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Holland v. City of Gary

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

October 19, 2016

ROBERT HOLLAND and THE LAW FIRM OF ROBERT HOLLAND, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF GARY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge John E. Martin (DE #141) dated August 30, 2016, and the Objection to the Report and Recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin (DE #143), filed by Robert Holland (“Holland”) on September 20, 2016. For the reasons set forth below, the objection is OVERRULED and the report and recommendation is ADOPTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 29, 2016, this Court sanctioned Holland in the amount of $500. (DE #129). Holland objected to the imposition of sanctions and also notified the Court that he was unable to pay the sanctions. (DE ## 132, 133). This Court overruled the objection and referred the notice of inability to pay to Magistrate Judge John E. Martin for report and recommendation. (DE ## 134, 135). Holland then filed a motion to reconsider the Court's ruling on his objection to the sanctions. (DE #136). That too was denied by this Court. (DE # 139).

         Magistrate Judge Martin conducted a hearing to explore Holland's ability to pay sanctions. At that hearing, Holland testified that his only income is Social Security Disability in the amount of $1, 021 per month. Holland has looked for work, but he claims that back issues limit his options. He does not currently own any real property, but he believes that three properties were unlawfully taken from him. He still lives at one of those properties, and does not currently pay rent, a mortgage, or property taxes. He does pay roughly $200 per month for utilities. And, he owns the furnishing in the home. He does not own a vehicle. On the date of the hearing, he had $20 in cash and a total of $20.01 in two different checking accounts.

         Holland also testified that he is a plaintiff in at least six different cases, five of which are related and three of which are on appeal. As a result of the appeals, he needed to pay $1, 515 in court fees over the next sixty days. In addition, he will have significant expenses related to preparing documents for those appeals.

         Following the hearing, Magistrate Judge Martin recommended that this Court find that Holland has the ability to pay the $500 in sanctions. The report and recommendation provides in part that:

After reviewing Plaintiff's testimony, the Court finds that he is not unable to pay the sanctions as ordered. Plaintiff was specifically warned by Judge Lozano, in capital letters, that the Court would impose “Sanctions of $500 per filing” for frivolous challenges to the Court's order of dismissal. Plaintiff did not heed this warning and was sanctioned accordingly. While the Court acknowledges that $500 is approximately half of Plaintiff's stated monthly income, the Court also notes that Plaintiff has paid hundreds if not thousands of dollars in filing fees to maintain several causes of action in this Court and in state court. This ability to pay significant filing fees and hundreds of dollars in printing costs refutes rather than supports Plaintiff's claim that he cannot pay the instant sanction.

(DE #141 at 3). On September 20, 2016, Holland filed the instant timely objection to the report and recommendation.[1] Defendants have not filed a response. Accordingly, both the report and recommendation and Holland's objection are ripe for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         When a party makes objections to a magistrate judge's recommendations, “[t]he district court is required to conduct a de novo determination of those portions of the magistrate judge's report and recommendations to which objections have been filed.” Goffman v. Gross, 59 F.3d 668, 671 (7th Cir. 1995). “[T]he court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

         Holland's objection sets forth the procedural history of the sanctions at issue and some of the facts presented at the hearing held before Magistrate Judge Martin. Holland then concludes that “[t]he recommendation defies logic and the evidence presented under the circumstances.” (DE #143 at 3). Holland has not taken issue with any of the facts presented in the report and recommendation, just Magistrate Judge Martin's conclusion.

         The remainder of the objection presents yet another challenge to this Court's decision to impose the sanctions in the first place, claiming the sanctions were without legal justification. This Court has considered Holland's argument that the sanctions were unfounded on two prior occasions: Holland objected to the imposition of sanctions and this Court overruled the objection (DE ## 132, 134). Holland then filed a motion to reconsider the Court's ruling on his objection and that too was denied by this Court. (DE ## 136, 139). This Court will not now entertain Holland's third attempt to challenge the validity of the initial decision to impose sanctions.[2]

         As for Holland's argument directed to Magistrate Judge Martin's recommendation that this Court find he has the ability to pay the sanctions imposed, Holland has offered little to support his position. Holland's income is minimal, but his living expenses are also minimal. To the extent a move is in Holland's near future, little is known about his future living expenses. Holland claims ...


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