The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo
Presently before the Court is Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser in the above-captioned matter (Doc. 38) as well as the Brief in Objection to the R & R by Defendants Pennstar Bank, NBT, David M. Gregory, Esq., Kathy Black, and LynDa Starnes (sued as "Lyda Sterns") (Doc. 40). For the reasons stated below, the Court will overrule Defendants' objections and adopt the Magistrate Judge's recommendations.
I. Factual & Procedural History
Pro se Plaintiff Florence Parker initiated the present civil suit with a complaint filed on October 9, 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. (Doc. 1.) Parker's original complaint alleges a number of civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 as well as several state law claims. Parker filed an amended complaint on October 27, 2008, prior to the filing of any responsive pleadings or motions. (Doc. 5.) The amended complaint includes none of the claims from Parker's original complaint, but instead raises several civil claims pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq.*fn1
Defendant Pennstar Bank, NBT ("Pennstar"), its attorney, David Gregory, and certain of its employees, Kathy Black and LynDa Starnes,*fn2 are among a number of Defendants that Parker alleges engaged in an enterprise to deprive her of certain rights and property, including a 24.7 acre parcel of real estate in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Parker had earlier received a seventy-five thousand dollar ($75,000) home equity loan from Pennstar, secured by this property. (Ex. A, Doc. 16.) On October 9, 2007, Pennstar filed a mortgage foreclosure proceeding against Parker in the Court of Common Pleas of Wayne County, Pennsylvania, alleging default on repayment of the loan. (Id.) This action resulted in entry of a judgment in mortgage foreclosure against Parker and in favor of Pennstar for eighty-one thousand, two hundred twenty-nine dollars and fifty-nine cents ($81, 229.59). (Ex. M, Doc.16.)
On December 18, 2008, Defendants Pennstar, Gregory, Black, and Starnes filed a motion to dismiss Parker's federal court action. (Doc. 16.) The motion argues for dismissal based on a lack of personal jurisdiction, or, in the alternative, for a change of venue to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. It also argues for dismissal based on principles of res judicata. Judge Hochberg of the District of New Jersey granted the motion to transfer the action to this Court by Order of March 12, 2009. (Doc. 24.) She did not address the motion to dismiss on res judicata principles.
On January 6, 2009, prior to the action's transfer, Parker filed a motion for sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. (Doc. 19.) Parker requests sanctions on the grounds that the Wayne County mortgage foreclosure action was frivolous and initiated in bad faith. That motion was not addressed by the District of New Jersey and is pending here.
On March 26, 2009, Magistrate Judge Smyser issued an Order directing Parker to show cause why certain as yet unserved Defendants should not be dismissed from the action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m). (Doc. 28.) Parker failed to respond to the Order.
On April 28, 2009, Defendants Pennstar, Gregory, Black, and Starnes filed a motion for involuntary dismissal of Parker's action for failure to prosecute, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). (Doc. 36.) Defendants move for dismissal on the grounds that they have been prejudiced by Parker's failure to respond to their correspondence, communication, or court filings, or to meaningfully pursue her action.
II. Report and Recommendation & Objections
Magistrate Judge Smyser's R & R addresses three issues. First, he addresses Pennstar, Gregory, Black, and Starnes' motion to dismiss based on res judicata principles. (Doc. 16.) He concludes that Parker's claims are not precluded by the earlier Wayne County mortgage foreclosure action and therefore recommends denying Defendants' motion to dismiss on those grounds. Second, he addresses Parker's failure to comply with his order to show cause why the complaint should not be dismissed as to unserved defendants and recommends dismissal of these parties pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m).
The Magistrate Judge notes that the issue of Parker's failure to serve a number of defendants was raised in Defendants Pennstar, Gregory, Black, and Starnes' motion for involuntary dismissal, but makes no recommendation for disposition of this motion. Finally, he addresses Parker's motion for sanctions. (Doc. 19.) He concludes that the motion lacks merit and recommends it be denied.
Parker filed no objections to the R & R.
Defendants Pennstar, Gregory, Black, and Starnes filed a Brief in Objection to the R & R, raising two objections. (Doc. 40.) First, they object to the recommended denial of their motion to dismiss based on res judicata principles. Defendants concede that the Magistrate Judge accurately set forth the applicable law, but argue that he erred in its application. Second, Defendants object to "the recommended disposition of defendants' motion for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b)." (Defs.' Br. in Objection 7, Doc. 40.) Defendants apparently believe that, because he made ...