Shaw v. New Castle County
MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Judge Colm F. Connolly on 9/9/2021. (nmf)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
NEW CASTLE COUNTY,
Civ. No. 20-950-CFC
Ronald Shaw, Claymont, Delaware, Pro se Plaintiff.
Mary A. Jacobson, First Assistant County Attorney, New Castle County Office
Law, New Castle, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.
September 9, 2021
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CONNOLLY, Chief Judge:
Plaintiff Ronald Shaw, who appears pro se, filed this action against New
Castle County on July 15, 2020, alleging various violations of his constitutional
rights arising out of the County’s enforcement of its Property Maintenance
(D.I. 1) Shaw seeks $100 million in damages and injunctive relief.
Pending before me is the County’s motion to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
and 12(b)(6) for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted. 1 (D.I.
Briefing is complete.
Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action
for “lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” A Rule 12(b)(1) motion may be treated as either a
facial or factual challenge to the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. See Davis v. Wells Fargo,
824 F.3d 333, 346 (3d Cir. 2016). A facial attack contests the sufficiency of the pleadings,
whereas a factual attack contests the sufficiency of jurisdictional facts. See Lincoln Ben. Life
Co. v. AEI Life, LLC, 800 F.3d 99, 105 (3d Cir. 2015). When considering a facial attack, the
court accepts the plaintiff’s well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable
inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff’s favor. See In re Horizon Healthcare Services
Inc. Data Breach Litigation, 846 F.3d 625, 633 (3d Cir. 2017). When reviewing a factual
attack, the court may weigh and consider evidence outside the pleadings. See Gould Elecs. Inc.
v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000).
To state a claim on which relief can be granted, a complaint must contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but the complaint must include more than
mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). The complaint must
set forth enough facts, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id. at 570. A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). Deciding whether a claim is
plausible is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id. at 679 (citation omitted).
When assessing the merits of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must accept as
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Shaw alleged in his Complaint numerous constitutional claims based on
several interactions he had with County Code enforcement officers relating to
the property located at 31 Colby Avenue and trailers Shaw had parked in front
of his residence at 39 Colby Avenue.
31 Colby Avenue is owned by a defunct
company. The County moved for dismissal of all asserted claims on the
grounds that: (1) Shaw lacked standing to challenge the County’s code
enforcement activities on 31 Colby Avenue and (2) Shaw failed to allege an
actionable claim for a constitutional violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In his opposition filed in response to the County’s motion, Shaw
addressed only two of the claims alleged in his Complaint: (1) the denial of his
right to appeal a ticket in violation of the right to due process under the Fifth
and Fourteenth Amendments and (2) the removal of a sign from 31 Colby
Avenue in violation of Shaw’s rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.
Shaw’s failure to address the County’s arguments for dismissal of the remaining
claims constitutes abandonment of those claims; and, accordingly, I will dismiss
See Levy-Tatum v. Navient Sol., Inc., 183 F. Supp. 3d 701, 712 (E.D.
true all factual allegations in the complaint and it must view those facts in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Umland v. Planco Fin. Servs., 542 F.3d at 64; Schmidt v. Skolas,
770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because Plaintiff proceeds
pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, must
be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted).
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Pa. 2016) (dismissing claims with prejudice where plaintiff failed to make
substantive arguments against dismissal); Jackson v. J. Lewis Crozer Library,
2007 WL 2407102, *6 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 22, 2007) (granting motion to dismiss as
uncontested where plaintiff did not substantively respond to motion); see also
Griglak v. CTX Mortg. Co., 2010 WL 1424023, at *3 (D.N.J. Apr. 8, 2010)
(holding failure to substantively respond to argument when filing a response in
opposition results in waiver of claim not addressed); Duran v. Equifirst Corp.,
2010 WL 918444, at *3 (D.N.J. Mar. 12, 2010) (finding plaintiff waived cause
of action for failing to address motion to dismiss); Marjac, LLC v. Trenk, 2006
WL 3751395, at *5 n.3 (D.N.J. Dec. 19, 2006) (considering plaintiff's § 1983
claims as abandoned for failing to address motion to dismiss).
I turn then to Shaw’s claim that he was denied his right to appeal tickets
he received in violation of his right of due process and right to pursue happiness
when the County did not include appeal forms with the tickets it issued to him.
(D.I. 1 at 13) The County moves for dismissal on the grounds that neither the
New Castle County Code nor due process requires that appeal forms be included
with tickets. It also argues that the Complaint does not allege that Shaw
attempted to file an appeal of any ticket issued to him or that he was denied an
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There are no allegations in the Complaint that Shaw’s right to file an
appeal was impeded in any way. And I take judicial notice of the fact that the
tickets issued to Shaw contain the statement: “[I]f you would like the
opportunity to be heard by an administrative tribunal on the issues of why New
Castle County should not immediately abate the violations, please call [a
telephone number provided].” (D.I. 9-1 at 34-38)
Shaw cites Truax v. Corrigan, 257 U.S. 312 (1921), for the proposition
that every man shall have the protection of his day in court. But he does not
allege that he was not afforded notice of his appeal rights. Rather, he alleges he
was not provided a form.
Some type of hearing is required before an individual is deprived by the
government of a property interest. See City of Los Angeles v. David, 538 U.S.
715 (2003). As is well-established, a fundamental requirement of due process
is the opportunity to be heard “at a meaningful time and in a meaningful
manner.” Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 552 (1965). Here, the ticket
advised Shaw of his right to hearing as required under the Due Process clause.
In a somewhat similar situation, courts have found no due process
violation when a party is not afforded notice of appeal rights. See Childress v.
Small Business Admin., 825 F.2d 1550, 1553 (11th Cir. 1987) (“We know of no
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case, however, which holds that minimum due process requires that the parties
not only be given a notice and hearing but also that they be specifically advised
of their right to appeal.”); Vialez v. N.Y.C. Housing Auth., 783 F. Supp. 109, 117
(S.D.N.Y. 1991) (“Research reveals that, faced with the question, courts have
uniformly found a plaintiff claiming a due process entitlement to specific notice
of the right to appeal unable to demonstrate a legally sound argument.”).
Notably, “individualized notice of state law remedies, which . . . are established
by published, generally available state statutes and case law” is not necessary to
satisfy post-deprivation due process. City of West Covina v. Perkins, 525 U.S.
234, 241 (1999). Thus, Shaw has failed to state a due process claim arising out
of any ticket he received from the County.
Shaw next alleges that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were
violated when a sign of an extended middle finger that he screwed onto a fence
on 31 Colby Avenue was removed by the County. (D.I. 1 at 9, 12) Shaw does
not have a property interest in 31 Colby Avenue. And the County argues that
dismissal of this claim is therefore warranted because Shaw lacks standing to
assert the claim and the removal of the sign did not violate Shaw’s
Shaw cites in his opposition Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) for the
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proposition that “evidence obtained from the unlawful search may not be
introduced in court this evidence is referred to as fruit of the poisonous tree.”
(D.I. 15) He also cites a law review article by Ira P. Robbins titled Digitus
Impudicus: The Middle Finger and the Law, 41 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1403, 1415
(2008) for the proposition that the middle finger is one of the most common
insulting gestures used to convey a wide range of emotions whose use may be
considered free speech. (D.I. 15) But neither Mapp nor Mr. Robbins’s article
bears on this case.
It is long established “that if a stranger, without the consent of the
landowner, makes an erection on or affixes chattels to the land, such erection or
article annexed to the soil becomes the property of the landowner.” Jacoby v.
Johnson, 120 F. 487, 489 (3d Cir. 1903). Thus, once Shaw placed the sign on
property he did not own, the sign was no longer his property and, therefore, the
removal of the sign did not implicate his First or Fourth Amendment rights.
Because Shaw no longer owns the sign, he lacks standing to bring suit for
constitutional violations arising out of the sign’s removal. See e.g., Twp. of
Lyndhurst, N.J. v. Priceline.com, Inc., 657 F.3d 148, 154 (3d Cir. 2011) (“[A]
plaintiff must assert his or her own legal interests rather than those of a third
party” to have standing to bring a claim (quotations omitted). Accordingly, I
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will dismiss Shaw’s claims that are based on the removal of the sign from 31
For the reasons discussed above, I will grant the County’s motion to
dismiss (D.I. 8). I find that amendment would be futile.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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