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Lueder v. New Jersey Board of Nursing

July 11, 2000

ROBERT M. LUEDER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW JERSEY BOARD OF NURSING, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge.

HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

After years of attempts to receive a nursing license from the New Jersey Board of Nursing, plaintiff filed the current Notice of Motion for Leave to Appeal from the Inaction of the New Jersey Board of Nursing, alleging that the Board of Nursing violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by denying his First Amendment right to petition a higher authority for redress, his Fifth Amendment right to Due Process of law by using a 1964 juvenile conviction as one reason to deny licensure, his Eighth Amendment right to be free of the cruel and unusual punishment of the stated demands for further psychological testing, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to a profession. (Pl.'s Br. at 1, 16-17.) Plaintiff argues that he deserves a nursing license based on several positive recommendations and that this Court should therefore grant him a hearing and oral argument so that he can appeal his case for licensure to this Court because the Nursing Board's inactivity has violated his constitutional rights. (Pl.'s Reply at 2.) Presently before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Fed. R. Civ. P. Defendant argues that this Court must dismiss the case under abstention and jurisdictional principles. The determination of this motion requires a straight-forward application of the doctrine of federal court non-reviewability of state supreme court adjudications under the Rooker/Feldman cases and the doctrine of abstention under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), as discussed below. For the reasons stated herein, defendant's motion will be granted and this Court will dismiss the case based on the lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker/Feldman doctrine and, alternatively, based on the need for the federal court to abstain from exercising its jurisdiction in a way that will interfere with an ongoing state judicial proceeding under the Younger abstention doctrine.

II. BACKGROUND

Since 1987, plaintiff has tried to obtain a license from the New Jersey State Board of Nursing. His requests for licensure have been repeatedly denied based on his past criminal record coupled with his inadequate proof of rehabilitation.

In 1964, at age 17, plaintiff was sentenced to Reform School in North Dakota for two armed robberies and one burglary. (Pl.'s Br. at 8.) He escaped from the Reform School, but was apprehended and resentenced to the North Dakota State Penitentiary. (Id. at 9.)

In 1967, plaintiff was paroled and traveled to New Jersey. (Id.) On September 24, 1970, plaintiff was convicted for the armed robbery of a New Jersey liquor store. (Id. at 10.) Two days later, plaintiff escaped from the Camden County Jail, falling five stories to the pavement. (Id.) Plaintiff fled with his family to Oregon. (Id. at 11.)

In 1971, while in Oregon, plaintiff robbed a Federal Savings and Loan Association. (Id.) He then moved to New Jersey where, in 1972, after threatening police officers with his pistol, he surrendered to Federal Agents. (Id.)

On August 30, 1972, plaintiff pled guilty to criminal charges of unlawfully, knowingly, and willfully by force, violence and intimidation taking $3,694 from the Oregon bank. (Id.; Def.'s Br. at 5.) On June 25, 1973, plaintiff pled guilty to assaulting the police officers with an offensive weapon. (Def.'s Br. at 5.) On October 2, 1973, plaintiff was again sentenced for his 1970 armed robbery conviction. (Id.; Pl.'s Br. at 11.)

After his release from prison in 1984, plaintiff attended nursing school at Gloucester County College. (Pl.'s Br. at 12.) He graduated in 1987, but the New Jersey Board of Nursing decided not to grant him permission to sit for the Licensing Examination because of his criminal convictions and because he had falsely sworn on his application for licensure that he had not been convicted of any federal and/or state crimes. (Pl.'s App. at 3.) Plaintiff, however, did not receive the letter until after he had taken the Examination. (Pl.'s Br. at 13.)

Plaintiff requested a hearing to contest the Board's decision. (Pl.'s App. at 4.) On September 30, 1988, the Board held a hearing during which plaintiff offered documentation about his completion of college, his release from parole, and his rehabilitation. (Id. at 6-8.)

In an Order dated December 1, 1988, the New Jersey Board of Nursing denied plaintiff's request for licensure. (Id. at 5.) The Board of Nursing found that plaintiff failed to demonstrate sufficient rehabilitation to overcome his history of committing crimes of moral turpitude that involved premeditation, exploitation, and violence. (Id. at 13-14.) Indeed, in 1983 the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center examined plaintiff and noted that he had an absence of impulse control which made it highly possible that he would become physically dangerous to those around him if he was exposed to stressful or unstructured situations. (Id. at 13.) The Board of Nursing, therefore, refused to permit plaintiff to practice nursing, a profession requiring honesty, trustworthiness, calm judgment, and a respect for life. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed an appeal with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division on January 10, 1988. (Id. at 16.) The Appellate Division affirmed the Board's decision, but held that the denial of licensure was not a permanent rejection. (Id. at 23.) Instead, they held that if plaintiff was able to demonstrate the rehabilitation necessary to satisfy the Board's criteria, he could reapply for licensure. (Id.)

On March 5, 1993, plaintiff reapplied for licensure. (Id. at 50.) The Board required that he submit to a psychiatric examination by a Board-chosen psychiatrist so that they would have a current evaluation of his rehabilitation. (Id. at 53.) He was evaluated by Dr. Theodore Chamberlain who noted that, while plaintiff had made substantial progress in his rehabilitation, he still could not demonstrate stability under stress. (Def.'s Br. at 8-9.) Therefore, in ...


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