MEYERS v. HYATT et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge William J. Martini on 3/18/16. (gh, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ROBERT J. MEYER
Civ. No. 2:13-6043 (WJM)
MICHAEL HYATT, et al.
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:
Pro se Plaintiff Robert Meyer alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when
he was being housed at a New Jersey Special Treatment Unit. This matter comes before
the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by individuals employed by the New Jersey
Department of Human Services.1 For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss will
Unless otherwise noted the following facts are alleged in Meyer’s amended complaint:
The moving defendants are employed with the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
The Court will collectively refer to those individuals as “the DHS Defendants.” At all
relevant times, the DHS Defendants were assigned to a Special Treatment Unit (“STU”)
where Meyer is civilly committed under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act
(“SVPA”) N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24, et seq.
Much of Meyer’s complaint concerns his placement in MAP, which stands for Modified
Activities Programming. The public record2 shows individuals who pose a danger to the
STU may be placed in MAP, which imposes a restriction on certain activities. Those
restrictions vary with the degree of danger posed by the individual. According to Meyer,
Specifically, those individuals are Shantay Adams, Mary Cahill, Gillian Klos, Merrill Main, Tashana Mitchell,
Jacylen Ottino, and Richard Van Pelt.
Matters of public record may be considered on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Penson Ben. Guar. Corp. v.
White Consol. Industries, Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196-97 (3d Cir. 1993).
security guards at the STU viciously assaulted him and then filed false reports accusing
him of committing various infractions. Those false accusations eventually landed Meyer
in MAP, where his activities were restricted
While it appears that the DHS Defendants did not personally assault Meyer, they were
largely responsible for failing to keep him out of MAP. For example, Meyer accuses of
Adams Main of “turning a blind eye” to Meyer being physically assaulted by STU security
officers. Moreover, Ottino, Van Pelt, Cahill, and Kloss were Meyer’s MAP “facilitators”
and forced Meyer to speak about his MAP “incident,” even though speaking about the
incident could potentially subject Meyer to further discipline. Meyer then accuses Mitchell
of “arbitrarily and capriciously” placing him in MAP before any investigation was
concluded, thereby depriving Meyer of his due process rights.
The DHS Defendants now move to dismiss all claims against them.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides for the dismissal of a complaint for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). There are two types of challenges
to subject-matter jurisdiction: (1) facial attacks, which challenge the allegations of the
complaint on their face; and (2) factual attacks, which challenge the existence of subjectmatter jurisdiction, quite apart from any pleadings. Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan
Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977). In reviewing a facial attack, like the one in this
case, the court must consider the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Gould Electronics Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir.2000);
PBGC v. White, 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.1993). In reviewing a factual attack, the court
may consider evidence outside the pleadings, and no presumptive truthfulness attaches to
the plaintiff's allegations. Gotha v. United States, 115 F.3d 176, 178–79 (3d Cir.1997).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in
whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The
moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United
States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump
Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).
Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, “a plaintiff's
obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels
and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations
must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level, such that it
is “plausible on its face.” See id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542
F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). A claim has “facial plausibility 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) (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). While “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement'
... it asks for more than a sheer possibility.” Id.
To the extent Meyer asserts claims against the DHS Defendants in their official
capacities, those claims must be dismissed. A suit against a state official in his official
capacity is really a suit against the state. Grohs v. Yatauro, 984 F.Supp.2d 273, 280 (D.N.J.
2013); see also Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Therefore,
any 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the DHS Defendants in their official capacities are in
fact claims against the state. Because 42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not operate as a waiver of
state sovereign immunity, Will, 491 U.S. at 71, Meyer’s official capacity claims must be
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. See Zalazar v. Kaminski, No. Civ. No. 14-8132,
2015 WL 1867049, *3 (D.N.J. Apr. 22, 2015) (sovereign immunity bars official capacity
claim against officials employed by New Jersey’s Department of Human Services).
To the extent Meyer asserts 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the DHS Defendants in
their individual capacities, those claims also fail. As the DHS Defendants correctly point
out, Meyer’s claims are nothing more than naked assertions that cannot presently overcome
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 555 (naked assertions are
insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twobly, 550 U.S.
544, 557 (2007)). Meyer does not, for example, explain how some DHS Defendants forced
Meyer to discuss his MAP placement, nor does he discuss how those Defendants subjected
Meyer to further discipline. Similarly, the amended complaint does not explain how
Mitchell’s decision to place Meyer in MAP was arbitrary or capricious. Finally, Meyer
does not allege sufficiently specific facts explaining how certain DHS Defendants “turned
a blind eye” to the abuse Meyer suffered at the hands of STU security. Meyer’s individual
capacity claims against the DHS Defendants are nothing more than conclusory labels;
consequently, they will be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Meyer will be given
thirty days leave to amend his individual capacity claims against the DHS Defendants. See
Phillips v. County Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 235-37 (3d Cir. 2008) (district court must grant
leave to amend before dismissing a pro se civil rights complaint).
For the foregoing reasons, the DHS Defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
An appropriate order accompanies this decision.
/s/ William J. Martini
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Date: March 18, 2016
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