United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MITCHELL DINNERSTEIN Appearing pro se
SAGINARIO, JR. KELLY ESTEVAM ADLER CAPEHART & SCATCHARD,
P.A. On behalf of Defendant
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D. JUDGE.
case concerns the termination of Plaintiff Mitchell
Dinnerstein's employment with Defendant Rowan College at
Burlington County College (“the College”),
allegedly on the basis of his Jewish faith. Plaintiff asserts
a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Defendant moves for summary judgment, to deny Plaintiff
additional discovery and time to respond to Defendant's
summary judgment motion, and for sanctions against Plaintiff.
The Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant,
finding no need for additional discovery, but will,
reluctantly and despite the extraordinary circumstances
present here, deny the motion for sanctions.
Court takes the following facts from Defendant's
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, to which Plaintiff
filed no response. Plaintiff was hired by the College on July
15, 2007 as a Maintenance Mechanic-Electrician. Plaintiff was
an employee within the Physical Plant Department, which is
the College's construction and maintenance department.
College has a Civility Policy, which provides:
Burlington County College is a community of individuals. As
such, we must always strive to recognize the dignity and
worth of each member of our community. It is, therefore, the
policy of the college that each individual, regardless of
status (student, administrator, support staff or faculty
member) must treat every other individual, irrespective of
status, rank, title or position, with dignity and respect.
It will be a violation of the policy for any individual or
group of individuals to engage in any of the following types
. . . .
2. Use of foul, abusive or demeaning language (written or
verbal) or obscene gestures directed towards another (either
as a group or an individual) . . . .
Civility Policy was covered in training sessions, of which
Plaintiff attended three - one in 2008, one in 2009, and one
first documented violation of the Civility Policy was in
April 2008, when Plaintiff used foul language and yelled at a
coworker. In August 2008, Plaintiff again violated the
Civility Policy by yelling at another coworker with foul
language. Later that month, Plaintiff committed yet another
violation and was suspended for three days. As a result of
this violation, Plaintiff was informed that future violations
would result in further disciplinary action, including
potential termination. In January 2010, Plaintiff's
superiors confronted him regarding his refusal to perform the
work assigned to him, which constituted insubordinate
behavior. He was again suspended.
August 2011, Plaintiff was issued a final warning after again
yelling at a coworker and also being insubordinate, resulting
in yet another suspension. Plaintiff was told that any
further misconduct would result in his termination. Around
December 1, 2011, Plaintiff made profane remarks to John
Fritsch, the Assistant Manager of Physical Plant; Jay
Falkenstein, the Manager of Physical Plant; and Donald
Hudson, the Director of Physical Plant. Following this
violation, a fact-finding hearing was held, in which
Plaintiff admitted to making the profane remarks. On December
8, 2011, Plaintiff's employment was terminated.
received his Notice of Right to Sue from the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission on August 15, 2013. Plaintiff then
filed a complaint with this Court on September 18, 2013,
suing Defendant for employment discrimination under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff asserted
discriminatory acts occurred from September 2007 through
November 2011. According to Plaintiff, he was harassed,
retaliated against, and eventually terminated from his
employment based on his religion.
Court entered a Notice of Call for Dismissal on August 22,
2014, requiring Plaintiff to submit an affidavit setting
forth his good faith efforts to prosecute this case by
September 2, 2014. No such affidavit was filed by Plaintiff.
Consequently, the Court issued a September 3, 2014 Order of
Dismissal based on Plaintiff's failure to prosecute under
Local Civil Rule 41.1.
wrote to the Court on September 4, 2014 and on September 16,
2014, acknowledging he was late in responding to the Notice
of Call for Dismissal and requesting the Court reopen the
case. Construing this as a motion to reopen pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), the Court found there
was “excusable neglect” in Plaintiff's
failure to respond to the Notice of Call for Dismissal. Thus,
on January 14, 2015, the Court reinstated Plaintiff's
complaint and reopened the case.
case then proceeded through a difficult discovery process. It
was difficult largely because of Plaintiff's rude,
inflammatory, and slanderous slurs and false accusations
against both his adversaries and the Magistrate Judge
assigned to this matter. It was also protracted because of
Plaintiff's repeated failures to participate in
discovery. On December 20, 2016, this Court withdrew the
reference to the Magistrate Judge in order to personally
oversee discovery and to move the matter forward.
Accordingly, the Court held a discovery conference on
February 27, 2017 and directed a schedule for the completion
of all remaining discovery and a deadline for dispositive
motions. On June 12, 2017, the date set by the Court for
dispositive motions, Defendant moved for summary judgment. On
September 22, 2017, Defendant moved for sanctions against
judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that
“'the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits if any, ' . . . demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact” and that the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23
(1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56).
issue is “genuine” if it is supported by evidence
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the
nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
“material” if, under the governing substantive
law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the
suit. Id. “In considering a motion for summary
judgment, a district court may not make credibility
determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence;
instead, the non-moving party's evidence ‘is to be
believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.'” Marino v. Indus. Crating Co.,
358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Anderson,
477 U.S. at 255).
the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (“[A] party seeking
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.”); see Singletary v. Pa. Dep't
of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001)
(“Although the initial burden is on the summary
judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact, ‘the burden on the moving party may be
discharged by “showing” - that is, ...