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Mustafa Bostanci v. New Jersey City University

April 15, 2011

MUSTAFA BOSTANCI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW JERSEY CITY UNIVERSITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chesler, U.S.D.J.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, by Defendant New Jersey City University ("NJCU"). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Very briefly, this case arises from an employment dispute. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff had been employed by NJCU, and that NJCU harassed, retaliated, and discharged him on account of his age. On August 29, 2008, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action, asserting eight counts of discharge, retaliation, and harassment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). On August 11, 2009, this Court dismissed the claims under Title VII. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on the remaining claims in the Complaint.

ANALYSIS

I. Relevant legal standard

A. Motions for summary judgment Summary judgment is appropriate under FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a) when the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the evidence establishes the moving party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence 'is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'" Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

"When the moving party has the burden of proof at trial, that party must show affirmatively the absence of a genuine issue of material fact: it must show that, on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428, 1438 (11th Cir. 1991)). "[W]ith respect to an issue on which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof . . . the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.

Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the party opposing the motion must establish that a genuine issue as to a material fact exists. Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Lacey Township, 772 F.2d 1103, 1109 (3d Cir. 1985). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1130-31 (3d Cir. 1995). "[U]nsupported allegations . . . and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990). "A nonmoving party has created a genuine issue of material fact if it has provided sufficient evidence to allow a jury to find in its favor at trial." Gleason v. Norwest Mortg., Inc., 243 F.3d 130, 138 (3d Cir. 2001).

If the nonmoving party has failed "to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, . . . there can be 'no genuine issue of material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Katz v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 972 F.2d 53, 55 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23).

II. Defendant's motion for summary judgment

Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims under the NJLAD on two grounds: 1) this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and 2) any NJLAD claims are barred by Plaintiff's election of remedies under the statute. The Court need not reach the Rooker-Feldman issue, since the second argument clearly succeeds: Plaintiff elected to pursue his age discrimination complaint through the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, which arrived at a final determination on March 11, 2008. (Atkinson Dec. Ex. 6.) Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court on August 29, 2008. Under the NJLAD, "the final determination therein shall exclude any other action, civil or criminal, based on the same grievance." N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-27. Plaintiff does not contend that the instant case is not based on the same grievance, and his NJLAD claims are barred by N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-27. As to the NJLAD claims, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

Defendant moves for summary judgment on the ADEA claims on the ground that they are barred by collateral estoppel/issue preclusion. "[A] federal court . . . look[s] first to state preclusion law in determining the preclusive effects of a state court judgment." Marrese v. American ...


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