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The City of Newark, Municipal Council For the City of Newark v. the Newark Ward Commission and Fran Adubato

November 28, 2012

THE CITY OF NEWARK, MUNICIPAL COUNCIL FOR THE CITY OF NEWARK, RONALD C. RICE (INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS COUNCILMAN FOR THE CITY OF NEWARK), DARRIN S. SHARIF (INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS COUNCILMAN FOR THE CITY OF NEWARK)
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE NEWARK WARD COMMISSION AND FRAN ADUBATO, MICHAEL CARSON, LEE FISHER, BETHANY O'TOOLE, SECRETARY LINDA VON NESSI, EACH INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS COMMISSIONERS FOR THE NEWARK WARD COMMISSION
DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

The City of Newark is divided into five wards: North, South, East, West, and Central. Newark's five wards are further subdivided into various districts. For purposes of this Opinion, it is sufficient to note that pursuant to N.J.S.A. § 40:44-14, the population of Newark must be (more or less) equally divided amongst the five wards, and that after the 2010 United States Census figures were released, Defendant the Newark Ward Commission (the "Commission") was responsible for redistricting Newark's five wards in a manner which comports with that statutory mandate.

Plaintiffs Ronald C. Rice and Darin Sharif are elected councilmen representing Newark's West and Central Wards, respectively.*fn2 Plaintiffs seek to challenge the ward redistricting plan approved by the Commission on November 4, 2011, which caused two predominantly Latin American districts in the Central Ward -- namely, Districts Central 16 and 19 -- to be redistricted to the West Ward. Plaintiffs allege that this plan "results in segregation of Latin American voters from the Central Ward into the West Ward, [and alters] the racial and ethnic makeup of [those wards]." (Compl. ¶ 49.) Plaintiffs claim that the Commission adopted this plan in spite of the existence of two other viable ward redistricting plans involving various other Newark districts. Plaintiffs do not indicate what the racial make composition is for any of those other districts.

On December 19, 2011, Plaintiffs commenced this action in New Jersey Superior Court by filing a Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writ seeking to nullify the redistricting plan adopted by the Commission (Count One). Plaintiffs also allege that the Commission's actions violated New Jersey's Open Public Meeting Act, N.J.S.A. § 10:4-6, et seq. (Count Two), New Jersey's Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. § 10:6-2(c) (Count Three), as well as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution*fn3 (Counts Four and Six, respectively), and the Voting Rights Act ("VRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1973*fn4 (Count Five).

On January 13, 2012, Defendants removed this action to district court in the light of the federal claims asserted by Plaintiffs. Thereafter, Defendants filed the present motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

II. DISCUSSION

A.Failure to State a Claim

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).

Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level, such that it is "plausible on its face." See id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007).

B.The Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the "VRA")*fn5 was enacted "to banish the blight of racial discrimination in voting" in the United States. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 308 (1966). In Count Five, Plaintiffs allege that the redistricting scheme ...


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