HARRIS v. BENNET et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge John Michael Vazquez on 5/2/2017. (JB, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT Of NEW JERSEY
GOLDA D. HARRIS
Civ. Action No. 13-3879 (JMV)
ERIC BENNET, ZENA SUTTON,
RANDALL WOOD, DAN SMITH, ESQ.,
and PLAINFIELD HOUSING
John Michael Vazguezg U.S.D.J.
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Golda D. Harris’ unopposed motion for
“re-entry of default judgment and summary judgment” against Defendants Eric Beimet, Zena
Sutton, Randall Wood, Dan Smith, Esq., and the Plainfield Housing Authority (collectively
“Defendants”). D.E. 56. On January 20, 2017, default was entered against Defendants for
failing to answer the Complaint.’ D.E. 59. At the time, Plaintiff had already filed this motion
for “re-entry of default judgnient and summary judgment.” D.E. 56. The Court ordered that if
Plaintiff chose to pursue that motion, she must supplement the record within 45 days by setting
forth the factual and legal basis to support the motion in accordance with the applicable Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure and case law. Id. Plaintiff timely submitted two additional filings
designated as “supplement to motion for summary judgment” and “exhibits.” D.E. 61, 62. The
Court considered the written submissions of Plaintiff and considered the motion without oral
‘Prior to the January 20, 2017 Order, default had already been entered against Defendants and
vacated multiple times. D.E. 22, 26, 38, 39, 55.
argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b) and Local Civil Rule 78.1(b). For
the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs motion is denied. Additionally, Plaintiff, who is proceeding in
forma pauperis, fails to state a claim in the Complaint. Therefore, the Complaint is dismissed
The crux of Plaintiffs allegations is that Defendants wrongfully evicted Plaintiff from
her home without due process in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1427d(k) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Complaint (“Compl.”) at 2, 6. Because Plaintiffs allegations are not entirely clear to the Court,
they will be quoted exactly as they appear in the Complaint. In Plaintiffs “statement of claims,”
she alleges that
1. Defendants Bennett, Wood, Sutton and Smith did not allow or
give notice to Plaintiff of the notice of termination or the grievance
process, even afier plaintiff requested it.
2. The above defendants did not follow the HUD grievance
procedures concerning eviction and tenancy terminations.
3. The above defendants denied plaintiff an opportunity to file a
timely appeal or any appeal.
4. The defendants did not provide safety maintenance and
insurance on the premises causing plaintiff injuries, debts, and
5. The defendants perjured affidavits to avoid responsibility,
restitution, compensation, and discovery.
6. I reserve the right to amend the claims.
Compl. at 6. The relief Plaintiff seeks, as quoted directly from the Complaint, states as follows:
1. Removal of LT-801-09 and LT-9518-08 to district
2. Remove the $4,560.00 judgment against p1.
3. Removal of possession of the premises.
4. Joinder of the matters to the LT’s and
5. Reinstatement to the Section $ Program upon release from
6. Restitution, judgment for: reimbursement, compensation, and
injuries, punitive & nominal.
7. Settlement of the suit, if possible.
8. Discovery from Defendants
proof of insurance, etc.
Compi. at 7. Plaintiff seeks damages from Defendants Plainfield Housing Authority for $44,3 84,
Bennet for $27,165, Smith for $25,000, Wood for $5,000, and Sutton for $5,000. Plaintiff also
seeks prejudgment interest on these amounts. D.E. 61.
II. LAW AND ANALYSIS
Plaintiff moves for summary judgment and a default judgment. For the reasons stated
below, both motions are denied.
A. Summary Judgment
A moving party is entitled to summary judgment where “the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is “material” when a dispute over that fact “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
Importantly, “[flactual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be
A material fact raises a “genuine” dispute “if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Williams v. Borough of W.
Chester, $91 F.2d 458, 459 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 24$). “Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the non-moving party,
there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.s.
574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“When analyzing the sufficiency of the
evidence, the court must view the facts and any reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the
light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Inter Vest, Inc. v. Bloornberg,
L.F., 340 F.3d 144, 159-60 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Sens.,
Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 456 (1992)).
Summary judgnient is appropriate “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will
bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Under
those circumstances, “there can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact,’ since a complete
failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23. However, to withstand a motion for summary
judgment, the nonmoving party need only “come forward with evidence which, if believed,
would support a finding in its favor.” In re Bressman, 327 f.3d 229, 237 (3d Cir. 2003).
The Local Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “the movant shall furnish a statement
which sets forth material facts as to which there does not exist a genuine issue, in separately
numbered paragraphs citing to the affidavits and other documents submitted in support of the
motion.” L. Civ. R. 56.1; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
Here, Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment is both procedurally and substantively
deficient. Plaintiffs motion is procedurally deficient because she did not file a statement of
material facts. This deficiency standing by itself is enough for the Court to deny Plaintiffs
motion. See Jacobsen v. Hartford Ins. Co. Flood & Home (Sandy), No. 13-6910, 2017 WL
1239145, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 31, 2017) (“Plaintiffi’s] failure to comply with Local Civil Rule
56.1 alone constitutes sufficient grounds for the Court to deny Plaintiffs’ Motions.”).
Additionally, Plaintiff has not submitted a brief or a “statement that no brief is necessary and the
reasons therefor.” See L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). However, even if the Court were to overlook these
procedural deficiencies, Plaintiff has not presented sufficient facts to support a viable cause of
Plaintiff asserts causes of action under two statutes and two regulations: 42 U.S.C.
1983; 42 U.S.C.
§ 1437d(k); 24 C.F.R. 966.51(a)(1); and 24 C.F.R. 966.4(l)(3)(ii). 42 U.S.C. §
143 7d(k) provides, in part, that:
The Secretary shall by regulation require each public housing
agency receiving assistance under this chapter to establish and
implement an administrative grievance procedure under which
tenants will-(1) be advised of the specific grounds of any proposed adverse
public housing agency action;
(2) have an opportunity for a hearing before an impartial party
upon timely request within any period applicable under subsection
(1) of this section;
(3) have an opportunity to examine any documents or records or
regulations related to the proposed action;
(4) be entitled to be represented by another person of their choice
at any hearing;
(5) be entitled to ask questions of witnesses and have others make
statements on their behalf; and
(6) be entitled to receive a written decision by the public housing
agency on the proposed action.
Pursuant to 24 C.F.R. 966.51 a “tenant must be given the opportunity for a hearing in court
which provides the basic elements of due process.
before eviction from the dwelling unit.” 24
C.F.R. 966.4(l)(3)(ii) provides, among other things, that a notice of termination to a tenant shall
state the specific grounds for the termination and inform the tenant of the right to examine the
public housing authority’s documents and the tenant’s right to request a hearing.
At least one court has suggested that a plaintiff may assert a private cause of action for a
violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1437d(k) and obtain a remedy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See
Sinisgallo v. TOwn of Islip Hotts. Auth., 865 F. Supp. 2d 307, 332-33 (E.D.N.Y. 2012).
Nonetheless, Plaintiff presents no facts to support her claim for violation of 42 U.S.C.
143 7d(k). Plaintiff submits no evidence describing the alleged eviction, her requests, if any, for
a hearing, or the reason(s) Defendants evicted her and denied her a hearing. In short, the Court
has not been presented with any competent evidence that would permit it to conduct a legal
analysis of Plaintiffs claims. Moreover, the Court has been presented with no facts to support
Therefore, Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment is
Plaintiffs calculation of damages.2
B. Defautt Judgment
“Once a party has defaulted, the consequence is that ‘the factual allegations of the
complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.” Teamsters
Pension fund of Phila. & Vicinity v. Am. Helper, Inc., No.11-624, 2011 WL 4729023, at *2
(D.N.J. Oct. 5, 2011) (quoting DIRECTV, Inc. v. Pepe, 431 F.3d 162, 165 n.6 (3d Cir.2005)).
“The entry of a default judgment is largely a matter of judicial discretion, although the Third
Circuit has emphasized that such ‘discretion is not without limits, however, and [has] repeatedly
In Plaintiffs supplemental submissions (D.E. 6 1-62), she makes conclusory statements without
providing any underlying factual support. See e.g., D.E. 61 at 10, 13, 16 (alleging violations of
“HUD policies and procedures for termination and hearing requirement” and asserting that
defendants “[f]ailed to comply with HUD terminancy [sic] notice of appeal and hearing policy
and did not schedule my appeal”; “[flailed to report plaintiffs injuries to HUD and that he failed
on the premises”). These conclusory statements are
to maintain homeowner’s insurance
insufficient to establish Plaintiffs causes of action for purposes of summary judgment.
state[d] [its] preference that cases be disposed of on the merits whenever practicable.” Chanel,
Inc. v. Gordashevsky, 55$ F. Supp. 2d 532, 535 (D.N.J. 200$) (quoting Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732
F.2d 1178, 1181 (3dCir.1984)).
Prior to entering a default judgment, the court is required to: “(1) determine it has
jurisdiction both over the subject matter and parties; (2) determine whether defendants have been
properly served; (3) analyze the Complaint to determine whether it sufficiently pleads a cause of
action; and (4) detennine whether the plaintiff has proved damages.” Moroccanoil, Inc. v. JMG
freight Grp. LLC, No. 14-5608, 2015 WL 6673839, at *1 (D.N.J. Oct. 30, 2015). Additionally,
the Court must consider the following three factors: “(1) prejudice to the plaintiff if default is
denied, (2) whether the defendant appears to have a litigable defense, and (3) whether
defendant’s delay is due to culpable conduct.” Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164
(3d Cir. 2000); see also Nationwide Mitt. Ins. Co. v. Starlight Ballroom Dance Club, Inc., 175 F.
App’x 519, 522 (3d Cir. 2006).
Here, Plaintiff has not pled a valid cause of action or submitted adequate proof of
damages. Plaintiffs Complaint is not pled with the requisite level of specificity to put the Court
on notice of her claims. The Court is unaware of the date when Plaintiff was evicted, why she
was evicted, or why the eviction was a violation of her rights. Moreover, it is unclear to the
Court what role, if any, each of the Defendants played in Plaintiffs alleged eviction. In short,
Plaintiff pleads no plausible facts to support the causes of action set forth in the Complaint.
Therefore, Plaintiffs Complaint fails to sufficiently state a claim.
Additionally, Plaintiff submits no evidence to support her calculation of damages other
than the conclusory statements mentioned above. In a motion for default judgment, “Plaintiff
must still offer some proof of damages.” Malik v. Hannah, 661 F. Supp. 2d 485, 490 (D.N.J.
2009). Plaintiffs failure to provide proof of damages requires that the Court deny the motion for
C. Screening Plaintiff’s Complaint
When a Plaintiff proceeds informa pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time
if the court determines that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief maybe granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune. 2$ U.S.C.
1915(e)(2) (emphasis added). “A complaint is frivolous if it ‘lacks an arguable basis either in
law or in fact.” Okpor v. Sedgwick CMS, No. 12-6521, 2013 WL 1145041, at *1 (D.N.J. Mar.
1$, 2013) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989)). And when considering
§ 1915(e)(2)(3)(ii) for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, the
Court must apply the same standard of review as that for dismissing a complaint under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Schreane v. Seana, 506 Fed. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012).
As explained in the prior subsection, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Accordingly, pursuant to the Court’s screening obligations of in forma
pauperis matters, the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff may file an amended
complaint within forty-five days of this Opinion. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint
within forty-five days, or if the amended complaint fails to state a claim, the Court will dismiss
this matter with prejudice.
This means that the case is closed and Plaintiff may not re-file
another complaint against the named Defendants based on the allegations raised in this case.
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment and default
judgment is denied. Also, the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Within forty-five days
of this Opinion, Plaintiff may file an amended complaint correcting the pleading deficiencies
identified in this Opinion. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint that plausibly states a
claim within forty-five days, the Court will dismiss the Complaint with prejudice.
appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
Dated: May 2, 2017
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