Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hernandez v. Switzer

December 4, 2009

NELSON HERNANDEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGE H. ROBERT SWITZER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

This matter has come before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6). Plaintiff has not opposed Defendants' motion. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Nelson Hernandez, pro se, filed a complaint against the Honorable H. Robert Switzer, the Hamilton Township Municipal Court, and Hamilton Township.*fn1

It appears Plaintiff's claims arise from his appearance in Hamilton Township Municipal Court on February 18, 2009 stemming from a citation for traffic violations. According to the complaint, Plaintiff was issued a citation for failure to exhibit proof of automobile insurance after being stopped by a Hamilton Township police officer for a traffic violation. When Plaintiff appeared for the required hearing at the Hamilton Township Municipal Court on February 18, 2009, Plaintiff claims that he was required by Municipal Court Judge H. Robert Switzer to present his proof of insurance. After Plaintiff produced the document, it appears Judge Switzer waived the fine for Plaintiff's original failure to exhibit proof of insurance, only requiring Plaintiff to pay thirty-three dollars for court costs. At its heart, Plaintiff's complaint appears to characterize the court costs of thirty three-dollars as a "de facto constitutional violation."*fn2

In their motion to dismiss, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because Judge Switzer's conduct is immunized under the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because the Hamilton Township Municipal Court cannot be properly sued under Section 1983. Plaintiff did not oppose Defendants' motion. The Court will address Defendants' arguments, and as noted below, the Court will also address sua sponte what the Court has construed to be Plaintiff's claims against the Township for respondeat superior liability.

DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

Because the Court has construed Plaintiff's complaint as bringing a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his civil rights, this Court has jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

B. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "'not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ."); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, --- F.3d ---, 2009 WL 2501662, *5 (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2009) ("Iqbal . . . provides the final nail-in-the-coffin for the 'no set of facts' standard that applied to federal complaints before Twombly."). Under the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has instructed a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; a district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Fowler, --- F.3d ---, 2009 WL 2501662, *5 (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). Second, a district court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). A complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. Id.; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that the "Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: 'stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element").

A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

Finally, a court in reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion must only consider the facts alleged in the pleadings, the documents attached thereto as exhibits, and matters of judicial notice. Southern Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Kwong Shipping Group Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999). A court may consider, however, "an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). If any other matters outside the pleadings are presented to the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.