United States District Court, D. Maine
ANTHONY J. SINENI III, Plaintiff,
JAMES ESTABROOK, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS WITH
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
motion by the Plaintiff, the Court dismisses his Complaint
with prejudice. The Court assesses costs against the
Plaintiff but rejects the Defendants' request for an
award of attorney's fees.
September 9, 2015, Anthony J. Sineni III filed a complaint
against three named and some unknown law enforcement officers
with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, alleging
that they had surreptitiously intercepted his telephone
communications without his consent in violation of federal
constitutional and statutory law. Compl. and Demand for
Jury Trial (ECF No. 1). After the discovery period
ended, on July 14, 2016, the Defendants filed notice of their
intention to file a motion for summary judgment. Defs.
Estabrook, Ackerman and Cook's Notice of Intent to File
Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 37). After an issue regarding
the deposition of a witness was resolved, the Court held a
Local Rule 56(h) conference on August 26, 2016. Minute
Entry (ECF No. 52). At the prefiling conference, the
Defendants agreed to file a motion for summary judgment by
September 30, 2016; the Plaintiff agreed to respond by
October 21, 2016; and the Defendants agreed to reply by
November 4, 2016. Tr. of Proceedings, Rule 56(h)
Conf. 17:18-18:12 (ECF No. 54).
September 27, 2016, the Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment and a motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (F.R. Civ. P. 56) and J. on
the Pleadings (F.R. Civ. P. 12(c)) (ECF No. 60)
(Defs.' Mots.). The Plaintiff did not directly
respond to the motions.
October 21, 2016, the Plaintiff filed a stipulation of
voluntary dismissal. See Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of
Action (ECF No. 63). However, the stipulation did not
comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)
because the Defendants had entered their appearance and the
stipulation was not signed by all the parties. The
Clerk's Office so informed the Plaintiff, and the docket
now lists the stipulation as having been filed in error.
the uncertain state of the docket, on November 18, 2016, the
Court held a telephone conference with counsel, and the Court
ordered the Plaintiff to file a motion to extend the time to
file objections to the motion for summary judgment by
November 25, 2016. Minute Entry (ECF No. 67). On
November 22, 2016, the Plaintiff filed both a motion to
extend time and a motion to dismiss. Pl. Sineni's
Mot. to Extend Time to File Obj. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ.
J. (ECF No. 68) (Pl.'s Mot. to Extend);
Pl.'s Mot. for Voluntary Dismissal (ECF No. 69)
(Pl.'s Mot.). In the motion to extend, the
Plaintiff requested an extension of time to respond to the
motion for summary judgment until settlement negotiations
were resolved. Pl.'s Mot. to Extend at 1. In the
motion for voluntary dismissal, the Plaintiff urged the Court
to dismiss his pending action with prejudice. Pl.'s
Mot. at 1-3. On November 29, 2016, the Defendants
responded to both motions. Obj. to Pl.'s Mot. to
Extend Time to File Obj. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J.
(ECF No. 70); Defs.' Obj. to Pl.'s Voluntary
Dismissal (ECF No. 71) (Defs.' Opp'n).
The Plaintiff did not reply to either of the Defendants'
responses. On December 19, 2016, the Court held a telephone
conference with counsel to clarify whether the Plaintiff was
moving for dismissal with or without prejudice; the Plaintiff
confirmed that he is moving to dismiss his Complaint with
Unraveling the Procedural Tangle
procedural status of the motions before the Court is a bit
tangled. To clarify, the following motions are pending: (1) a
Defendants' motion for summary judgment; (2) a
Plaintiff's motion to extend time; and (3) a
Plaintiff's motion for voluntary dismissal. The Plaintiff
has not responded to the Defendants' motion for summary
judgment, but he has moved to extend the time to respond to
the motion for summary judgment until after settlement
discussions are resolved. The third pending motion focuses on
three issues: (1) whether the Court should reject the
Plaintiff's motion to dismiss and proceed with the
pending motion for summary judgment; (2) whether, if the
Court dismisses the Complaint with prejudice, the Court
should award costs to the Defendants; and (3) whether the
Court should award attorney's fees.
The Motion to Dismiss With Prejudice
Plaintiff's motion to dismiss with prejudice explains
that he brought this lawsuit on the good faith belief that
Winona Hichborn had told other people that she had neither
consented to the recording of her phone conversations with
Mr. Sineni nor had recorded them herself. Pl.'s
Mot. at 1. However, during Ms. Hichborn's
deposition, Mr. Sineni learned that Ms. Hichborn had
voluntarily recorded the telephone conversations.
Id. at 1-2. Accordingly, Mr. Sineni moved to dismiss
the complaint. Id. at 2.
Defendants take alternative positions. Defs.'
Opp'n at 1-5. They object to the motion to dismiss
and urge the Court to rule on the pending motion for summary
judgment, but if the Court grants the motion to dismiss, they
ask the Court to order the Plaintiff to pay attorney's
fees and costs. Id. at 1. The Defendants are
particularly annoyed that the Plaintiff forced them to
prepare and file a dispositive motion, when he already knew
that Ms. Hichborn testified that she had recorded the
conversations. Id. at 1-2. The Defendants argue that
the Court should consider the damage to the law enforcement
officers' reputations from this lawsuit. Id. at
3. They are concerned that Mr. Sineni will dismiss this
claim, only to bring new ones in this or in state court.
Id. at 4. In fact, they claim that he has already
filed one such claim. Id. at 2, n.2 (citing
Sineni v. Cumberland Cty. Sheriff's Office, No.
2:16-cv-000520-JAW). Furthermore, they maintain that if the
Court elects to dismiss the pending action, it should do so
conditioned upon taxation and actual payment of allowable
costs and attorney's fees from the date of the Rule 56(h)
conference onward. Id. at 4.