WEISS v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jose L. Linares on 10/12/17. (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NOT FOR PUBLICATION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 Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration of
this Court’s August 21, 2017 Order and Opinion Dismissing Plaintiffs Complaint without
prejudice. (ECF No. 14). Defendant has Opposed Plaintiffs Motion (ECF No. 16), to which
Plaintiff has replied. (ECF No. 17). The Court has considered the parties’ submissions and decides
this matter without oral argument pursuant to Rule 7$ of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. for
the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration.
The Court presumes the parties are familiar with the factual background and the allegations
asserted in Plaintiffs Complaint based on the parties’ own involvement in this case as well as this
Court’s Opinion dated August 21, 2017. (ECF No. 12). Accordingly the Court will set forth a
brief procedural background. On February 27, 2017 pro se Plaintiff Stanley Weiss instituted this
This background is derived from Plaintiffs Complaint, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the
proceedings. SeeAlston v. Cottntiywide Fin. Coip., 585 f.3d 753, 758 (3d Cir. 2009).
action against Defendant State of New Jersey seeking to enforce some unidentified “constitutional
rights pursuant to the majority opinion in United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 945 (2012).” (ECF No.
1 (“Compi.”) at 1) (underlining in original). The Court noted that the Complaint was difficult to
decipher, but gleaned the following facts. (ECf No. 12 at 2). 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.” (Cornpl.
I). Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared in
South Orange Municipal Court where he was “convicted” and “assessed a penalty of $83 0.oo [sic]
which was paid.” (Id.). “Plaintiffs 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 then engaged in various appeals of the Municipal Court’s ruling to the Superior
Court of New Jersey.2 (Compl.
The Superior Court reviewed the matter de novo, and
affirmed the Municipal Court. (Cornpl.
the Superior Court’s holding. (Compi.
petition for certification. (Cornpl.
On June 1, 2016, the Appellate Division affirmed
3) New Jersey’s Supreme Court denied Plaintiffs
Accordingly, Plaintiff brought this action because he “still does not understand how he
can be convicted of a crime before any court has ruled on the merits of his basic defense.” (Id.).
On June 23, 2017, Plaintiff was directed to move the action by requesting default. (ECF No. 5).
Thereafter, 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,
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 Compl. and the fact that the Township of South Orange is located within Essex County.
which was administratively terminated as premature and procedurally improper. (ECF Nos. 8, 9).
Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint in lieu of filing an Answer. (ECF No. 11). The
matter was fully briefed, and, on August 21, 2017, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs Complaint.
(ECFN05. 12, 13).
In dismissing the Complaint, this Court found that, based on the current state of the
Complaint, the action was barred by the Rooker-fetdman doctrine. (ECF No. 12 at 5-6). Hence,
the Court held that it was without subject matter jurisdiction. (Id.). The Court further held that,
even if this Court had subject matter jurisdiction, the action could not proceed because Plaintiffs
Complaint failed to meet the pleading standards set forth in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, as well as under the cases of Twombly and Iqbal. (Id. at 6). Finally, the Court noted
that this matter could not proceed against the State of New Jersey for claims under 42 U.S.C.
1983 because the State is not a “person” under
§ 1983. (Id. at 7). Accordingly, the Court dismissed
the Complaint and granted Plaintiff leave to file a First Amended Complaint. (Id.). The Court
provided Plaintiff with clear instructions on how to formulate the First Amended Complaint and
specifically noted that Plaintiff was to address the subject matter jurisdiction issues identified
therein. (Id. at 7-8).
Instead of filing a First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for
(ECF No. 14).
As Defendant correctly notes, Plaintiffs Motion for
Reconsideration only addresses the dismissal under the Rooker-feidman doctrine and does not
address the other reasons for dismissal. (Id.).
“[R]econsideration is an extraordinary remedy that is granted ‘very sparing/v.” L. Civ. R.
7.1(1) crnt. 6(d) (quoting Bracketi v. Ashcrofl, No. 03-3988, 2003 WL 22303078, *2 (D.N.J. Oct.
7, 2003)) (emphasis added); see also Fetlenz v. Lombard Investment Coip., 400 F. Supp. 2d 681,
683 (D.N.J. 2005). A motion for reconsideration “may not be used to re-litigate old matters, nor
to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry ofjudgment.”
P. Schoenfetd Asset Mgmt., LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161 F. Supp. 2d 349, 352 (D.N.J. 2001). To
prevail on a motion for reconsideration, the moving party must “set[
concisely the matter
or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge or Magistrate Judge has overlooked.”
L. Civ. R. 7.1(i).
The Court will reconsider a prior order only where a different outcome is justified by: “(1)
an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence not available
previously; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” N. River
Ins. Co. v. CIGNA
C’o., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995) (internal quotations
omitted). A court commits clear error of law “only if the record cannot support the findings that
led to that ruling.” ABS Brokercige Sen’s. v. Penson Fi,z. Sen’s., Inc., No. 09-4590, 2010 WL
3257992, at *6 (D.N.J. Aug.16, 2010) (citing United States v. Grape, 549 F.3d 591, 603—04 (3d
Cir. 200$)). “Thus. a party must.
demonstrate that (1) the holdings on which it bases its request
were without support in the record, or (2) would result in ‘manifest injustice’ if not addressed.”
Id. “Mere ‘disagreement with the Court’s decision’ does not suffice.” Id. (quoting P. Schoeifeld,
161 F. Supp. 2d at 353). Moreover, when the assertion is that the Court overlooked something,
the Court must have overlooked some dispositive factual or legal matter that was presented to it.
See L. Civ. R. 7.1(i).
As this Court explained in its first Opinion, under the Rooker-feidman doctrine, federal
district courts are barred from hearing cases “that are essentially appeals from state-court
judgments.” Great W Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 165 (3d Cir.
2010). Pttt another way, a suit is barred under the Rooker—Feldman 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 explicitly held 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); Mann v. Nat’l City
Bank of Indiana, 471 F. App’x 101, 105 (3d Cir. 2012); Moncriefv. Chase Manhattan Mortg.
Corp., 275 F. App’x 149, 152 (3d Cir. 200$); Ayres-Fountain v. F. Say. Bank, 153 F. App’x 91,
92 (3d Cir. 2005).
In order for the Rooker-feldman doctrine to apply, four requirements must be met: “(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. 615 F.3d at 166 (citing Exxon Mobil Coip. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Coip., 544 U.S. 280, 2$4
(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.
Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration fails to explain how his Complaint is not barred
under the Rooker-feidman doctrine. Indeed, Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration suffers from
the same undecipherable infirmities. Plaintiff begins by noting that he has no interest in recovering
the fine levied by the Municipal Court and that he “attended Harvard Law School on a Felix
Frankfurter scholarship.” (ECF No. 14 at 1). Plaintiff goes on to say that “this suit does not seek
to reverse any particular lower Court decision.” (Id. at 2). However, Plaintiffs Motion fails to
explain how this Court has any authority to act, or what legal or equitable remedy is available to
As noted in the Court’s August 21, 2017 Opinion, Plaintiffs Complaint is a prime example
of a Complaint that cannot proceed under the Rooker-feidman doctrine.
Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration does Plaintiff address this fatal flaw. Plaintiff cites no
intervening change in law or facts that this Court overlooked. Instead, Plaintiff “contends that the
OPINION is unduly harsh because it requires an abandonment of principle in favor or adopting
the regular, routine type of case brought in the Federal Court to recover something-most often
money damages.” (ECF No. 14 at 2) (capitals in original). Plaintiffs one-page, hand-written reply
also offers no guidance as it simply states that Plaintiff “contend[s] that [the Court’s] Opinion
contains two mistakes.” (ECF No. 17). The first “mistake” is that the Court purportedly “ignored
the extraordinary fact that the only damage [Plaintiffi seek[s] to recover in this suit is future
payment of the costs of removing the tree.” (Id.) (emphasis in original). “The second [mistake]
is that New Jersey may never apply the Jones decision unless a Federal Court requires it to do so.”
(Id.) (emphasis in original). Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to meet his burden to succeed on a
motion for reconsideration as his Motion does not address the infirmities highlighted in the Court’s
August 21, 2017 Opinion nor does it attempt to explain why reconsideration is appropriate under
the aforementioned legal standard.
Moreover, as discussed, Plaintiffs Complaint is difficult to decipher. At the very least,
Plaintiffs Complaint fails to meet the pleading standards set forth in Rule $ of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs Complaint, along with his Motion for Reconsideration, do not
apprise this Court, let alone Defendant, what remedy he seeks or how this Court could possibly
fashion a legal remedy consistent with his demand. Such a complaint simply cannot survive a
motion to dismiss and was appropriately dismissed.
For the reasons above, the Court denies Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration. Given
Plaintiffs pro-se status, the Complaint remains dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff shall have
until Friday, November 3, 2017 to file a First Amended Complaint that addresses the deficiencies
identified in the Court’s August 21, 2017. Once again, 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 jurisdiction issues discussed
above. Failure to comply with these instructions shall result in a dismissal with prejudice. An
appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
DATED: October J0i 7
F L. LINARES
Chief Judge, United States District Court
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