United States District Court, Southern District of New York
August 21, 2003
178 EAST 80TH STREET OWNERS, INC., PLAINTIFF, &MDASH; AGAINST &MDASH; LINDSAY JENKINS, DEFENDANT; LINDSAY JENKIN, PLAINTIFF, &MDASH; AGAINST &MDASH; PETER DOWBYSZ, DEFENDANT; LINDSAY JENKINS, PLAINTIFF, &MDASH; AGAINST &MDASH; MARIA BELTRANI, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Casey, District Judge
OPINION AND ORDER
Presently before the Court is a motion to recuse Magistrate Judge Maas in a matter arising out of a Stipulation of Settlement and Order entered into by the parties and ordered by this Court on April 9, 2001. In August 2002, Defendants brought suit to enforce the settlement agreement, which this Court referred to Judge Maas, based on the terms of the settlement agreement. [ Page 2]
Plaintiff, Lindsay Jenkins, now moves the Court to: 1) vacate this Court's Order of Reference to Judge Maas; 2) recuse Judge Maas; and 3) compel Judge Maas to order 178 East 80th Street Owners, Inc. (the "Co-op") to permit the sale of her apartment in the building. For the following reasons, Ms. Jenkins' motions are DENIED in their entirety.
The original dispute between the parties arose from Lindsay Jenkins' boarding of an unauthorized guest in her apartment. On July 28, 2000, the Co-op brought suit against Ms. Jenkins in the Supreme Court of the State of New York for various alleged violations of her proprietary leases for two apartments located at 178 80th Street, New York, New York. Based on her British citizenship, Ms. Jenkins removed the action to this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. On April 6, 2001, the parties entered into a Stipulation of Settlement and Order ("Stipulation"), which dismissed the complaint and provided that Ms. Jenkins be permitted to have one overnight guests, provided that she was contemporaneously, physically there, and that their stay did not exceed two weeks over a six-month period. The parties also agreed that Magistrate Judge Maas would retain jurisdiction over any matters relating to enforcement of the Stipulation. The Stipulation was ordered by this Court on April 9, 2001.
In August 2002, Defendants brought suit against Ms. Jenkins for violation of the Stipulation. This Court referred the matter to Judge Maas, in accordance with the Stipulation. Ms. Jenkins thereafter filed three motions with this Court: 1) motion to vacate the Order of Reference to Judge Maas; 2) motion to recuse Judge Maas; and 3) motion to compel Judge Maas to order the Co-op to permit the sale of her apartment.
A. Motion to Vacate Order of Reference to Judge Maas [ Page 3]
Plaintiff argues that this Court should vacate the Order of Reference to Judge Maas, based on a lack of jurisdiction. Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), a magistrate judge may conduct any proceedings upon the consent of the parties. A district court judge may vacate an order of reference upon request from any party only upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(4).
Here, the parties have agreed that Judge Maas would conduct all proceedings relating to the enforcement of the Stipulation, and Ms. Jenkins has failed to show the existence of extraordinary circumstances. Therefore, her claim that Judge Maas lacks authority with respect to the present dispute is without merit.
Ms. Jenkins also claims that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the current dispute because it is based on a state law claim. A district court may exercise jurisdiction to enforce settlement agreements even though the underlying subject matter may not be within the subject matter jurisdiction of the court. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 381 (1994). In Kokkonen, the Supreme Court held that a federal district court did not have ancillary jurisdiction over action to enforce a settlement agreement where the terms of the settlement were not included in the stipulation of dismissal. See id. The Court noted, however, that such jurisdiction would exist where, as here, the terms of the settlement agreement were incorporated into the order of dismissal. See id. Although landlord tenant disputes are typically resolved in state court, the terms of the settlement agreement were incorporated into the original order of dismissal, signed by this Court on April 9, 2001. Thus, this Court has ancillary jurisdiction over any actions to enforce those terms.
B. Motion to Recuse Judge Maas
On October 16, 2001, Ms. Jenkins filed a"Verified Supplement" to a Motion to Recuse [ Page 4]
Magistrate Judge Maas, which she had originally filed on July 23, 2003, and which had been denied by this Court in August 2002.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 144, a party may file an affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in favor of any adverse party. Although there is no statute of limitations for recusal motions, the statute requires a party to raise such a claim "at the earliest possible moment after obtaining knowledge of facts demonstrating the basis for such a claim" See Apple v. Jewish Hosp. & Med. Ctr., 829 F.2d 326, 333 (2d Cir. 1987). Ms. Jenkins bases her motion for recusal on events that occurred in April 2001. A motion for recusal was not filed until mid August, 2002, nearly one and one-half years later, which renders the motion untimely.
Additionally, the statute provides that "[a] party may file only one such affidavit in any case." 28 U.S.C. § 144. Ms. Jenkins' supplement to her verified motion to recuse Judge Maas is clearly a request to have this Court revisit and reverse its denial of her previous recusal request. As Ms. Jenkins has already filed one affidavit, which was denied, there is no reason to revisit the same issue based on the same allegations. For these reasons, Ms. Jenkins' motion to recuse Judge Maas is denied.
C. Motion to Compel Action by Judge Maas
Ms. Jenkins' motion to compel Judge Maas to order the Co-op to permit the sale of her apartment in the Co-op's building is also denied. Plaintiff claims that Judge Maas attempted to sabotage the closing of her apartment and prevent a sale to prolong this litigation. Even if there were a legal basis for Ms. Jenkins' motion to compel (which she has failed to submit to the Court), her claim is now moot. The Co-op's Board of Directors has already approved the application of the purchasers of Ms. Jenkins' apartment, which was the Co-op's only [ Page 5]
involvement in the sale. See Affidavit of Steven D. Sladkus ¶ 26. Because any dispute between Ms. Jenkins and the Co-op with respect to the sale of her apartment has been resolved, her motion to compel action by Judge Maas is denied as moot.
For the foregoing reasons, Ms. Jenkins' motions are DENIED in their entirety.
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