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Cresci v. Gyess

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 8, 2019

PETER J. CRESCI, et al.,, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN GYESS aka SUSAN GYESS GREGORY, et al.,, Defendants.

          OPINION

          KEVIN MCNULTY. U.S.D.J.

         By Opinion (DE 30) and Order (DE 31) I granted the motion of defendant Susan Gyss[1] to dismiss the amended complaint. Ms. Gyss filed a motion (DE 36) before Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer for the imposition of sanctions. Judge Hammer filed a Report and Recommendation ("R&R", DE 39) that the motion be denied. Gyss timely filed an Objection (DE 40) to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the R&R is adopted and affirmed, and the motion for sanctions is denied.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The appropriate standard of review turns on whether the Magistrate Judge's ruling is deemed dispositive or nondispositive. "[T]he [Federal Magistrates] Act authorizes district courts to refer nondispositive and dispositive motions to magistrate judges. Unlike a nondispositive motion (such as a discovery motion), a motion is dispositive if a decision on the motion would effectively determine a claim or defense of a party." Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. City of Long Branch, 866 F.3d 93, 98-99 (3d Cir. 2017).

A district court may refer a nondispositive motion to a magistrate judge "to hear and determine," under subparagraph (A) of § 636(b)(1). 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Following a magistrate judge's issuance of an order on a nondispositive matter, the parties may serve and file objections to the order within 14 days of being served with a copy of the order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). If a party objects to a magistrate judge's order regarding a nondispositive matter, the district court "must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." Id.; 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). This standard requires the District Court to review findings of fact for clear error and to review matters of law de novo. Haines v. Liggett Grp. Inc., 975 F.2d 81, 91 (3d Cir. 1992).
If no party objects to the magistrate judge's order regarding a nondispositive matter, the magistrate judge's order becomes binding "unless the district court takes some action to overrule it." See United Steelworkers of Am. v. N.J. Zinc Co., 828 F.2d 1001, 1005 (3d Cir. 1987). "[A] party's failure to object to a magistrate's ruling waives the party's objection." Id. at 1006.
Under subparagraph (B), a district court may refer a dispositive motion to a magistrate judge "to conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, and to submit to a judge of the court proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The product of a magistrate judge, following a referral of a dispositive matter, is often called a "report and recommendation." Parties "may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations" within 14 days of being served with a copy of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). If a party objects timely to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). If a party does not object timely to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the party may lose its right to de novo review by the district court. Nara v. Frank, 488 F.3d 187, 194 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878-79 (3d Cir. 1987)). However, we have held that because a district court must take some action for a report and recommendation to become a final order and because "[t]he authority and the responsibility to make an informed, final determination ... remains with the judge," Mathews v. Weber. 423 U.S. 261, 271, 96 S.Ct. 549, 46 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976), even absent objections to the report and recommendation, a district court should "afford some level of review to dispositive legal issues raised by the report," Henderson. 812 F.2d at 878. We have described this level of review as "reasoned consideration." Id., If a party fails to object timely to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, we generally review the district court's order for plain error. Brightwell v. Lehman, 637 F.3d 187, 193 (3d Cir. 2011); Nara. 488 F.3d at 194. But see Lewa v. Williams. 504 F.3d 357, 363-64 (3d Cir. 2007) (applying de novo appellate review when a pro se litigant did not timely object to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation and the magistrate judge did not "warn[ ] that [the litigant's] failure to object to the Magistrate Judge's report would result in forfeiture of his rights"); Henderson. 812 F.2d at 878 n.4 (*[W]hen the district court elects to exercise its power to review a magistrate's report de novo, a party's previous failure to object becomes irrelevant.").

EEOC v. City of Long Branch, 866 F.3d at 99-100 (footnotes omitted).

         There are easy cases, of course: A summary judgment motion is dispositive, and a motion to compel answers to interrogatories nondispositive. A Magistrate Judge's order denying a motion for sanctions, however, falls somewhere in between. As to this particular issue, the Third Circuit has not spoken as to the appropriate standard of review.

         The Magistrate Judge took the cautious option of assuming that the award or denial of sanctions is dispositive and proceeding by way of Report and Recommendation. Erring on the side of the non-prevailing party (ie., Ms. Gyss), I will do the same and review the Magistrate Judge's order de novo. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Loc. R. 72.lc(2). I have reviewed the relevant record (which, for the most part, concerns matters that occurred before me), and examined anew the Magistrate Judge's decision. Finding myself in agreement with Judge Hammer's well-reasoned R&R, I adopt and affirm it. I do so largely for the reasons expressed in the R&R, but add some supplementary analysis.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The defendant, Ms. Gyss, has filed a motion[2] to impose sanctions upon the plaintiff, Mr. Cresci, pursuant to Rule 11, Fed. R. Civ. P.:

By presenting to the court a pleading... an attorney or unrepresented party[3] certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly ...

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