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Jay L. Thomas v. Ramapo College of New Jersey

July 27, 2011

JAY L. THOMAS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
RAMAPO COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, A BODY CORPORATE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DR. PAMELA BISCHOFF, THE FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF STUDENT AFFAIRS IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DR. PATRICK CHANG, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT OF STUDENT AFFAIRS IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, IVY PAYNE, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ELIZABETH JOYCE, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, BARBARA WEXLER, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ELIZABETH JOCHIAM, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ROMONA KOPAZ, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, THE COUNTY OF BERGEN SPECIAL TRANSPORTATION, A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, VALERIE DARGAN, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND TOM MURPHY, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for relief from judgment and to reopen the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 60(b), and on Defendants County of Bergen Community Special Transportation, Valerie Dargan,*fn1 and Tom Murphy's ("Bergen Defendants") motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion to reopen his complaint is DENIED, and the Bergen Defendants' motion to dismiss is therefore MOOT.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises out of Plaintiff's difficulty finding transportation to his Ramapo College classes. Plaintiff is a current student at Ramapo College. He first began attending Ramapo College in 1994. (Compl. ¶ 6.) In 1995, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and he is undergoing treatment. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff had withdrawn from Ramapo College in 1994 due to his schizophrenia, but he later re-enrolled and returned to classes on or about January, 2004. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 9.) Up until March of 2006, Plaintiff would travel to and from Ramapo College by driving himself in his car. (Compl.

¶ 12, 16.) At that point, however, his car malfunctioned and he needed an alternative form of transportation. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Therefore, he contacted Ramapo College and County of Bergen officials to request special transportation services in order to get to and from class. (Compl. ¶¶ 17, 32.) Ramapo College's officials explained to Plaintiff that while accessible vehicles are provided for disabled students for class trips, Ramapo College does not provide transportation to and from campus for any student, whether disabled or not. (Compl., Ex. 25.) The Ramapo College officials suggested that Plaintiff:

(1) contact Bergen County Community Transportation for para-transit transportation, (2) use Ramapo College's shuttle service to the train station in order to use the train, or (3) utilize Shortline buses which stop on Ramapo College's campus. (Compl., Exs. 22, 25.) Plaintiff claims, however, that Shortline is "inaccessible with its schedule," and that he was "refused accessible transportation by the County of Bergen Special Transportation."*fn2

(Compl. ¶¶ 20, 33.)

Due to his difficulties getting to and from campus, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants on August 17, 2010, alleging that their failure to provide his transportation violated various statutes as well as his constitutional rights. On December 13, 2010, the Court granted Plaintiff's December 7, 2010 motion to dismiss his complaint, characterizing Plaintiff's motion as a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a). (See Docket Entry No. 20.) Subsequently, Plaintiff filed the instant motion, pursuant to Rule 60(b), for "relief from judgment or order to reopen complaint." (Docket Entry No. 22.) The Bergen Defendants opposed Plaintiff's motion and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint should the motion to reopen be granted. All of the other Defendants (the "State Defendants") filed their own opposition to Plaintiff's motion.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's complaint asserts the following causes of action: (1) various violations of New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), due to discrimination and differential treatment based on race and disability; (2) violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") for failure to provide transportation; (3) Section 1983 claims for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) violation of the Rehabilitation Act; (5) violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act; and (6) a Section 1985 claim of civil conspiracy. Plaintiff further claims that though he already requested dismissal of his complaint pursuant to Rule 41(a), he should be allowed, pursuant to Rule 60(b), to reopen his case at this time.

A. Rule 60(b) Standard of Review

Rule 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment in a limited set of circumstances, including mistake, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, fraud or other reason justifying relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). Here, Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to subsection (6) of Rule 60(b), a catchall provision which provides that "[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or his legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for...any other reason justifying relief from operation of the judgment." However, the Third Circuit "has consistently held that the Rule 60(b)(6) ground for relief from judgment provides for extraordinary relief and may only be invoked upon ...


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