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Storino v. Borough of Point Pleasant Beach

March 18, 2003


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey District Court Judge: The Honorable Anne E. Thompson (D.C. No. 00-cv-3566)

Before: Sloviter, Rendell, and Fuentes, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fuentes, Circuit Judge


Argued on September 10, 2002


In this case, Anthony and Frank Storino (the "Storinos"), owners of at least one rooming house in the Borough of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey (the "Borough"), are challenging Municipal Zoning Ordinance 2000-11 (the "Ordinance") on one federal ground and several state law grounds. The Ordinance, which was adopted by the Borough in June of 2000, removes the rooming/boarding house use within certain Resort Residential zones and the hotel/motel use within the Marine Commercial zone of the Borough. The Storinos maintain that they have been injured by the adoption of the Ordinance because their current rooming/boarding house and hotel/motel uses will be "zoned out of existence" in time and because they will have to seek a variance for any modifications to their property in the future. The Storinos' federal claim is that by removing these uses within certain zones in the Borough, the Ordinance excludes low and moderate income persons in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The Storinos contend that they have standing to bring this claim because (1) they have first party standing, or (2) they have third party standing on behalf of low and moderate income persons. *fn1 After addressing the merits of each of the Storinos' claims, the District Court granted summary judgment to the Borough.

We conclude that the Storinos do not have first party standing because they have not stated an injury in fact that is particularized and imminent. See Society Hill Towers Owners' Assoc. v. Rendell, 210 F.3d 168, 175-76 (3d Cir. 2000). Because the Storinos have not suffered an injury in fact, they also do not have third party standing. See Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 410 (1991). We find that because standing is a jurisdictional requirement, the District Court should have dismissed the Storinos' federal equal protection claim. See ACLU-NJ v. Township of Wall, 246 F.3d 258, 261 (3d Cir. 2001). Moreover, absent jurisdiction over the federal claim, the District Court did not have supplemental jurisdiction over the Storinos' state law claims, and thus should have dismissed those claims as well. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Accordingly, we will vacate the entry of judgment and remand this case to the District Court to dismiss the Storinos' Complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

I. Background

The Storinos are residents and property owners in the Borough. On May 2, 2000, the Ordinance was introduced for first reading at the Borough Council meeting. After reviewing the proposed Ordinance, the Point Pleasant Beach Planning Board unanimously recommended its adoption. A copy of the proposed Ordinance was then published. On June 6, 2000, after the proposed Ordinance was introduced for a second reading and public hearing at the Borough Council meeting, the Council voted to adopt the Ordinance by a vote of 3-2. Notice of adoption of the Ordinance was published in the local newspaper. The Storinos then filed this action challenging the Ordinance. In addition to their equal protection claim, the Storinos challenge the substance of the Ordinance and the procedural manner in which it was adopted on state law grounds.

II. Discussion

We begin with a discussion of the standing issue because "[o]n every writ of error or appeal, the first and fundamental question is that of jurisdiction, first, of this court, and then of the court from which the record comes. This question the court is bound to ask and answer for itself, even when not otherwise suggested, and without respect to the relation of the parties to it." Society Hill Towers, 210 F.3d at 175 (citing Steel Company v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998); Great Southern Fire Proof Hotel Co. v. Jones, 177 U.S. 449, 453 (1900)). "If plaintiffs do not possess Article III standing, both the District Court and this Court lack subject matter jurisdiction to address the merits of plaintiffs' case." Township of Wall, 246 F.3d at 261 (citing Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975); Morris v. Horn, 187 F.3d 333, 344 (3d Cir. 1999)).

For the purpose of determining standing, we must accept as true all material allegations set forth in the complaint, and must construe those facts in favor of the complaining party. See Warth, 422 U.S. at 501. "In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues." Id. at 498. Standing involves both constitutional and prudential limitations on federal court jurisdiction. This Court has summarized the constitutional requirements as follows:

(1) the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact -- an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical;

(2) there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of -- the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and not the result of the independent ...

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