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Paul Kaminski, et al v. Township of Toms River

June 29, 2011

PAUL KAMINSKI, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF TOMS RIVER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson, United States District Judge:

*NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This action arises out of examinations administered to Toms River's police officers for promotional purposes. Plaintiffs Paul Kaminski, Stephen J. Russell, Frank L. Palino, and Richard T. Ross ("Plaintiffs"), who were police officers at the time of the examinations, allege that Defendants International Association of Chiefs of Police ("IACP"), the Township of Toms River, Michael Mastronardy, Vincent Pedalino, Stephen Gerding, Raymond Maloney, William Morsch, Michael Miller, Christopher Dudzik, Christopher Anderson, Patrick Dellane, Shaun O'Keefe, Jeffrey Lennox, Michael Bronsan, Brian Nesta, and Gregory Hopper (collectively, "Defendants"), gave preferential treatment to select examinees, which resulted in Plaintiffs being ineligible for certain promotions in violation of their constitutional rights. Presently before the Court, IACP moves to dismiss Count six of the Amended Complaint, which asserts a New Jersey common law fraud claim. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants defendant IACP's motion.

BACKGROUND

For the purposes of this motion, the Court will construe the Amended Complaint as true and only recount relevant facts necessary to resolve this motion.*fn1 In 2006, the Toms River police department administered promotional examinations to its police officers. Am. Compl., ¶27. The examinations were used to promote police officers to the rank of Sergeant or Lieutenant. Id. Plaintiffs took these examinations but they were not promoted to the respective rank. Am. Compl., ¶ 45. After the exam, Plaintiffs learned that scores had been allegedly manipulated by certain senior officers; senior officers were upwardly adjusting the scores of those examinees favored by both the Chief and Deputy Chief. Id. at ¶¶ 43, 51. The gist of Plaintiffs' claim is that the examinations were "manipulated and tainted to favor certain police officers" in violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Id. at ¶ 51. Plaintiffs asserted five counts against against IACP. Previously, the Court dismissed all counts except Count six. The Court directed Plaintiffs to file a more definitive statement as to that Count. Subsequently, Plaintiffs amended Count six of the Complaint, alleging that Defendants, including IACP, committed fraud. IACP now moves to dismiss Count six pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

DISCUSSION

A.Standard of Review

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that a complaint "shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends . . . (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The purpose of a complaint is "to inform the opposing party and the court of the nature of the claims and defenses being asserted by the pleader and, in the case of an affirmative pleading, the relief being demanded." 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1182 (3d ed. 2004).

In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under 12(b)(6), a Court must take all allegations in the complaint as true, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff "and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (citation and quotations omitted). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Supreme Court "retired" the language in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46). Rather, the factual allegations in a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555. The Third Circuit summarized the pleading requirement post-Twombly:

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.'

Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

In affirming that the Twombly standard applies to all motions to dismiss, the Supreme Court recently further clarified the 12(b)(6) standard. "First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Accordingly, "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no morethan conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. In short, "a complaint must do more than alleged the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to 'show' such an entitlement with its facts." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009).

The Third Circuit recently reiterated that "judging the sufficiency of a pleading is a context-dependent exercise" and "[s]ome claims require more factual explication than others to state a plausible claim for relief." West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 98 (3d Cir. 2010). This means that, "[f]or example, it generally takes fewer factual allegations to state a claim for simple battery than to state a claim for antitrust conspiracy." Id. That said, the Rule 8 ...


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