WEISS v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jose L. Linares on 8/18/17. (DD, ) N/M
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No.: 17-1406 (JLL)
STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
LINARES, Chief District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendant State of New Jersey’s Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff has Opposed the Motion. (ECF No. 11) The Court has
considered the parties’ submissions and decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Rule
78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. for the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the
Motion to Dismiss.
Pro se Plaintiff Stanley Weiss is a New Jersey resident and lives in the Township of South
Orange. (See ECF No. 1 (“Compi.”)
1). The sole defendant in the action is the State of New
Jersey. (See generally Compi.). Plaintiff appears to bring this action seeking to enforce some
unidentified “constitutional rights pursuant to the majority opinion in United States v. Jones, 565
This background is derived from Plaintiffs Complaint, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the
proceedings. See Aiston v. Counoywide Fin. Coip., 585 F.3d 753, 758 (3d Cir. 2009).
U.S. 945 (2012).” (Compl. at 1) (underlining in original).
While the Complaint is difficult to decipher, the Court gleans the following facts. At some
point in August of 2013, a Municipal Court Action was instituted against Plaintiff “for failure to
take down a tree which was alleged to be dead and found to be so after trial.” (Compi.
Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared in South Orange Municipal Court where he was “convicted” and
“assessed a penalty of $830.oo [sic] which was paid.” (Id.). “Plaintiff’s principal defense was
The Rule was unconstitutional under the Jones case and that the Municipal Court lacked the power
to even consider the issue.” (Id.) (underlining in original).
Plaintiff appealed the Municipal Court’s ruling to the Superior Court of New Jersey.2
(Compl. ¶ 2). The Superior Court reviewed the matter de novo, and affirmed the Municipal Court.
(Id.). According to Plaintiff, the Superior Court
relied upon a string of cases, all of which were decided prior to Jones and
largely reflected the views of the minority opinion in Jones. It also
distinguished Jones by erroneously finding that it was based upon a fact, not
present in this case, that a global position system had been used to track the
movement of the suspects automobile
which has nothing to do with
trespass. In fact, the Jones decision was based on a finding that the device
involved was installed on a car in the legal possession of the party involves
and that the installation was a physical intrusion considered a trespass upon
that party’s property.
¶ 2) (underlining in original).
Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal with the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate
3). The Appellate Division rendered its decision on June 1, 2016 and
“strongly endorsed the lower Court opinion but [sic] held that Plaintiff lacked standing to sue,
While Plaintiff does not specify which vicinage his appeal was taken to, the Court presumes that the action was
appealed to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County, Law Division, Criminal Part, based on the allegations
contained in Compi. and the fact that the Township of South Orange is located within Essex County.
apparently unaware of the fact that the lower Court specifically found that plaintiff had standing
to sue, citing two New Jersey Supreme Court cases for that view.” (Id.). Plaintiff filed a petition
of certification with New Jersey’s Supreme Court which “contended that his constitutional rights
protected by Jones had been violated.” (Compi.
The petition was denied. (Id.). Plaintiff
brings this action because he “still does not understand how he can be convicted of a crime before
any court has niled on the merits of his basic defense.” (Id.).
Plaintiff instituted the within action on february 27, 2017. (See generally Compl.). On
June 23, 2017, Plaintiff was directed to move the action by requesting default. (ECF No. 5).
Thereafler, on June 30, 2017, Defendant sought an extension of time to answer or otherwise plead,
which this Court granted. (ECF Nos. 6, 7). Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment,
which was administratively terminated as premature and procedurally improper. (ECF Nos. 8, 9).
Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint. (ECF No. 11).
A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(1)
Under Rule 12 (b)( 1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a Defendant may move to
dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matterjurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(l). The plaintiff,
as the party asserting jurisdiction, bears the burden to establish the federal court’s authority to hear
the matter. Packard v. Provident Nat’l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir. 1993). However,
depending on the nature of the attack under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(l), which may either assert a
factual or facial challenge to the court’s jurisdiction, a presumption of truthfulness may attach to
the plaintiffs allegations. See Taliaferro v. Darby Twp. ZoningBd., 458 F. 3d 181, 188 (3d Cir.
2006); Gould Electronics Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000); Turicentro, LA.
v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 303 F. 3d 293, 300 n.4 (3d Cir. 2002). When a defendant facially attacks the
Court’s jurisdiction under Rule 12 (b)(1). this type of challenge effectively contests the adequacy
of the language used in the pleading; the trial court must therefore construe the pleadings in a light
most favorable to the plaintiff and presume all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as
true. Tttricentro, 303 f.3d at 300 n.4; Gould, 220 F.3d at 176. Alternatively, when bringing a
factual attack, the defendant contends that the facts on which the plaintiffs allegations rely are not
true as a matter of fact. Id. Therefore, the plaintiffs allegations do not benefit from a presumption
of truthftilness; the court, instead, must weigh the evidence in its discretion by taking into account
affidavits, documents, and even limited evidentiary hearings. Id.
B. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6)
To withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Jqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell At!. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007)). “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.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twomblv, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility standard is not akin to
a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
To determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twom b/v and Iqba! in the Third Circuit,
the court must take three steps: first, the court must take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead
to state a claim; second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and finally, where there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement for relief. See Gonnelle
1’. Laie Gonstr.
Gorp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d
Cir. 2016) (citations omitted). “In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court must consider only
the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly
authentic documents if the complainant’s claims are based upon these documents.” Mayer
Belichick, 605 f.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010).
As mentioned, Plaintiffs Complaint is difficult to decipher. At the very least, Plaintiffs
Complaint fails to meet the pleading standards set forth in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Insomuch that Plaintiffs Complaint seeks relief from the Municipal Court fine, said
claim cannot proceed.
Under the Rooker-Feidman doctrine, federal district courts are haired from hearing cases
“that are essentially appeals from state-court judgments.” Great W. Mining & Mineral Go.
Rothschild LLF, 615 F.3d 159, 165 (3d Cir. 2010). Put another way, a suit is baiTed under the
Rooker—fetdrnan doctrine where “a favorable decision in federal court would require negating or
reversing the state-court decision.” Id. at 170 n.4 (citations omitted). The Third Circuit has
explicitlyheld that federal courts are barred by the Rooker-feidman doctrine from providing relief
that would overturn a state court decision. See, e.g., Gage v. Wells fargo Bank, NA AS, 521 F.
App’x 49, 51 (3d Cir. 2013); Manit v. Nat’l Gity Bank ofIndiana, 471 F. App’x 101, 105 (3d Cir.
2012); Moncriefv. chase Manhattan Mortg. Gorp., 275 F. App’x 149, 152 (3d Cir. 2008); Ayres
Fountain v. E. Scw Bank, 153 F. App’x 91, 92 (3d Cir. 2005).
In order for the Booker-Feldman doctrine to apply, four requirements must be met: “(I)
the federal plaintiff lost in state court; (2) the plaintiff ‘complain[sJ 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
615 F.3d at 166
Saudi Basic Indtts. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284
(2005)). “The second and fourth requirements are the key to determining whether a federal suit
presents an independent, non-barred claim” and are “closely related.” Id. at 166, 168.
The first and third prongs are clearly met in the instant action: Plaintiff lost in the Municipal
Court Action and that judgment was rendered in or about September 2013—prior to Plaintiffs
filing of the instant action in this Court on February 27, 2017. Additionally, the second prong is
met because Plaintiff complains of “injuries” caused by the Municipal Court’s judgment. (Compl.
¶ 1-2). Finally, the fourth prong is met as any decision by this Court would result in a rejection
of the Municipal Court’s judgment, as well as both the Superior Court and Appellate Division’s
affirnmnces. Hence, this Court is without subject matter jurisdiction over this action.
Even if this Court had subject matter jurisdiction, which it does not, the action could not
proceed. This is because Plaintiffs Complaint simply fails to meet the pleading standards set forth
under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as under Iqbat and Twombly. Indeed,
Plaintiffs Complaint does not apprise the Court, let alone Defendant, of what cause of action is
being asserted, the basis of Federal Court jurisdiction, nor any additional facts necessary to meet
said pleading standard. Moreover, the Complaint is devoid of any explanation as to why the State
of New Jersey should be liable for the Municipal Court of South Orange’s alleged wrongdoings.
finally, if this action were to be pled sufficiently, the State of New Jersey cannot be liable
for violations of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Section 1983 provides, in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
subjects, or causes to be
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for
§ 1983. Therefore, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two
elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him to be deprived of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was done under color of state
law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 f.3d 1250, 125556 (3d Cir. 1994).
It has long been established that “neither a State nor its officials acting in their official
capacities are ‘persons’ under
§ 1983.” Will v. Much. Dep ‘to/State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71(1989);
Grabow v. S. State Corr. facility. 726 F. Supp. 537, 538-39 (D.N.J. 1989); see Marsden v. federal
BOP, $56 F. Supp. 832, 836 (S.D.N.Y. 1994); see also Mitchell v. Chester Cottntv fctrms Prison,
426 F. Supp. 271, 274 (E.D. Pa. 1976). Accordingly, Defendant State of New Jersey camiot be
liable for the claims herein. See e.g. Salerno v. Corzine, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92353, 2006 WL
3780587, at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 20, 2006).
For the reasons above, the Court grants the Motion to Dismiss and dismisses Plaintiffs
Complaint. Given Plaintiff spro-se status, the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff
shall have until Thursday, September 28, 2017 to file a First Amended Complaint to address the
deficiencies identified herein. The First Amended Complaint is to include a separate section for
each cause of action being asserted. Each section shall contain separate numbered paragraphs with
substantive facts relating to the cause of action being asserted. Finally, Plaintiffs First Amended
Complaint shall address the subject matter issues discussed above. Failure to comply with these
instructions shall result in a dismissal with prejudice. An appropriate Order accompanies this
/psE L. LINARES
‘/hief Judge, United States District Court
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