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BRYANT v. NEW JERSEY DOT

February 17, 1998

LILLIAN E. BRYANT, LILLIAN W. BRYANT, CARL BRISCOE, GUSTAVIA ELLIS, PIERRE HOLLINGSWORTH, MICHAEL F. JOHNSON, ELWOOD S. DAVIS, FIRST WARD CIVIC ASSOCIATION, THIRD WARD CIVIC ASSOCIATION and WEST SIDE PROTECTIVE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, THE SOUTH JERSEY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, MIRAGE RESORTS INCORPORATED, THE NEW JERSEY TRANSPORTATION TRUST FUND AUTHORITY and THE CASINO REINVESTMENT DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ORLOFSKY

 ORLOFSKY, District Judge:

 This action arises out of the proposed construction of a highway and tunnel through what the plaintiffs describe as the last stable, middle-class African-American residential neighborhood in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This project would require the condemnation of at least nine homes in that neighborhood, and in addition, would allegedly create a variety of other adverse impacts on the community. *fn1" The plaintiffs in this case, who are residents of that community, and local neighborhood associations, filed this action for declaratory and injunctive relief under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New Jersey's Coastal Area Facility Review Act ("CAFRA"). The plaintiffs seek to prevent the condemnation of their homes and the construction of the highway and tunnel. This Court's jurisdiction is premised upon 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.

 The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. As a threshold matter, I must first explore the prudential limitations on standing to sue under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, I must decide whether the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 abrogated the so-called "Intended Beneficiary Doctrine" which limits standing under Title VI to intended beneficiaries of, applicants for, or participants in a federally funded program. For the reasons set forth below, I conclude that Title VI still requires a plaintiff to plead such a nexus to a federally funded program, and that the plaintiffs are not within the class of persons protected by Title VI. Therefore, their Title VI claim will be dismissed for lack of standing. I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' state law claim. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367; Trump, 963 F. Supp. at 408. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' CAFRA claim will be dismissed without prejudice.

 I. BACKGROUND

 For purposes of these motions to dismiss, I must accept as true the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint. See RTC Mortgage Trust 1994 N-1 v. Fidelity National Title Insurance Co., 981 F. Supp. 334, 338 (D.N.J. 1997); Porter v. United States, 919 F. Supp. 927, 929 (E.D. Va. 1996); see also Suber v. Chrysler Corp., 104 F.3d 578, 581 (3d Cir. 1997). As part of an economic redevelopment project, the defendants, the State of New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and Mirage Resorts, Inc. (collectively "Defendants"), agreed to cooperate in the financing and construction of a casino and entertainment complex on a site known as the "H-tract" in Atlantic City, New Jersey. See Amended Complaint at PP 1, 15-21.

 In January of 1997, Lillian E. Bryant, Lillian W. Bryant, Carl Briscoe, Gustavia Ellis, Pierre Hollingsworth, Michael F. Johnson and Elwood S. Davis, all African-American residents and taxpayers of Atlantic City, received condemnation notices in connection with the Westside Bypass project. Id. at PP 5, 30. The First Ward Civic Association, the Third Ward Civic Association and the West Side Protective Homeowners Association are neighborhood associations composed primarily of African-American residents and taxpayers of Atlantic City. Id. at P 5.

 On March 19, 1997, these individuals and associations (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed this action to prevent the condemnation of their homes and construction of the Westside Bypass. In addition to the threatened condemnation proceedings, Plaintiffs allege that "construction of the Westside Bypass will have a variety of adverse impacts, including air quality, traffic, wetlands, water quality, and community character impacts, as well as other impacts." Id. at P 45; see also id. at PP 31-37. Plaintiffs allege that the project will have a disparate impact on minority residents of Atlantic City and the Venice Beach community. See, e.g., id. at P 3.

 On March 31, 1997, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. In June, 1997 Defendants filed a series of motions to dismiss. On October 10, 1997, the Public Interest Law Center of New Jersey, Inc. ("PILC"), filed a motion for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae. *fn3"

 II. DISCUSSION

 Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. Section 601 of that act provides:

 
No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.

 Defendants challenge Plaintiffs' standing to maintain this action by alleging, in essence, that Plaintiffs' interests do not fall within the zone of interests protected by Title VI. I conclude that the protections of Title VI extend only to persons with a direct nexus to the challenged federally funded program, and that such persons include only the intended beneficiaries of, applicants for, or participants in the federally funded program. In this case, Plaintiffs have not alleged such a nexus and their claims under Title VI will therefore be dismissed for lack of standing.

 On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, I accept all well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. See, e.g., Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402, 1405 (3d Cir. 1991). Nevertheless, I will dismiss a claim if it appears certain that Plaintiffs cannot prove any set of facts which would entitle them to relief. See, e.g., Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988). Moreover, "Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27, 104 L. Ed. 2d 338, 109 S. Ct. 1827 (1989) (noting that this procedure "streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding"). It is improper to assume that plaintiffs can prove facts which they have not alleged. Mruz v. CARING, Inc., F. Supp. , , 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 826, 1998 WL 35379, *4-5 (D.N.J. Jan. 28, 1998) (citing Associated General Contractors of Calif. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 74 L. Ed. 2d 723, 103 S. Ct. 897 (1983)).

 Despite Defendants' reliance upon Rule 12(b)(6), their challenge to the jurisdictional predicate of standing is properly framed as a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). See Xerox Corp. v. Genmoora Corp., 888 F.2d 345, 350 (5th Cir. 1989) ("standing challenges are dealt with by motion under [Rule 12(b)(1)]"); Villareal v. Snow, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 667, 1996 WL 28282, *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 19, 1996) ("motion to dismiss based on plaintiff's alleged lack of standing would more appropriately have been brought as a 12(b)(1) motion, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction"); see generally Davis by Davis v. Philadelphia Housing Authority, 121 F.3d 92, 94-95 (3d Cir. 1997) (discussing "the distinction between a dismissal of a claim for lack of standing ... and a dismissal for failure to state a cause of action"). In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, "the court should consider 'whether plaintiff[s'] allegations, standing alone and taken as true [plead] jurisdiction and a meritorious cause of action.'" Porter v. United States, 919 F. Supp. 927, 929 (E.D. Va. 1996) (quoting Dickey v. Greene, 729 F.2d 957, 958 (4th Cir. 1984)); see Suber v. Chrysler Corp., 104 F.3d 578, 581 (3d Cir. 1997).

 Standing requires satisfaction of both constitutional and prudential requirements. See Bennett v. Spear, 137 L. Ed. 2d 281, 117 S. Ct. 1154, 1161 (1997); Davis, 121 F.3d at 96; Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts, Inc., 963 F. Supp. 395, 399-400 (D.N.J. 1997). To maintain a suit in federal court, Article III of the Constitution requires, at a minimum, "[a] particularized injury-in-fact, which is actual or imminent, an injury that is fairly traceable to the conduct complained of, and an injury that can be redressed by a favorable decision." Trump, 963 F. Supp. at 399 n.5 (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351, 112 S. Ct. 2130 (1992)). Federal courts also exercise prudential self-restraint by considering several additional factors. See Davis, 121 F.3d at 96; see also Bennett, 117 S. Ct. at 1161.

 One of the prudential standing requirements is "that a plaintiff's grievance must arguably fall within the zone of interests protected or regulated by the statutory provision or constitutional guarantee invoked in the suit." Bennett, 117 S. Ct. at 1161; see Trump, 963 F. Supp. at 400; Davis, 121 F.3d at 96. Whether a plaintiff's claim arguably falls within the protected zone of interests must "be determined not by reference to the overall purpose of the Act in question ...


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