the Parks Department of the City's
Department of Public Works (“DPW”). Murrell's
claims stem predominately from the alleged conduct of three
City employees, namely, council members David Sims
(“Sims”) and Leonardo Battaglia
(“Battaglia”), and City Manager David Troast
(“Troast”) during the period April 2014 through
February 2016. Murrell alleges Sims and Battaglia harassed
him and three other DPW employees, that the City Greenhouse
tended by Murrell was closed at their request, and that Sims,
Battaglia and Troast retaliated against Plaintiff and failed
to promote him on account of his filing complaints and union
grievances regarding their alleged wrongful conduct.
employed by the City as a Supervisor of Parks and Recreation
from August 2015 until he was terminated in February 2016.
Haw's claims arise primarily from the alleged wrongful
conduct of two City employees, Superintendent of the DPW,
Jesse D'Amore (“D'Amore”), and personnel
director for the City, Simeon Cumberbatch
(“Cumberbatch”). Haw claims, among other things,
that unbeknownst to him he was hired provisionally, and that
he was fired in retaliation for complaining about the
harassment of DPW employees by Sims and Battaglia and for
refusing to comply with orders to compel employees to work
shifts beyond what he believed were legally permissible. Haw
also claims that he was terminated without a hearing in
violation of his due process rights.
23, 2016, Murrell and Haw filed their Complaint against the
City, Troast, D'Amore, Cumberbatch, Battaglia and Sims
asserting federal and state law claim including claims for
violation of their First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, and claims under the New Jersey Civil Rights
Act, (“NJCRA”) N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 et seq.,
and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act,
(“CEPA”) N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq..
Mario Candela (“Candela”) and Richard Terranova
(“Terranova”) (collectively “Candela
Plaintiffs”) were employees of the DPW. Candela
Plaintiffs allege, among other things, that D'Amore and
Assistant Superintendent of the DPW, Anthony Sedita
(“Sedita”), misused City property, illegally
recorded DPW employees, and forced Candela Plaintiffs to
perform work outside the scope of their jobs for the personal
benefit of D'Amore and Sedita. Terranova also claims that
D'Amore and Sedita retaliated against him for his union
activities, embarrassed him, and used ethnic epithets
directed at him.
December 16, 2016, Candela Plaintiffs filed suit against the
City, D'Amore, Sedita, and Mitchell Horne, Candela
Plaintiffs' direct supervisor. Alleging that they were
retaliated against and denied promotions, Candela Plaintiffs
asserted claims for violation of their First Amendment rights
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and claims under the NJCRA, and
CEPA, as well as a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organization Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(b).
Motion to Consolidate
Murrell Plaintiffs now move to consolidate the Murrell Action
with the Candela Action. Murrell Plaintiffs argue that the
matters should be consolidated due to the significant overlap
in claims and witnesses. Specifically, they argue that both
cases involve DPW employees making claims of retaliation,
amongst other claims, against the City and various City
employees after plaintiffs engaged in union activities, and
that the Murrell Plaintiffs and Candela Plaintiffs are
represented by the same counsel and assert many of the same
federal and state claims. The City opposes the motion arguing
that most of the factual allegations are entirely unrelated
and have little to do with union activities. Ultimately,
defendants argue that consolidation would confuse the issues
and inconvenience the defendants.
Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) provides: “[w]hen actions
involving a common question of law or fact are pending before
the court, it may . . . order all the actions consolidated. .
. .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). The Rule gives the district
court “‘broad power' to consolidate cases
that share ‘common questions of law or
fact.'” A.S. ex rel. Miller v. SmithKline
Beecham Corp., 769 F.3d 204, 212 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quotations omitted). “The mere existence of common
issues, however, does not require consolidation.”
ACR Energy Partners, LLC v. Polo N. Country Club,
Inc., 309 F.R.D. 193, 194 (D.N.J. 2015). “[W]hen
exercising its discretion on a consolidation motion, a court
should weigh the interests of judicial economy against the
potential for new delays, expense, confusion, or
prejudice.” Margolis v. Hydroxatone, LLC, 2013
WL 875987, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 6, 2013).
the Murrell Action and Candela Action both involve plaintiffs
and defendants that are employed by the City, the factual
similarity of the cases basically ends there. Out of the
eight defendants named in the two matters sought to be
consolidated, only two are defendants in both
cases. None of the plaintiffs are the same in the
two cases. Moreover, the alleged facts underlying the claims
of both sets of plaintiffs are distinct. The Murrell and
Candela Actions do not involve the same operative facts.
Quite to the contrary, the allegations of each plaintiff are