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Virginia Culver and Edward Jefferson v. Mary Ann Wardlow and the Borough of Lawnside

March 1, 2012

VIRGINIA CULVER AND EDWARD JEFFERSON
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MARY ANN WARDLOW AND THE BOROUGH OF LAWNSIDE DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

IRENAS , Senior District Judge:

Presently before the Court, Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 10) For the following reasons the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I.

For the purposes of this Motion, the allegations in the Complaint will be accepted as true. *fn1 On election day, November 3, 2009, Plaintiffs were Republican candidates for city council. (Compl. ¶ 9-11) Plaintiff Jefferson, an African American male, arrived at Lawnside Borough Hall early in the morning to meet and greet voters. (Compl. ¶ 12) At all times, Jefferson obeyed New Jersey laws requiring candidates to observe a 100 foot perimeter around voting locations. ( Id.

Later in the afternoon, Defendant Wardlock, city council member, made four telephone calls to the New Jersey State Police in which she falsely reported that a black male with dreadlocks was causing a disturbance. ( Id. at ¶¶ 4, 15-16) Wardlock did not inform the police that Jefferson was a candidate. ( Id. at ¶ 17)

Upon arrival, the state police confronted Jefferson and ordered him to leave the premises. ( Id. at ¶ 19) Jefferson and bystanders, however, were able to convince the officers that Jefferson was a candidate. ( Id. at ¶ 20-21) The police, evidently not fully crediting the story, limited Jefferson's movements and prevented Jefferson from continuing to meet and greet voters. ( Id. at ¶¶ 22-23) Ultimately, out of 1,000 votes cast, Jefferson lost the election by a 44 vote margin and Culver by a margin of 75 votes. ( Id. at ¶¶ 24-25)

On October 31, 2011, Plaintiffs brought claims pursuant to § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act for violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under both the federal and New Jersey constitutions. On December 27, 2011, Defendants filed the present Motion for Judgment on the pleadings.

II.

A Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is merely another method to raise a motion for failure to state a claim. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege facts that raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

While a court must accept as true all allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008), a court is not required to accept sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations, unwarranted inferences, or unsupported conclusions. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The complaint must state sufficient facts to show that the legal allegations are not simply possible, but plausible. Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

III.

Defendants make arguments to dismiss both state and federal Counts in the Complaint. The claims brought under ยง 1983 and the NJCRA will be analyzed together because they require the same proofs. See, e.g., Chapman v. N.J. , 2009 WL 2634888, *2 ...


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