United States District Court, D. New Jersey
DOUGLAS E. ARPERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Letter
Application to Strike Defendants' Answer. ECF
No. 88. Defendants oppose the Application. ECF No. 91. The
Court has fully reviewed the submissions of the parties and
considers same without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
78. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Letter
Application to Strike Defendants' Answer is denied.
facts of the litigation are well known to the Parties and
were laid out fully in the November 14, 2017 Opinion of U.S.
District Judge Freda L. Wolfson. Briefly, Plaintiff is a
prisoner who contends his Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 rights were violated by a warrantless search and
arrest carried out by Defendant New Brunswick police officers
Kevin Conway and Vincent Monaghan. ECF No. 68.
Plaintiff's Application, Plaintiff contends
Defendants' Answer should be struck because Defendants
failed to comply with Rules 33(b)(2), 34(2)(A) and 36(a)(3)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 88. Each
governs various discovery issues and timelines. Plaintiff
argues that because Defendants failed to comply with the
timeframes prescribed by these rules, the Court should strike
Defendants' Answer to the Complaint. Id.
Plaintiff does not say on what authority the Court can grant
concede they missed certain discovery deadlines but contend
that all relevant discovery has since been produced to
Plaintiff. See Def. Letter Dated December 3, 2018 at
ECF No. 91 at p.1. As a result, Defendants say, Plaintiff has
not been prejudiced by the untimely production. Id.
Defendants' counsel further accepts personal
responsibility for this discovery issue, stating that
“the delay was due to my actions and not those of my
clients.” Id. More specifically, counsel
states that “this singular delay was caused by my own
personal circumstances.” Id.
substantively, Defendants urge denial of Plaintiff's
request because it was made improperly, as a letter
application rather than as a motion pursuant to L.Civ.R.
16.1(g). Id. at pp.1-2. Finally, Defendants contend:
“[T]he extreme sanction of dismissal, or striking an
Answer, is not warranted here where the Plaintiff has been
provided all requested and available discovery, where the
Plaintiff had all of the essential discovery in his
possession from the associated criminal matter already, where
Defendants' delay in providing formal discovery responses
was due only to their counsel's…personal
circumstances, and where there has been a complete lack of
contentious conduct or prejudice.” Id. at
Court begins its inquiry pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37, which
provides for sanctions due to a failure to obey discovery
orders. This rule states that if a party “fails to obey
an order to provide or permit discovery…the court
where the action is pending may issue further just
orders.” R. 37(b)(2)(A). The Rule provides that just
orders “may include the following: (i) directing that
the matters embraced in the order or other designated facts
be taken as established for purposes of the action, as the
prevailing party claims; (ii) prohibiting the disobedient
party from supporting or opposing designated claims or
defenses, or from introducing designated matters in evidence;
(iii) striking pleadings in whole or in part.”
Id. Pursuant to this rule, a Court “may
sanction a lawyer or a litigant for failure to obey any order
to provide or permit discovery.” Wachtel v. Health
Net, Inc., 239 F.R.D. 81, 99 (D.N.J. 2006). The
“purpose of this rule is to: (1) penalize the culpable
party or attorney; (2) deter others from engaging in similar
conduct; (3) compensate the court and other parties for the
expense caused by the abusive conduct; and (4) compel
discovery and disclosure.” Id.
out in Wachtel, when asked to “sanction a
party by depriving that party of the right to proceed with or
defend against a claim, the court applies the analysis
established in Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Casualty
Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir.1984). Wachtel, 239
F.R.D. at 101; see also Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin,
908 F.2d 1142, 1148 (3d Cir.1990); Hoxworth v. Blinder,
Robinson & Co., Inc., 980 F.2d 912, 919 (3d
Cir.1992). “Under Poulis, a court considers:
(1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility;
(2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to
meet scheduling orders and ...