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Manna v. Township of Fairfield

October 30, 2007

RE: MANNA
v.
TOWNSHIP OF FAIRFIELD



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge

LETTER OPINION

Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss portions of Plaintiffs' April 25, 2006 Supplemental Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

This case involves allegations of retaliation and discrimination against the police officer plaintiffs for exposing and discussing alleged corruption within the local government and the police department. The facts of this case have been laid out in great detail in Judge Lifland's Memorandum and Order dated April 7, 2006 ("2006 Memorandum and Order") and will not be repeated here.

In July 2004, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Judge Lifland dismissed most of the Complaint in his 2006 Memorandum and Order. Specifically, Judge Lifland dismissed all of Charles Voelker's and Martin Brennan's claims. As for Anthony Manna's claims, the Court dismissed his retaliatory shift change claim under the doctrine of res judicata, but retained Manna's other claims. In addition, Judge Lifland granted Plaintiffs leave to file a supplemental complaint, and stated: "Plaintiffs may file, within twenty days of the filings of this Memorandum & Order, a supplemental complaint alleging facts which have occurred since the filing of the complaint herein." Plaintiffs timely submitted their Supplemental Complaint on April 25, 2006.

In their Supplemental Complaint, Plaintiffs Anthony Manna, Charles Voelker, and Martin Brennan allege that Defendants retaliated against them for speaking out against local corruption. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege: (1) C. Lynn Centonze, in both her professional and personal capacity, retaliated against Plaintiffs for exercising their First Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) the Township and Governing Body of the Township of Fairfield sanctioned and failed to supervise Centonze's conduct in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) all Defendants retaliated against Plaintiffs in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h) (qui tam legislation); and (4) Defendants discriminated against Voelker due to his age in violation of N.J.S.A. 10:5-12.

Defendants' motion to dismiss is currently before the Court.

ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b), all allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court may consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the plaintiff's claims are based upon those documents. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). If, after viewing the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it appears that no relief could be granted "under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations," a court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, "the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed. 2d 929 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level. See id. at 1964-65. Furthermore, although a court must view the allegations as true in a motion to dismiss, it is "not compelled to accept unwarranted inferences, unsupported conclusions or legal conclusions disguised as factual allegations." Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F. 3d 187, 211 (3d Cir. 2007).

B. Motion to Dismiss

Defendants argue that: (1) several of Plaintiffs' claims are mere reiterations of claims previously dismissed by Judge Lifland in his 2006 Memorandum and Order; (2) Plaintiffs have failed to allege adequate facts sufficient to sustain a First Amendment cause of action; and (3) Plaintiff Voelker has failed to ...


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