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Garcia v. Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

July 11, 2002

ABEL GARCIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE RICHARD STOCKTON COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE RICHARD STOCKTON COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND PRESIDENT VERA KING FARRIS, DEFENDANTS.



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

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

I. Introduction

This case requires me to determine a question this Court has often taken for granted: specifically, whether the State of New Jersey and its alter egos may be sued in federal court under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is plainly that they may not. Although that result leaves this Court, and many of the parties appearing before it, in the awkward position of maintaining parallel, duplicative litigation in both state and federal court, absent the enactment of a legislative solution by the State of New Jersey, this Court is bound by the Eleventh Amendment and the Supreme Court's recent jurisprudence construing it. See Raygor v. Regents of Univ. of Minn., 534 U.S. 533, ----, 122 S. Ct. 999, 1004-05 (2002).

Thus, for the reasons set forth in more detail below, I will grant the Motion of the Defendant, the State of New Jersey, to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. I will deny, however, the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion of the Defendant, the Board of Trustees of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Abel Garcia ("Garcia"), the Plaintiff in this case, was until recently employed as an administrator and adjunct professor at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey ("RSC" or "the College"). Garcia worked on year-to-year contracts, with renewal contingent on a positive annual review.

Garcia's original Complaint alleges that, while at RSC, he was the subject of unwanted romantic advances from the Defendant, Vera King Farris ("Farris"), the College's President. According to the Complaint, Garcia ultimately wrote Farris a "personal and confidential" memo in which he declared that he found her behavior "inappropriate" and that it had "created a hostile work environment" for him. At his next annual review several months later, Garcia was not recommended for reappointment, and his contract with RSC ended on June 30, 2001.

Garcia filed his Complaint on September 21, 2001, and filed an Amended Complaint on October 17, 2001. The Amended Complaint alleges that Garcia's non-renewal was intended to retaliate against him for his memorandum, in violation of his First Amendment rights, and that certain negative comments made by staff at RSC since the time Garcia departed, combined with the non-renewal, have had the effect of violating his substantive Due Process rights. See Cleveland Bd. of Ed. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 538 (1985); Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972). Additionally, the Amended Complaint alleges that the Defendants did not comply with their own procedures for review, which Garcia claims deprived him of a procedural due process right to property. He seeks redress for these various wrongs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Finally, the Amended Complaint alleges that Farris' ongoing harassment of Garcia, and her role in his effective termination, violated New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 10:5-1 to -42 (West 1993 & supp. 2002) ("NJLAD").

The State of New Jersey filed this Motion to Dismiss on May 28, 2002, arguing that, because New Jersey is immune from suit, this Court has no jurisdiction to hear any of Garcia's claims against it, and, alternatively, that Garcia has failed to state a claim. The Defendant, the Board of Trustess of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey ("the Board") joined New Jersey's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, although it reserved the question whether the Board is entitled to New Jersey's immunity.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Burden of Proof in Rule 12(b)(1) Motions *fn1

In an ordinary Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of persuading the court that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1222 (1991). Sovereign immunity, on the other hand, is an affirmative defense, and the burden of demonstrating immunity lies on the party asserting it. See Carter v. City of Philadelphia, 181 F.3d 339, 347 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Christy v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 54 F.3d 1140, 1144 (3d Cir.1995)). Sovereign immunity, however, also operates to limit the scope of this Court's supplemental jurisdiction. See Raygor v. Regents of Univ. of Minn., 534 U.S. 533, ----, 122 S.Ct. 999, 1004 (2002); Bowers v. NCAA, 188 F. Supp. 2d 473, 477 & n.2, 480 (D.N.J. 2002). To the extent, then, that sovereign immunity would bar supplemental state-law claims against a state defendant, it is jurisdictional, and the burden ...


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