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Sosinavage v. Thomson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 12, 2019

JOHN A. SOSINAVAGE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN SCOTT THOMSON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION UPON RECONSIDERATION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         1. This matter comes before the Court by way of Plaintiff's motion [Docket Item 244] seeking reconsideration of the Memorandum Opinion and Findings as well as the Judgment of April 4, 2019 [Docket Items 239 & 240], entered in this case by the late Honorable Jerome B. Simandle, U.S.D.J, (See Sosinavage v. Thomson, No. 14-3292, 2019 WL 1493226 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2019); Judgment [Docket Item 240].) In his April 4, 2019 Memorandum Opinion and Judgment, Judge Simandle granted County Defendants' unopposed application for legal fees and expenses and entered judgment in favor of the County of Camden and against Ms. Cheryl L. Cooper, Esq. and the Law Offices of Cheryl L. Cooper in the amount of $89, 234.74 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 and Local Civil Rule 54.2. (See id.; Certification of County Defs.' [Docket Item 225].) County Defendants oppose Plaintiff's present motion and seek additional fees and costs incurred subsequent to Judge Simandle's prior Judgment awarding fees and costs. (See County Defs.' Opp'n [Docket Item 254].) For the following reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiff's present motion.

         2. Factual and Procedural Background.

         Numerous prior Opinions have detailed the lengthy factual and procedural history of this case and the underlying motion, see Sosinavage v. Thomson, No. 14-3292, 2018 WL 2357743, at *2-4 (D.N.J. May 24, 2018); Sosinavage v. Thomson, No. 14-3292, 2019 WL 494824, at *1-3 (D.N.J. Feb. 8, 2019); Sosinavage v. Thomson, No. 14-3292, 2019 WL 1493226 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2019). Therefore, as the Court writes primarily for the parties, this Opinion will not repeat that entire history here, except for those procedural facts necessary for the determination of the present motion. As Judge Simandle previously stated:

on February 8, 2019, the Court granted the County Defendants' renewed motion for sanctions and awarded Rule 11 sanctions in favor of the County Defendants and against Plaintiff's attorney, Ms. Cheryl L. Cooper, Esq., for the reasonable attorney's fees and expenses incurred since October 9, 2015, the date [] of the filing of the Second Amended Complaint. Sosinavage v. Thomson, 2019 WL 494824, at *5 (D.N.J. Feb. 8, 2019). As the Court then summarized: “Simply, for more than three years, Ms. Cooper pursued a failure-to-hire case against the County Defendants that she knew or should have known was factually and legal frivolous, despite clear warning of precisely these deficiencies in 2015.” Id. at *4.

Sosinavage v. Thomson, No. 14-3292, 2019 WL 1493226, at *1 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2019). Furthermore, at the time that Judge Simandle granted County Defendants' motion for sanctions, Judge Simandle noted that “because Plaintiff's attorney, Ms. Cooper, is a solo practitioner, she may have limited financial resources from which to compensate the County Defendants for the fees and expenses they have incurred in this case.” Id. Therefore, Judge Simandle

permit[ted] Ms. Cooper to submit an affidavit (under seal but provided to Ms. O'Hearn as confidential information) addressing her ability to pay, which the Court will consider in determining the appropriate amount of reasonable fees and expenses required as a deterrent to be awarded to the County Defendants and paid by counsel for Plaintiff.

Sosinavage v. Thomson, No. 14-3292, 2019 WL 494824, at *5 (D.N.J. Feb. 8, 2019). Judge Simandle ordered that any such affidavit was due to the Court and to Defendant's counsel within fourteen (14) days of the filing of the County Defendants' fee petition. Id.

         3. County Defendants filed their fee petition [Docket Item 225] on February 22, 2019, which meant that any opposition or financial hardship affidavit was due by March 8, 2019. On February 25, 2019, Ms. Cooper requested a stay of the deadlines in this case due to her obligations to prepare for an impending trial in another case. (See Letter [Docket Item 227].) County Defendants opposed this request. (See Letter [Docket Item 228].) Judge Simandle then denied Ms. Cooper's request for a stay of this case,

but granted her motion to enlarge the time to submit opposition to the County Defendants' fee petition to “the date which is fourteen (14) days following the earlier of (a) the resolution of Civil No. 14-cv-5169 (RBK) without trial, or (b) the completion of trial of that case.” [Docket Item 229 at 3.] On March 7, 2019, the Honorable Robert B. Kugler entered Judgment in that case and cancelled the trial set for March 11, 2019. [Civ. No. 14-cv-5169, Docket Item 287.] As of March 8, 2019, Ms. Cooper's opposition to the pending fee petition became due on or before March 22, 2019, and Ms. Cooper was notified: “There will be no further extensions of time granted absent emergency.” [Docket Item 234.]
On March 11, 2019, Ms. Cooper filed a second letter application seeking an extension of time to respond to the County Defendants' fee petition. [Docket Item 235.] On March 13, 2019, the Court denied Ms. Cooper's request, noting that:
Ms. Cooper has not remotely demonstrated good cause to enlarge the deadline, let alone an emergency, and another extension of time is not appropriate in these circumstances, particularly in light of the prior extension of this deadline and Ms. Cooper's repeated history of missing filing deadlines.
[Docket Item 236 at 3.] As the Court stated in this Order, “Plaintiff's opposition to the County Defendants' pending application, if any, shall be filed on or before March 22, 2019.” [Id.] (emphasis in original).

Sosinavage v. Thomson, No. 14-3292, 2019 WL 1493226, at *1-2 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2019). Judge Simandle then filed his opinion granting County Defendants' fee petition on April 4, 2019, nearly two weeks after the March 22, 2019 deadline, by which time Ms. Cooper had still not filed any papers in opposition to the petition nor any financial hardship affidavit. Id. at *2. Therefore, Judge Simandle treated the petition as unopposed and found that the amount requested by County Defendants, $89, 234.54, was “reasonable and necessary to address and deter the misconduct.” Id. at *3. Judge Simandle then found that no factors were present ...


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