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Belarmino Amaya, Et. Al v. State of New Jersey

February 10, 2011


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



Appearances by:

Remaining Plaintiff *fn1 Richard H. Kress brings this declaratory judgment action seeking to enjoin enforcement of the New Jersey money laundering statutes, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25(a) and N.J.S.A. 2C:21-26 (the "Statutes") on the grounds that (1) the Statutes are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, (2) they impose an impermissible mandatory presumption that shifts the burden of proof, and (3) they violate the Constitution's Commerce Clause. Opposing this action are the State of New Jersey and Paula Dow, Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, acting in their official capacities.

Presently before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff and Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.


Plaintiff Kress alleges the following: He is a self-employed businessman and financial entrepreneur who routinely provides his clients with currency pickup, storage, and transportation services for a fee based on the amount of currency involved and the distance transported. (2VAC ¶ 15-16). Plaintiff provides these services on a confidential basis and deliberately keeps no records. Id. at ¶ 17. Nor does Plaintiff inquire as to the source of the currency or its intended use. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff's services may involve transportation wholly within New Jersey, wholly outside of New Jersey, or from New Jersey to other states and vice-versa. Id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiff claims that he does not transport currency if he knows that the currency at issue was derived from or is intended to be used for any illegal activity. Id. at ¶ 21. If Plaintiff were ever stopped by police while conducting a currency pickup or transfer he suspects that he would be arrested and prosecuted under the Statutes. Id. at ¶ 22. Thus, Plaintiff argues, the Statutes infringe upon his ability to conduct his currency transportation business. Out of fear of prosecution, he has suspended his operations. Id. at ¶ 35.

N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25(a) states, in pertinent part:

A person is guilty of a crime if the person . . . transports or possesses property known or which a reasonable person would believe to be derived from criminal activity.

N.J.S.A. 2C:21-26 states, in pertinent part:

For the purposes of [2C:21-25a], the requisite knowledge may be inferred where the property is transported or possessed in a fashion inconsistent with the ordinary or usual means of transportation of possession of such property and where the property is discovered in the absence of any documentation or other indicia of legitimate origin or right to such property.

On November 12, 2010, Plaintiff filed this action seeking an order enjoining enforcement of the Statutes as unconstitutional. On the basis of these facts, both Plaintiff and Defendants move for summary judgment.*fn2


A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(a). For an issue to be genuine, there must be "a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006). For a fact to be material, it must have the ability to "affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Id. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment.

In a motion for summary judgment, the moving party has the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). When the moving party does not bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may discharge its burden by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Id. at 325. If the moving party can make such a showing, then the burden shifts to the non-moving party to present evidence that a genuine issue of fact exists and a trial is necessary. Id. at 324. In meeting its burden, the non-moving party must offer specific facts that establish a genuine issue of material fact and do not merely suggest "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

In deciding whether an issue of material fact exists, the Court must consider all facts and their reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Pa. Coal Ass'n v. Babbitt, 63 F.3d 231, 236 (3d Cir. 1995). The Court's function, however, is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but, rather, to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). If there are no issues that require a trial, then judgment as a matter of law is appropriate.

In this case no facts are contested and what lies before the Court are entirely issues of statutory and constitutional adjudication. As such, summary judgment on all contested issues is appropriate. See generally Methode Electronics, Inc. v. Elco Corp., 385 F.2d 138, 139 (3d Cir. 1967) (summary judgment "is appropriate when . only legal questions are to be resolved.").

B. Standing

In a reprise of earlier briefing, Defendants argue that Plaintiff lacks standing to challenge the Statutes. "Constitutional standing has three elements, all of which must be met: (1) the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact; (2) there must be a causal nexus between that injury and the conduct complained of; and (3) it must be likely that the injury will be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Joint Stock Soc'y v. UDV N. Am., Inc., 266 F.3d 164, 174-175 (3d Cir. 2001). Standing may not be assumed, for "[t]he party ...

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