CALLENDER v. THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
MEMORANDUM, OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 5/5/17. (jbk, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-4317 (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 an unspecified amount
of damages to remedy an unfavorable decision by the New Jersey
Supreme Court in a medical malpractice case.1
This Court previously dismissed a prior version of Plaintiff’s
Complaint, where Plaintiff sought to remedy an unfavorable
decision by the New Jersey Appellate Court and trial court in
the same medical malpractice action. See Callender v. State of
New Jersey, No. 16-634, Docket Item 4.] The Third Circuit
affirmed the Court’s opinion on subject matter jurisdiction
grounds because “New Jersey has neither consented to nor waived
its Eleventh Amendment immunity here.” Callender v. State of New
Jersey, ___ F. App’x ___, 2017 WL 35719 at *1 (3d Cir. Jan. 4,
2017). The Third Circuit additionally held that the Court “did
not err in failing to provide Callender an opportunity to amend
his complaint because his suit essentially seeks review of a
state court opinion and is thus barred by the RookerFeldman doctrine, as explained by the District Court.” Id. at *1
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, like his previous complaint
filed contesting the rulings of the New Jersey Appellate Court
and trial court, 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, by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and
by the doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion.
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
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
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution
makes states immune from lawsuits in federal courts 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
Accordingly, sovereign immunity provides a second reason
this Court has no jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s case against
the State of New Jersey.
Plaintiff’s Complaint is also 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).
courts lack jurisdiction to hear appeals from civil judgments of
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
There are four requirements that must be met for the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine to apply: (1) the federal plaintiff lost
in state court; (2) the plaintiff “complain[s] of injuries
caused by [the] state-court judgments”; (3) those judgments were
rendered before the federal suit was filed; and (4) the
plaintiff is inviting the district court to review and reject
the state judgments. Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox
Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 166 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoting Exxon,
544 U.S. at 284)).
All four requirements are met here:
Plaintiff lost in state court, see Callender v. Brabson, 218
N.J. 530 (2014), Plaintiff claims that his medical malpractice
case was “unjustly dismissed” at all three levels of the New
Jersey court system, Plaintiff filed this Complaint two years
after the Supreme Court denied his petition for certification,
and Plaintiff asks this Court to review the decisions of the
state courts. (Compl. at 1-2.)
This is the third reason this
Court is without jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s Complaint.
Finally, Plaintiff’s Complaint is barred by the
doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion. Claim preclusion
applies when “there has been (1) a final judgment on the merits
in a prior suit involving (2) the same parties or their privies
and (3) a subsequent suit based on the same cause of action.”
Lubrizol Corp. v. Exxon Corp., 929 F.2d 960, 963 (3d Cir.
1991). “The doctrine of res judicata bars not only claims that
were brought in a previous action, but also claims that could
have been brought.” In re Mullarkey, 536 F.3d 215, 225 (3d
Cir.2008) (citing Post v. Hartford Ins. Co., 501 F.3d 154, 169
(3d Cir. 2007)).
Here, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal
of Plaintiff’s prior Complaint in this Court contesting the
actions of the Appellate Court and trial court in the same
medical malpractice case, both Callender and the State of New
Jersey were involved in the prior action, and Plaintiff brings
the same causes of action this time (due process and equal
protection violations) that he brought last time.
given that Plaintiff filed his original complaint on January 21,
2016, and the New Jersey Supreme Court denied Plaintiff’s
petition on July 18, 2014, there is no reason why he could not
have included any alleged harms resulting from the Supreme Court
decision in his original complaint. As a result, res judicata
bars Plaintiff’s Complaint in this case.
Further, the Court will not grant Plaintiff leave to
amend because it is not plausible that he might cure these
jurisdictional defects, and because this suit itself represents
Plaintiff’s second unsuccessful attempt to bring this matter
before this federal court.
An accompanying Order will be entered.
May 5, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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