CALLENDER v. THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
MEMORANDUM OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/16/2016. (js)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-364 (JBS)
STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
Pro se Plaintiff Paul Callender brings this action against
the State of New Jersey alleging violation of his due process
and equal protection of the law, seeking $300,000 in
compensation to remedy an unfavorable decision by the New Jersey
Appellate Court and trial court in a medical malpractice case.
Because Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis,
the Court has an obligation to screen the Complaint under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court finds as follows:
Because Plaintiff’s application discloses that he is
indigent, the Court will, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, permit
the Complaint to be filed without prepayment of fees, and will
direct the Clerk of Court to file the Complaint.
Section 1915(e)(2)(B) requires the Court to screen the
Plaintiff’s Complaint and to dismiss any claim that is frivolous
or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).
A complaint “is frivolous
where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.”
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting
1915(e)(2)’s predecessor, the former § 1915(d)).
court must accept as true all factual allegations in a
complaint, that tenet is “inapplicable to legal conclusions” and
“[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted).
Plaintiff’s Complaint, on its face, suffers from a
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and must be dismissed.
Plaintiff’s Complaint is barred, in turn, by a lack of diversity
jurisdiction, by Eleventh Amendment immunity, and by the RookerFeldman doctrine.
As courts of limited jurisdiction, the federal courts
may only exercise jurisdiction over cases in which the
Constitution and Congress expressly grant them power.
v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994);
Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 418 (3d
Cir. 2010). Because this case presents no federal question for
this Court to resolve, subject matter jurisdiction must be
predicated upon the diversity of citizenship of the
The diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), provides
that district courts “have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value
of $75,000, exclusive of interest and, and is between ...
citizens of different States.” The statute requires complete
diversity among the parties: in cases with multiple plaintiffs
or multiple defendants, no plaintiff be a citizen of the same
state as any defendant. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah
Svcs. Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 553, (2005); Zambelli, 592 F.3d at
419. A natural person is deemed to be a citizen of the state
where he is domiciled. See Swiger v. Allegheny Energy, Inc., 540
F.3d 179, 182 (3d Cir.2008) (citing Gilbert v. David, 235 U.S.
561, 569 (1915)). Plaintiff provides a Post Office box in
Atlantic City, New Jersey as his address; as such, he is
presumed to be domiciled in New Jersey. As a citizen of the same
state as the Defendant, the State of New Jersey, there is no
diversity of citizenship, and without diversity of citizenship,
this Court is without subject matter jurisdiction to hear
Furthermore, the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff’s
case. The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution
makes states immune from lawsuits seeking monetary damages
brought by their own citizens or by citizens from other states
unless the state consents to be sued or Congress otherwise
abrogates the state’s sovereign immunity. Hans v. Louisiana, 134
U.S. 1 (1890). In this case, Plaintiff can point to no action by
Congress or by the State of New Jersey waiving its sovereign
immunity and consenting to a suit such as his. Accordingly,
sovereign immunity provides a second reason this Court has no
jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s case against the State of New
And finally, Plaintiff’s Complaint is barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which precludes federal district courts
from reviewing the decisions of state courts. See Rooker v.
Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923); District of Columbia
Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). Federal
district courts lack jurisdiction to hear appeals from civil
judgments of state courts. Only the Supreme Court can “reverse
or modify” state court judgments. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi
Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284-85 (2005) (citing Rooker,
263 U.S. at 416). This is the third reason this Court is without
jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s Complaint.
An accompanying Order will be entered.
March 16, 2016
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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