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Skladany v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 19, 2017



          LOIS H. GOODMAN United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the Court by way of a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (hereinafter, the “Motion”) filed by Defendants Deon Bullard, Wanda Edwards, and Marina Moshkovich (hereinafter, “Moving Defendants”). [Docket Entry No. 61]. For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion be GRANTED and that this case be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


         On October 21, 2014, Plaintiff, an incarcerated pro se individual, filed his Complaint alleging that Defendants had breached his constitutional rights by housing him in a prison dormitory rather than his own separate cell. [Docket Entry No. 1]. On January 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint that added a second claim alleging that Defendants were infringing upon his First Amendment rights by denying him access to legal resources. [Docket Entry No. 15]. On April 28, 2015, Defendants filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. [Docket Entry No. 24]. On November 3, 2016, this Court issued a third and final Amended Scheduling Order, which required the parties to serve any interrogatories and requests for production of documents by no later than December 30, 2016, and to respond to those requests by no later than January 30, 2017. [Docket Entry No. 54]. The Scheduling Order required discovery to be completed by no later than February 28, 2017. Id. The Scheduling Order also cautioned the parties that failure to comply with its terms might result in sanctions. Id.

         Moving Defendants' Arguments

         In support of the Motion, Moving Defendants filed a Declaration signed by counsel. (“Rienzo Dec.”) [Docket Entry 61-1]. Moving Defendants assert that on December 28, 2016, they served interrogatories and a request for documents on Plaintiff. Rienzo Dec. ¶8; “Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories to Plaintiff” and “Defendants' First Set of Document Requests to Plaintiff.” [Docket Entry No. 61-1, Exhibit A]. When Plaintiff did not respond to these discovery requests, Moving Defendants attempted to confer in good faith with Plaintiff via letter. Rienzo Dec. ¶9; letter to Plaintiff dated February 16, 2017 [Docket Entry No. 61-1, Exhibit B]. Moving Defendants' letter cautioned Plaintiff that if he did not respond, they would file the appropriate motion. Id. When Plaintiff again did not respond, Moving Defendants filed a letter advising the Court and seeking leave to file a Motion to Dismiss. Id.

         In a Letter Order dated April 19, 2017, the Court granted leave to file a Motion to Compel Plaintiff to respond to the outstanding discovery requests. Moving Defendants timely filed their Motion to Compel. [Docket Entry No. 59]. Plaintiff filed no opposition to that motion and the Court granted it on June 14, 2017, requiring Plaintiff to respond to the outstanding discovery requests within the next 20 days. Over a month later, when Plaintiff had still not provided discovery, Defendants filed the current motion. Because he is not an electronic filer, Plaintiff was sent a copy of the motion by the Clerk's Office via regular Mail. [Docket Entry No. 61-3]. As of the date of this Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff has not responded to the Motion to Dismiss.


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorize courts to impose sanctions for failure to provide discovery, obey court orders and/or prosecute a case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2), 41(b). Where such failures have occurred, dismissal may be an appropriate penalty. Id. Generally, in determining whether to impose an involuntary order of dismissal, the Court considers the factors set forth in Poulis v. State Farm Casualty Co., 747 F.2d, 863, 868 (3d Cir.1984). These factors include:

(1) The extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the plaintiff's conduct; (3) the history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim.

Id. No single Poulis factor is determinative and dismissal may be appropriate even if some of the factors are not met. See Mindek v. Rigatti, 964 F.2d 1369, 1373 (3d Cir. 1992); Hicks v. Feeney, 850 F.2d 152, 156 (3d Cir. 1988).

         The Court considers the Poulis factors in determining whether to recommend granting Moving Defendants' motion to dismiss this matter with prejudice. For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends a finding that under the circumstances presented here, the Poulis factors support the dismissal of this matter with prejudice:

1. Plaintiff's Personal Responsibility: Given that Plaintiff is pro se, the blame for his failure to comply with the Court's orders and respond to Defendants' discovery requests lies solely with Plaintiff. As such, the Court finds this factor weighs in favor of dismissal.
2. Prejudice to Defendants: Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's Orders has prejudiced Defendants. Plaintiff initiated this action and has done little to move this case forward since filing the Amended Complaint. This is true despite Orders requiring action on the part of Plaintiff. Plaintiff's repeated failure to cooperate in the discovery process supports dismissal of this matter. See, ...

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