REARDON v. ZONIES et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 3/29/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
JOHN E. REARDON,
Civil No. 15-8597 (NLH/KMW)
MAGISTRATE ZONIES, et al.,
JOHN E. REARDON
1 Joans Lane
Berlin, New Jersey 08009
Pro Se Plaintiff
ZELLER & WIELICZKO, LLP
By: Dean R. Wittman, Esq.
Michael J. Huntowski, Esq.
120 Haddontowne Court
Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08034
Counsel for Defendants
HILLMAN, District Judge
Pro se Plaintiff John Reardon asserts that he was denied his
right to a jury trial when he was fined for various traffic
violations in municipal court in 1988.
He further asserts that
Defendants retaliated against him for “challenging the State’s
Motor Vehicle Laws.” (Compl. pg. 16)
Presently before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
the Complaint for failure to state a claim.
For the reasons set
forth below, the Motion will be granted as to the federal law
claims and the Court will decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. 1
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was subject to a traffic
stop three times in 1988.
First, on June 24, 1988, Plaintiff
alleges he was pulled over by Defendant Officer Russell J. Smith
and issued Plaintiff traffic tickets for “(A) No Registration; (B)
No Insurance; (C) Failure to use turn signals; (D) Driving While
Suspended 2; and (E) Failure to produce [registration and
insurance].” (Compl. pg. 5)
Second, on October 14, 1988, Defendant Officer Smith again
allegedly stopped the Plaintiff, this time issuing tickets for “(A)
Driving While suspended; (B) Driving without Insurance and (C)
Using an Unregistered Vehicle.” (Compl. pg. 5)
Lastly, Plaintiff alleges that on November 17, 1988 Defendant
Officer Daniel J. Dougherty stopped Plaintiff and issued Plaintiff
tickets for “(A) No Insurance; (B) No Registration; (C) Driving
while suspended; and (D) Fictitious License Plates.” (Compl. pg. 5)
The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1331 and supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Plaintiff admits his license was suspended on June 15, 1988.
(Compl. pg. 5)
Plaintiff alleges that he was “summarily tried and convicted”
on April 24, 1989 in Runnemede municipal court. (Compl. pg. 6)
is not clear whether there was one alleged summary “trial” or three
In any event, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant “Magistrate” Daniel B. Zonies, Esq. presided over all
adjudications and that Defendant Lawrence Luongo, Esq. was the
“prosecutor.” (Compl. pg. 6)
“On the [June 24, 1988] offenses” Plaintiff alleges he was
“fined” $10.00 and assessed $15.00 in “costs” for driving an
unregistered vehicle; and “fined” $350.00 and assessed $15.00 in
“costs” “for having no insurance.” (Compl. pg. 6)
He also alleges
that “as a result of” these “convictions,” “Plaintiff was given
$3,000.00 in surcharges and had his license suspended for 6
“On the [October 14, 1988] offenses,” Plaintiff alleges he was
“fined” $25.00 for driving an unregistered vehicle, and $500.00 for
“having no insurance.” (Compl. pg. 6)
He was also allegedly
assessed $15.00 in costs for each violation. (Id.)
alleges that his license was suspended for two years and he “was
given $3,000.00 in surcharges.” (Id.)
“On the [November 17, 1988] offenses” Plaintiff alleges he was
“fined” as follows:
“No registration: $35.00 Fine, $15.00 Costs”
“Fictitious Tags: $25.00 Fine and $15.00 Costs”
“4th Offense for no Insurance: $500.00 Fine, $15.00
“3rd Offense for Driving while suspended: $750.00 Fine,
(Compl. pg. 6-7)
“As a result of” the “convictions” of driving
without insurance and while suspended, Plaintiff was allegedly
“given $6,000.00 in surcharges.” (Compl. pg. 7)
Plaintiff alleges that he was not told that he had a right to
a jury trial, and he did not waive his right to a trial.
Plaintiff further alleges that “Defendant [Officers] Dougherty
and Smith” purposefully “wait[ed] for Plaintiff to [drive] home
from work” so that they could issue the tickets identified above
“to get [Plaintiff] to stop challenging the State’s Motor Vehicle
Laws as being Unconstitutional,” and “to stop filing Lawsuits.”
(Compl. pg. 13, 16, 17)
The Complaint asserts violations of federal statutory law and
New Jersey state law.
The Court liberally construes the Complaint
to assert § 1983 claims for violation of Plaintiff’s right to a
jury trial, and Plaintiff’s First Amendment right to be free from
retaliation, as well as the New Jersey statutory and common law
analogs of those claims.
As stated previously, Defendants move to dismiss the complaint
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423
F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005).
It is well settled that a pleading
is sufficient if it contains “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary
to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts
that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp.,
562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977).
However, “the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure . . . do require that the pleadings give defendant
fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon
which it rests.” Baldwin Cnty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147,
149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).
A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks “‘not
whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the
claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.’” Bell
Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer
v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009)(“Our decision in Twombly expounded the
pleading standard for ‘all civil actions’ . . . .”); Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)(“Iqbal . . . provides
the final nail in the coffin for the ‘no set of facts’ standard
that applied to federal complaints before Twombly.”).
Defendants assert that the § 1983 claims, which are founded
upon events occurring in 1988 and 1989 (i.e., approximately 25
years before the Complaint was filed), are time-barred.
The limitations period for the § 1983 claims is two years. See
Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State
Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010).
The jury trial claim accrued in 1989, when Plaintiff alleges
his municipal court summary trial occurred. See Wallace v. Kato,
549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007)(“it is the standard rule that accrual
occurs when the plaintiff has a complete and present cause of
action, that is, when the plaintiff can file suit and obtain
relief.”); Sameric Corp. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599
(3d Cir. 1998)(“A section 1983 cause of action accrues when the
plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its
action is based.”).
The First Amendment retaliation claim accrued either in 1988
when Defendants Smith and Dougherty conducted a traffic stop of the
Plaintiff, or in 1989 when Plaintiff was allegedly “convicted” of
the ticketed offenses. See Wallace, 549 U.S. at 388.
Thus, the time to file suit on Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims
expired more than two decades prior to the filing of this suit on
December 14, 2015.
Plaintiff asserts that his claims are timely because he did
not “discover” that he had a right to a jury trial until sometime
in 2014. (Compl. pg. 11-12; Opposition Brief pg. 29)
argues that as officers of the court, Defendants Zonies and Luongo
had a duty to advise Plaintiff of his right to a jury trial 3, and
that their failure to do so was a fraudulent concealment upon which
the Court may conclude equitable tolling applies. (Compl. pg. 3,
12; Opposition Brief, pg. 10)
Both arguments fail. 4
As to the first argument, Plaintiff’s alleged discovery of the
law in 2014 does not mean that Plaintiff’s cause of action accrued
Accrual is not keyed to knowledge of a legal cause of
action, but rather knowledge of injury. See Wallace, 549 U.S. at
The Court assumes without deciding that Plaintiff did indeed,
have a federal constitutional right to a jury trial. The Court
notes, however, that Defendants argue Plaintiff had no such right
insofar as there is no right to a jury trial in municipal court.
Plaintiff makes no argument concerning the timeliness of his
First Amendment retaliation claim.
388; Sameric Corp., 142 F.3d at 599.
the deprivation of a jury trial.
Plaintiff’s alleged injury is
He knew when he was being
summarily tried in 1989 that there was no jury.
The fact that
Plaintiff alleges that he did not appreciate the legal significance
of this omission until 2014, as a matter of law, does not alter the
date upon which Plaintiff’s claim accrued, and therefore does not
alter the Court’ conclusion that the claim is time-barred.
Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment argument fails for similar
reasons. Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants Zonies or
Luongo somehow tricked Plaintiff into thinking a jury convicted
Equitable tolling based on fraudulent concealment applies to
fraudulent concealment of the alleged injury, not the legal right
asserted to be violated. Freeman v. State, 347 N.J. Super. 11, 32
(App. Div. 2002)(in a § 1983 case, holding that equitable tolling
did not apply because “Plaintiffs were aware of their injury and
the principal actors involved at the time of the [traffic]
Thus, the Court holds that Plaintiff’s federal law claims are
See generally Freeman, 347 N.J. Super. at 31 (“absent a showing
of intentional inducement or trickery by a defendant, the doctrine
of equitable tolling should be applied sparingly and only in the
rare situation where it is demanded by sound legal principles as
well as the interests of justice.”); see also Wallace, 549 U.S. at
396 (“Equitable tolling is a rare remedy to be applied in unusual
circumstances, not a cure-all for an entirely common state of
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the federal law claims
will be granted. 6
The Third Circuit has repeatedly stated, “‘where the claim
over which the district court has original jurisdiction is
dismissed before trial, the district court must decline to decide
the pendent state law claims unless considerations of judicial
economy, convenience, and fairness to the parties provide an
affirmative justification for doing so.’” Hedges v. Musco, 204 F.3d
109, 123 (3d Cir. 2000)(citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), and quoting
Borough of West Mifflin v. Lancaster, 45 F.3d 780, 788 (3d Cir.
1995))(emphasis added); cf. Sarpolis v. Tereshko, 625 F. App’x 594,
600 (3d Cir. 2016)(affirming district court’s retention and
exercise of supplemental jurisdiction under § 1367(c)(3) because
the district court had “an affirmative justification for exercising
supplemental jurisdiction.”)(quoting Hedges).
The Court finds no sufficient affirmative justification for
retaining supplemental jurisdiction of the remaining state law
Those claims will be dismissed without prejudice to
Plaintiff’s right to refile in the appropriate state forum.
The Court need not allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend
because the Court’s holding that the claims are time-barred also
supports the conclusion that amendment would be futile. See Grayson
v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 106, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).
For the reasons stated above, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
will be granted as to all claims asserted under federal law, and
the Court will decline to retain supplemental jurisdiction over the
remaining state law claims.
An appropriate order accompanies this
Dated: March 29, 2017
At Camden, New Jersey
__s/ Noel L. Hillman ___
NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
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