Mansfield, Kearse and Winter, Circuit Judges.
Lillian Cora appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Eugene H. Nickerson, Judge, entered pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b), dismissing Cora from the action on the ground that there was no basis for considering her a party plaintiff. Cora appeals, contending that the court took an unduly technical view of her status and that defendants had waived any objection to the technical defects. We disagree and affirm the judgment of dismissal.
The present action was commenced in May 1978 by plaintiff Eco N. Hernandez-Avila ("Hernandez") pro se. The caption of Hernandez's papers listed as plaintiffs, with Hernandez, "Jane Doe I," "Jane Doe II on behalf of John Doe," and "Jane Doe III." The amended complaint alleged that in the early morning hours of September 25, 1975, the defendant police officers, armed with machine guns, inter alia, forcibly entered the apartment of Jane Doe I without a warrant; without probable cause, they placed Jane Doe I, Jane Doe II, John Doe, and Hernandez under arrest, and searched the apartment, in violation of plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In an ensuing criminal prosecution, the New York Supreme Court upheld the contention that the entry and search had been unlawful and it suppressed the fruits of those actions. The amended complaint in the present action, invoking 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985, seeks $250,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.
Apparently, "Jane Doe I" was intended to refer to Lillian Cora, and from the development of the record below, there seems to be no dispute that the apartment entered by the police on September 25, 1975, was that of Cora.*fn1 Cora, however, did not sign the complaints in this action and did not attempt to enter any appearance until 1982.
Until 1981, all actions to prosecute the action were taken by Hernandez pro se. In 1981, the court appointed the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison ("Paul Weiss") as counsel for Hernandez. Paul Weiss appeared only for Hernandez and did not purport to represent anyone else. Indeed, papers filed by Paul Weiss listed Hernandez as the sole plaintiff.
In July 1982, the firm of Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts ("Winthrop Stimson") filed a notice of appearance "on behalf of plaintiff Lillian Cora." Just prior to Winthrop Stimson's appearance, Hernandez had moved for partial summary judgment,*fn2 and this motion, with defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment in their favor, remained pending until March 1983, when they were denied. No action was attempted on Cora's behalf while these motions were pending.
On March 31, 1983, Winthrop Stimson served on the defendants a request for the production of documents pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 34. By letter dated May 2, 1983, defendants refused to produce documents on the ground that Cora was not a party to the action. Winthrop Stimson thereafter moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2) to compel production. Defendants responded with a motion to dismiss from the action all fictitiously named plaintiffs and Lillian Cora on grounds of (1) failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 and 11, (2) statute of limitations, and (3) failure to prosecute.
In opposition to the motion to dismiss, Winthrop Stimson described its first meeting with Cora in June 1982 and Cora's explanation for not having participated in the lawsuit up to that point as follows:
She stated that she had not theretofore taken an active role in the litigation because of her fear of the legal system that had been responsible for her six-month incarceration, and because of her desire to put the entire experience behind her.
(Affidavit of Peter W. Sheil, dated June 10, 1983 ("Sheil Aff."), para. 3.) At oral argument of the motion, Winthrop Stimson explained further that Cora had not known the present action was pending until July 1981, when she was contacted by Paul Weiss (June 13, 1983 Transcript at 5, 8), and that "as soon as she became aware of the action she decided she would indeed like to parttake [ sic ]," (id. at 8).*fn3
The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss Cora's claims on the grounds that there was no basis to allow her to be a party, and that, if she were allowed to enter, her claims would be barred by the statute of limitations. The court directed that a final judgment dismissing ...