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Schwartz v. Nugent

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 21, 2018

STEVEN SCHWARTZ et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DENNIS NUGENT et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Steven Schwartz (“Schwartz”) is a federal prisoner, incarcerated at FPC Schuylkill, in Minersville, Pennsylvania, and plaintiff Irene Schwartz is his mother (collectively, “Plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs are proceeding pro se with a Complaint asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various claims under New Jersey law. (ECF No. 1.) Presently before the Court is a motion by Steven Schwartz seeking an order enjoining a related proceeding that Plaintiffs commenced before the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, and transferring that proceeding to this Court. (ECF No. 3.) Also before the Court is an application by Steven Schwartz to stay this proceeding.[1] (ECF No. 19.) For the following reasons, the motion to enjoin and transfer the state court proceeding is denied, and the application to stay this proceeding is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In May 2017, Plaintiffs filed a pro se complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, alleging claims against Dennis Nugent[2] (“Nugent”), Jarad Fingerman (“Fingerman”), St. Francis Medical Center (“St. Francis”), Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (“RWJ”), Jeffrey Gojaniuk (“Gojaniuk”), Michael Cohen (“Cohen”), Diane Doe (collectively “Defendants”), and various John Doe defendants for medical malpractice, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, negligence, and civil conspiracy. (ECF No. 3 ¶ 9; Mot., Ex. A, ECF No. 5-3.) Plaintiffs' main allegation in the state court action was that Schwartz had begun suffering from a kidney stone in December 2010 and, from that time until July 2016, the defendants had harmed him by providing negligent medical treatment for that condition and subsequent complications.[3](See ECF No. 5-3.)

         Because of the medical malpractice claims, the defendants who appeared in that action requested that Schwartz submit affidavits of merit, but Schwartz indicates that, even with his mother's aid, he has not been able to obtain one as he is proceeding pro se. (ECF No. 3 ¶¶ 11- 14, 50.) Schwartz represents that he sought an extension of time to obtain an affidavit of merit and sought fee waivers from the Superior Court, but received no responses to these applications. (Id. ¶¶ 20-34.) Allegedly unbeknownst to Schwartz, the Honorable Janetta D. Marbrey, J.S.C., issued an order on September 1, 2017, directing Schwartz to produce affidavits of merit as to each defendant within 120 days of their answers, pursuant to New Jersey Statutes Annotated § (“N.J.S.A.”) 2A:53A-41, providing Schwartz a range of deadlines between October 11, 2017 and December 2, 2017. (Mot., Ex. D, ECF No. 5-6.) Schwartz claims that he did not learn of this order until after the defendants in the state action began filing dismissal motions on October 16, 2017. (See ECF No. 3 ¶¶ 35-40.) Schwartz states that on October 25, 2017, he sent a request to the Superior Court seeking additional time to oppose pending dismissal motions by Gojaniuk and RWJ but received no response. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) He explains that the Superior Court returned his fee-waiver application on October 30, 2017. (Id. ¶¶ 41-43.)

         Meanwhile, on October 20, 2017, Plaintiffs commenced the action presently before this Court. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Complaint in this action is nearly identical to Plaintiff's state court complaint with the addition of a cause of action against the individual defendants for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment.[4] (See Id. ¶¶ 147-160.)

         III. APPLICATIONS PENDING BEFORE THE COURT

         Shortly after commencing this action, Schwartz seeks, under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, an order staying the Superior Court proceedings and transferring them to this Court.[5] (ECF No. 3.) Schwartz alleges that he will suffer irreparable harm without a stay, as the Superior Court is denying Schwartz due process and that he “faces imminent possible dismissal of his meritorious medical malpractice claims.” (Id. ¶¶ 2-3, 51.) Schwartz recounts his difficulties finding an expert to provide an affidavit of merit and the Superior Court's alleged non-responsiveness to his applications and failure to ensure his receipt of orders. (See Id. ¶¶ 9- 43.) Schwartz accuses the Superior Court of “creat[ing] bogus documents to cover-up for the Court's attempts to rig these proceedings against Steven and Ilene in favor of the local corporations, individuals and influential law firms.” (Id. ¶ 44.)

         Fingerman and Cohen oppose this motion. (ECF No. 6.) They contend that Steven Schwartz cannot remove the state court proceeding to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and that the All Writs Act does not independently permit this type of removal. (Id. at 3-5.) They further argue that the Anti-Injunction Act generally bars this Court from enjoining state court proceedings, and that Schwartz has not shown that this case fits into any exception to that rule. (Id. at 5-7.) St. Francis also opposes this motion on essentially the same bases. (See ECF No. 7.)

         Schwartz has also filed a request to stay this proceeding. (ECF No. 19.) He explains that he is dealing with litigation on several fronts, including various efforts to obtain relief in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, “open §2255 proceedings, ” oppose defendants' dismissal motions, prepare a motion for leave to amend, and obtain discovery. (Id.) His application also seems to imply that he may presently lack access to his legal documents. (See id.)

         Cohen, Fingerman, Secusa, and UCAL[6] oppose the request for a stay. (ECF No. 20.) They argue that Schwartz has shown no legal basis for a stay and that his own voluntary litigation actions are the sole cause of his predicament. (Id.) St. Francis also opposes the stay application, contending that Schwartz's time to file submissions relating to any pending motions in this action has already elapsed and, like the other defendants, argues that Schwartz has shown no basis for granting a stay. (ECF No. 21.)

         IV. ANALYSIS

         The Anti-Injunction Act in its current form provides that “[a] court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments.” 28 U.S.C. § 2283. The Supreme Court has noted that this provision is, on its face, “an absolute prohibition against enjoining state court proceedings, unless the injunction falls within one of three specifically defined exceptions.” Atl. Coast Line R.R. Co. v. Bhd. of Locomotive Eng'rs, 398 U.S. 281, 286 (1970); see also Smith v. Bayer Corp., 564 U.S. 299, 306 (2011). These exceptions are narrowly construed, and “[a]ny doubts as to the propriety of a federal injunction against state court proceedings ...


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