Bhatt v. Hoffman, 110717 FED3, 17-1182

Docket Nº:17-1182
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:CHAULA S. BHATT, Appellant v. JOHN J. HOFFMAN, Former N.J. AG; AT&T INC, And Nationwide AT&T Subsidiaries; ATTORNEY DENNIS M. GALVIN, Glenwood Attorney; PLANET ASSOCIATES INC., NJ; COLLABERA INC., NJ; AFFILIATES OF AT&T; MICHAEL CHIRICO, HR Director; STEPHANIE SERPICO, HR Associate; CHRISTOPHER HEALY, VP Planet Associates, Inc.; EDWARD AMOROSO,...
Judge Panel:Before: SHWARTZ, KRAUSE and RENDELL, Circuit Judges
Case Date:November 07, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CHAULA S. BHATT, Appellant

v.

JOHN J. HOFFMAN, Former N.J. AG; AT&T INC, And Nationwide AT&T Subsidiaries; ATTORNEY DENNIS M. GALVIN, Glenwood Attorney; PLANET ASSOCIATES INC., NJ; COLLABERA INC., NJ; AFFILIATES OF AT&T; MICHAEL CHIRICO, HR Director; STEPHANIE SERPICO, HR Associate; CHRISTOPHER HEALY, VP Planet Associates, Inc.; EDWARD AMOROSO, AT&T SVP; MICHAEL ZINNIKAS, AT&T Director; PETER WARSHAW, Former Prosecutor; PAULA DOW, Former N.J. AG; PERTH AMBOY MUNICIPALITY; PERTH AMBOY MAYOR; EMERY TOTH, Perth Amboy Magistrate; DET. M. VALERA; PERTH AMBOY UNKNOWN LIEUTENANT; MIDDLESEX COUNTY PROBATION CHIEF; MIDDLETOWN MUNICIPALITY; MIDDLETOWN MAYOR; MIDDLETOWN PROSECUTORS; MAYOR GERALD SCHARFENBERGER; MAGISTRATE RICHARD B. THOMPSON; CHRISTOPHER PORRINO, New Jersey Current AG; ANDREW CUREY, Middlesex County Prosecutor; CHRISTOPHER G., Monmouth County Prosecutor; PROSECUTOR EMILY CARTMELL; NAMED MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTORS; PROSECUTOR NICOLE WALLACE; MS. SUE KENT; GRACE H. PARK, Union County Prosecutor; KYLE LOSCASIO, Middlesex Probation Officer; ALL DEFENDANTS TO CLAIM 9 TO THIS SUIT; MIDDLESEX COUNTY CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE; NAMED MCCI DEFENDANTS; MRS. HUTTONLOCH, MCCI Guard; N.J. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION; COMMISSIONER OF DMV-NJ; KEY AUTO BODY SHOP; AL'S TOWING, INC.; RICK FUENTES, N.J. Police Chief; ALDERCREST INC; GLENWOOD APARTMENTS & COUNTY CLUB; OLD BRIDGE MUNICIPALITY; MAYOR HENRY OWEN; UNKNOWN OLD BRIDGE MAGISTRATE; ALL CAR TOWING, INC.

No. 17-1182

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

November 7, 2017

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) November 3, 2017

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil Action No. 3-15-cv-00005) District Judge: Honorable Peter G. Sheridan

Before: SHWARTZ, KRAUSE and RENDELL, Circuit Judges

OPINION [*]

PER CURIAM.

Chaula S. Bhatt appeals from the order of the District Court dismissing her amended complaint. We will vacate and remand for further proceedings.

I.

Bhatt formerly worked in some capacity for AT&T, Inc. She initiated this action against AT&T and 10 other defendants by filing pro se a 112-page complaint (exclusive of exhibits) asserting 75 claims. She alleged, among other things, that AT&T wrongfully terminated her and then conspired with numerous other defendants to subject her to wrongful criminal prosecutions and deprive her of other employment opportunities.

Bhatt filed her complaint in forma pauperis, so the District Court screened it before service of process pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The District Court then dismissed it without prejudice and with leave to amend for failure to comply with the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). In doing so, the District Court briefly set forth the requirements of Rule 8(a), but it did not explain why it deemed Bhatt's complaint deficient or otherwise provide her with any guidance on how she could amend.

Bhatt initially did not file an amended complaint. Instead, she later filed a motion for leave to file an untimely amendment on the ground that she never received the District Court's order. Bhatt's action was assigned to the Honorable Peter G. Sheridan, who held a hearing on Bhatt's motion. At that hearing, Judge Sheridan advised Bhatt that, "due to some personal issues, I have a conflict of interest with [defendant] Attorney General Hoffman. So, as a result, I can't make a ruling on your case right now, I need to forward this to another judge to make a decision." (ECF No. 23 at 5.) Judge Sheridan also stated that "I've recused myself." (Id.) According to Bhatt, however, Judge Sheridan later informed her that he was not "allowed" to recuse himself after taking a telephone call. The transcript of the hearing does not reflect that development.

In any event, Judge Sheridan did not recuse himself and instead granted Bhatt's motion and continued to preside over this case. A Magistrate Judge later directed Bhatt to file an amended complaint, which Bhatt did.1 Bhatt's amended complaint is 75 pages long (exclusive of exhibits). This time, she named 28 defendants and asserted 21 separate claims. Judge Sheridan screened the amended complaint and dismissed that complaint too for failure to comply with Rule 8(a), this time with prejudice.

Bhatt filed a notice of appeal and, believing that her notice was untimely, a motion to extend or reopen the time to appeal under Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(5) and 4(a)(6). She also filed a motion to disqualify Judge Sheridan. Judge Sheridan granted Bhatt's motion to extend or reopen the time to appeal but denied her motion for disqualification. In doing so, Judge Sheridan wrote that Bhatt's motion for disqualification was "denied in part, " but he provided no explanation. (It is possible that Judge Sheridan provided some explanation during a proceeding that he conducted that same day, but the proceeding has not been transcribed.) Our Clerk stayed this appeal pending the District Court's ruling on Bhatt's Rule 4(a)(5)/4(a)(6) motion, and this appeal is now ripe for disposition.

II.

Bhatt's notice of appeal is timely, 2 and we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We review the dismissal of a complaint under Rule 8 for abuse of discretion. See In re Westinghouse Sec. Litig., 90 F.3d 696, 702 (3d Cir. 1996). Bhatt argues that the District Court abused its discretion in this case. We are constrained to agree.

Rule 8 requires, inter alia, "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this rule is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Thus, dismissal for violation of Rule 8 "is usually confined to...

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