United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
January 12, 2015
JAMES DAVID HARMAN, Plaintiff,
PENNSYLVANIA POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.
I. Statement of Facts and of the Case.
This is a pro se civil action brought by James David Harman, against a private utility company, PPL Electric, a company which Harman identifies as Pennsylvania Power and Light in his pleadings. Harman's initial complaint is a somewhat obscure document which lists a series of grievances that Harman has with this private utility, grievances that are set forth without any factual chronology or context. (Doc. 1.) Indeed, Harman's complaint never explains when any of the events that allegedly trouble him occurred. (Id.) Instead, Harman asserts in general terms that PPL has unfair billing practices; fails to pay interest on security deposits paid to it; provides consumers with unclear and fraudulent bills; denies consumers electric power choice; unfairly terminates electrical service; and has placed power lines on Mr. Harman's property without his permission. (Id.) Alleging that he has been harmed by these utility practices, Harman then demands $3, 000, 000 in compensatory damages, and an unspecified amount of punitive damages from PPL as redress for these injuries. (Id.) While he makes these claims against this private utility Harman's complaint is entirely unclear as to the basis for federal jurisdiction in this matter, simply referring to an array of federal criminal statutes, an assortment of civil statutes and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Id.)
PPL has now moved to dismiss this complaint, (Doc. 6), arguing that in its current form Harman's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. This motion is fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 7, 10 and 11), and is therefore ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the motion to dismiss be granted.
A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss-Standard of Review
The defendant has moved to dismiss this pro se complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:
Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)]and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).
In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally a court need not "assume that a... plaintiff can prove facts that the... plaintiff has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.
In keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme Court has underscored that a trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted when ruling on a motion to dismiss. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. According to the Supreme Court, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678. Rather, in conducting a review of the adequacy of complaint, the Supreme Court has advised trial courts that they must:
[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Id. at 679.
Thus, following Twombly and Iqbal a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a complaint must recite factual allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated:
[A]fter Iqbal, when presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has aplausible claim for relief.' In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to show' such an entitlement with its facts.
Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11.
As the court of appeals has also observed: "The Supreme Court in Twombly set forth the plausibility' standard for overcoming a motion to dismiss and refined this approach in Iqbal. The plausibility standard requires the complaint to allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. A complaint satisfies the plausibility standard when the factual pleadings allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.' Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955). This standard requires showing more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.' Id. A complaint which pleads facts merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, [ ] stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of "entitlement of relief."'" Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 220-21 (3d Cir. 2011) cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1861, 182 L.Ed.2d 644 (U.S. 2012).
In practice, consideration of the legal sufficiency of a complaint entails a three-step analysis: "First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947. Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.' Id. at 1950. Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.' Id." Santiago v. Warminster Tp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010).
In addition to these pleading rules, a civil complaint must comply with the requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure which defines what a complaint should say and provides that:
(a) A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.
In our view, these pleading standards apply to all aspects of the Court's threshold analysis of a complaint's legal sufficiency. Thus, we will apply this analysis both when assessing the adequacy of the factual assertions set forth in this complaint.
B. Harman's Complaint Fails to State a Claim Upon Which Relief May be Granted
Judged by these legal guideposts, Mr. Harman's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted for several independent reasons. First, it appears that this complaint fails to state a claim which falls within the original jurisdiction of this Court. It is well-settled that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. As a general rule, there are two primary grounds for federal district court jurisdiction over a civil lawsuit. First, "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between-(1) citizens of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). This ground of federal jurisdiction is known as diversity jurisdiction. The second principal ground for invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court is known as federal question jurisdiction. Under this ground of jurisdiction, "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. §1331.
In this case, both Mr. Harman and PPL appear to be residents of Pennsylvania. Therefore, diversity jurisdiction does not lie here and, indeed, Mr. Harman does not appear to seek to bring this action in federal court based upon diversity of citizenship. Instead, Mr. Harman appears to claim some sort of federal question jurisdiction in this case, but we find that the complaint in its current form fails to state a claim under the Constitution and laws of the United States.
At bottom, Mr. Harman seeks to bring an array of consumer complaints against a private utility company. Such complaints simply do not rise to the level of a cognizable violation of the Fourteenth Amendment which could be pursued civilly in federal court. Indeed, such civil rights claim runs afoul of single, simple, and insurmountable obstacle. The principal statutory vehicle for bringing federal constitutional civil rights claims is 42 U.S.C. §1983. It is well-established that § 1983 does not by its own force create new and independent legal rights to damages in civil rights actions. Rather, § 1983 simply serves as a vehicle for private parties to bring civil actions to vindicate violations of separate, and pre-existing, legal rights otherwise guaranteed under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994); Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989). Therefore, any analysis of the legal sufficiency of a cause of action under § 1983 must begin with an assessment of the validity of the underlying constitutional and statutory claims advanced by the plaintiff.
In this regard, it is also well-settled that:
Section 1983 provides a remedy for deprivations of federally protected rights caused by persons acting under color of state law. The two essential elements of a § 1983 action are: (1) whether the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) whether this conduct deprived a person of a federally protected right. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981).
Boykin v. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 893 F.Supp. 409, 416 (M.D.Pa. 1995), aff'd, 91 F.3d 122 (3d Cir. 1996)(emphasis added). Thus, it is essential to any civil rights claim brought under § 1983 that the plaintiff allege and prove that the defendant was acting under color of law when that defendant allegedly violated the Plaintiff's rights. To the extent that a complaint seeks to hold private parties liable for alleged civil rights violations, it fails to state a valid cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 since the statute typically requires a showing that the defendants are state actors. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999).
This principle applies with particular force to civil rights claims like those made here which involve billing disputes with private utility companies. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recently, and aptly, observed when affirming the dismissal of a similar pro se complaint, which challenged the billing practices of a private utility:
[The pro se ] complaint refers to the Fourteenth Amendment..., but, even read liberally, it fails to allege plausible facts sufficient to support a claim for relief. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937. To assert a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff "must establish that she was deprived of a federal constitutional or statutory right by a state actor." Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 646 (3 Cir.2009). Although [the utility] subject to state regulations, there is no sufficiently "close nexus" between [the state] and the challenged action in this case, namely, the calculation of [plaintiff's] utility bill. See Jackson v. Metro. Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 357, 95 S.Ct. 449, 42 L.Ed.2d 477 (1974) (holding that the termination of electrical services by a privately owned utility was action by a private actor and not the state, even though the utility company was subject to extensive state regulation). Accordingly, because [the utility] did not function as a state actor in these circumstances, [the plaintiff] cannot establish a claim under § 1983 [or the Fourteenth Amendment].
Rhett v. Evans, 576 F.Appx. 85, 87 (3d Cir. 2014).
Likewise, while Mr. Harman's complaint refers to the federal mail fraud and RICO racketeering statutes, he has failed to state a civil racketeering and fraud claim upon which relief may be granted. With respect to civil RICO claims involving allegations of fraud, the level of pleading specificity required in a complaint is clear. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has observed:
In order to plead a [civil] violation of RICO, plaintiffs must allege (1) conduct (2) of an enterprise (3) through a pattern (4) of racketeering activity. A pattern of racketeering activity requires at least two predicate acts of racketeering. See 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5). These predicate acts of racketeering may include, inter alia, federal mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341 or federal wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343. See 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1). The federal mail and wire fraud statutes prohibit the use of the mail or interstate wires for purposes of carrying out any scheme or artifice to defraud. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343. "A scheme or artifice to defraud need not be fraudulent on its face, but must involve some sort of fraudulent misrepresentation or omission reasonably calculated to deceive persons of ordinary prudence and comprehension.'" Where, ..., plaintiffs rely on mail and wire fraud as a basis for a RICO violation, the allegations of fraud must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b), which requires that allegations of fraud be pled with specificity. In order to satisfy Rule 9(b), plaintiffs must plead with particularity "the circumstances' of the alleged fraud in order to place the defendants on notice of the precise misconduct with which they are charged, and to safeguard defendants against spurious charges of immoral and fraudulent behavior.". Plaintiffs may satisfy this requirement by pleading the "date, place or time" of the fraud, or through "alternative means of injecting precision and some measure of substantiation into their allegations of fraud." Plaintiffs also must allege who made a misrepresentation to whom and the general content of the misrepresentation.
Lum v. Bank of America, 361 F.3d 217, 223-4 (3d Cir. 2004)(citations omitted, emphasis added).
Thus, "[p]ursuant to Rule 9(b), a plaintiff averring a claim in fraud must specify "the who, what, when, where, and how: the first paragraph of any newspaper story.'" Advanta Corp. Sec. Litig., 180 F.3d 525, 534 (3d Cir.1999) (quoting DiLeo v. Ernst & Young, 901 F.2d 624, 627 (7th Cir.1990)). Although Rule 9(b) falls short of requiring every material detail of the fraud such as date, location, and time, plaintiffs must use "alternative means of injecting precision and some measure of substantiation into their allegations of fraud.'" In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props. Secs. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 216 (3d Cir.2002) (quoting In re Nice Sys., Ltd. Secs. Litig., 135 F.Supp.2d 551, 577 (D.N.J.2001), emphasis supplied)." Animal Science Products, Inc. v. China Nat. Metals & Minerals Import & Export Corp., 596 F.Supp.2d 842, 878 (D.N.J., 2008).
In this case, Mr. Harman's complaint plainly does not meet the pleading standards required under Rule 9 for civil RICO claims. In fact, at present, without the inclusion of some further well-pleaded factual allegations, this complaint contains little more than "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, [which as a legal matter] do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Further, to the extent that Mr. Harman's pro se complaint's references to federal criminal statutes can be construed as inviting us to commence a criminal case as part of this civil lawsuit, this we may not do. It is well established that decisions regarding the filing of criminal charges are the prerogative of the executive branch of government, are consigned to the sound discretion of prosecutors, and under the separation of powers doctrine are not subject to judicial fiat. Indeed, it has long been recognized that the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is a matter, "particularly ill-suited to judicial review." Wayte v. United States, 470 U.S. 598, 607, 105 S.Ct. 1524, 84 L.Ed.2d 547 (1985). Recognizing this fact, courts have long held that a civil litigant may not seek relief in civil litigation in the form of an order directing the criminal prosecution of some third parties, finding that civil plaintiffs lack standing to make such claims and concluding that such relief simply is unavailable in a civil lawsuit. See, e.g., Ostrowski v. Mehltretter, 20 Fed.Appx. 87, 90 (2d Cir.2001) (stating that "Ostrowski has no standing to sue for any of Mehltretter's actions. First of all, he has not shown, injury-in-fact. The failure of Mehltretter to investigate or prosecute Bybel did not injure him in any direct manner-he has no personal stake in the outcome' of a perjury case brought against (or not brought against) another person."); See also Kim v. Romero, 877 F.2d 64, 1989 WL 67116 at *1 (9th Cir. June 14, 1989) (affirming the dismissal of a suit against various prosecuting authorities for their failure to bring charges against a sheriff for alleged battery); McMinn v. Damiani, 765 F.2d 145, 1985 WL 13323 (6th Cir. May 3, 1985) (affirming the dismissal for lack of standing a pro se civil rights case where plaintiff had sued state prosecuting authorities for failing to investigate or prosecute claims against various state judges and lawyers); Gessner v. Dep't of Corr., 3:14-CV-111, 2014 WL 972290 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 12, 2014); Snyder v. Aaron, CIV.A. 05-1602, 2006 WL 544466 (W.D.Pa. Mar.6, 2006); Mover v. Borough of North Wales, Civ. No. 00-1092, 2000 WL 1665132 at *2 (E.D.Pa.Nov.7, 2000) (stating that "Moyer has no judicially cognizable interest in Timothy Conley's criminal prosecution. Accordingly, an agreement to refrain from prosecuting Conley for sexual assault or to charge him with disorderly conduct or the act thereof violates no constitutional right that Moyer has standing to assert."); see also Wise v. Augustine, Civ. No. 97-2651, 1997 WL 534695 at *2 (E.D.Pa. Aug.8, 1997) (stating that "[a] private citizen has no constitutional, statutory, or common law right to require a public official to investigate or prosecute a crime."); Dundore v. O'Donnell, Civ. No. 85-2907, 1985 WL 2681 at *2 (E.D.Pa. Sept.17, 1985) (stating that "Defendant O'Donnell is alleged to have refused to file the criminal charges brought by plaintiffs. Although plaintiffs were no doubt aggrieved when O'Donnell refused to file the charges, they have no constitutional right that I am aware of to have criminal charges filed."); Corbin v. Stevens, Civ. No. 91-1054, 1992 WL 96684 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. April 30, 1992) (stating that "[p]laintiff possesses no constitutional right to have someone arrested...."). Therefore, this claim also fails as a matter of law.
Moreover, we note one other, basic flaw in this pleading which should be corrected. This Court should also strike the claim for a specific sum of unliquidated damages, $3, 000, 000, from this pro se complaint. In this regard, Rule 12 (f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure imposes a duty on the Court to review pleadings and provides that the Court may upon its own initiative at any time order stricken from any pleading any immaterial matter. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Decisions regarding whether claims may be stricken from a complaint are properly presented to a United States Magistrate Judge for determination in the first instance. Singh v. Superintending School Committee of the City of Portland, 593 F.Supp. 1315 (D. Me. 1984). In this case, Mr. Harman's claim for a specified amount of unliquidated damages, $3, 000, 000, violates Local Rule 8.1 which provides, in part, that:
The demand for judgment required in any pleading in any civil action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.8(a)(3) may set forth generally that the party claiming damages is entitled to monetary relief but shall not claim any specific sum where unliquidated damages are involved. The short plain statement of jurisdiction, required by Fed.R.Civ.P.8(a)(1), shall set forth any amounts needed to invoke the jurisdiction of the court but no other.
Local Rule 8.1 (emphasis added).
Since this prayer for relief violates Local Rule 8.1 by specifying a particular amount of unliquidated damages, that specific dollar claim should be stricken from the complaint without prejudice to the Plaintiff arguing in any subsequent trial or hearing on the merits for any appropriate amount of damages supported by the evidence.
Finally, the complaint is subject to dismissal because it fails in one respect to comply with Rule 8's basic injunction that "A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain... a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." It is well-settled that: "[t]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' Fed.R.Civ.P., Rule 8(a)(2), and that each averment be concise, and direct, ' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(1)." Scibelli v. Lebanon County, 219 F.Appx. 221, 222 (3d Cir. 2007). Thus, when a complaint is "illegible or incomprehensible", id., or when a complaint "is not only of an unwieldy length, but it is also largely unintelligible", Stephanatos v. Cohen, 236 F.Appx. 785, 787 (3d Cir. 2007), an order dismissing a complaint under Rule 8 is clearly appropriate. See, e.g., Mincy v. Klem, 303 F.Appx. 106 (3d Cir. 2008); Rhett v. New Jersey State Superior Court, 260 F.Appx. 513 (3d Cir. 2008); Stephanatos v. Cohen. supra ; Scibelli v. Lebanon County, supra ; Bennett-Nelson v. La. Bd. of Regents, 431 F.3d 448, 450 n. 1 (5th Cir.2005). Dismissal under Rule 8 is also proper when a complaint "left the defendants having to guess what of the many things discussed constituted [a cause of action];" Binsack v. Lackawanna County Prison, 438 F.Appx. 158 (3d Cir. 2011), or when the complaint is so "rambling and unclear" as to defy response. Tillio v. Spiess, 441 F.Appx. 109 (3d Cir. 2011). Similarly, dismissal is appropriate in "those cases in which the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.' Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir.1995) (quotations omitted)." Tillio v. Spiess, 441 F.Appx. 109, 110 (3d Cir. 2011); Tillio v. Northland Grp. Inc., 456 F.Appx. 78, 79 (3d Cir. 2012).
These principles are applicable here, and compel the dismissal of this complaint since the complaint fails to allege when any of the alleged conduct took place. The failure to allege this basic fact could leave "defendants having to guess what of the many things discussed constituted [a cause of action]." Binsack v. Lackawanna County Prison, 438 F.Appx. 158 (3d Cir. 2011). It also frustrates any efforts to determine whether this pleading was timely filed within the statute of limitations. Therefore Rule 8 compels dismissal of the complaint, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint which states when these events are alleged to have occurred.
C. The Complaint Should Be Dismissed Without Prejudice
While this complaint is flawed on multiple scores, we recognize that pro se plaintiffs should be afforded an opportunity to amend a complaint before the complaint is dismissed with prejudice, see Fletcher-Hardee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, 482 F.3d 247, 253 (3d Cir. 2007), unless it is clear that granting further leave to amend would be futile, or result in undue delay. Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004). In this case, the plaintiff has not alleged facts that would state a claim upon which relief may be granted andf it appears that he may not be able to do so. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, and in order to preserve the plaintiff's rights, it is recommended that this matter be dismissed without prejudice to the plaintiff attempting to amend this federal complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted in federal court, by including proper allegations against appropriate party-defendants that meet the requirements of federal law, provided that the plaintiff acts promptly.
Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 6) be GRANTED, and the Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed without prejudice to the plaintiff attempting to amend this federal complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted in federal court, by including proper allegations against appropriate party-defendants that meet the requirements of federal law, provided the plaintiff acts within 20 days of any dismissal order.
The Parties are further placed on notice that pursuant to Local Rule 72.3:
Any party may object to a magistrate judge's proposed findings, recommendations or report addressing a motion or matter described in 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) or making a recommendation for the disposition of a prisoner case or a habeas corpus petition within fourteen (14) days after being served with a copy thereof. Such party shall file with the clerk of court, and serve on the magistrate judge and all parties, written objections which shall specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations or report to which objection is made and the basis for such objections. The briefing requirements set forth in Local Rule 72.2 shall apply. A judge shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge, however, need conduct a new hearing only in his or her discretion or where required by law, and may consider the record developed before the magistrate judge, making his or her own determination on the basis of that record. The judge may also receive further evidence, recall witnesses or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.