United States District Court, D. New Jersey
RABBI DR. ABRAHAM UNGER, PH.D., Plaintiff,
JUDGE MAUREEN P. SOGLUIZZO, P.J.F.P., et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
ESTHER SALAS, District Judge.
This action arises from Plaintiff Rabbi Dr. Abraham Unger, Ph.D.'s (Plaintiff) allegations that Defendants Judge Maureen P. Sogluizzo, P.J.F.P., Daniel Pacilio, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Meryl G. Nadler, and Judge Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D. (collectively, Defendants) violated and conspired to violate his civil rights. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (D.E. No. 8). The Court has considered the parties' submissions and resolves Defendants' motion without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b). For the reasons below, the Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff and his former wife filed a divorce proceeding on March 17, 2011 in Hudson County, New Jersey. (D.E. No. 3 ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 4). The case was assigned to Judge Sogluizzo, and consequently to her law clerk, Pacilio. ( Id. ¶¶ 4, 14). The case was ongoing at the time that Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint. ( Id. ¶ 7).
Plaintiff alleges that, throughout his divorce proceedings, Judge Sogluizzo deprived Plaintiff of his civil liberties pursuant to § 1983, ( id. ¶¶ 29-38), and that Defendants jointly engaged in a civil rights conspiracy against him, ( id. ¶¶ 39-44). To support his claims, Plaintiff makes various allegations regarding his family court proceedings, including the following:
First, Plaintiff alleges that during his first session with the court-appointed mediator, the mediator expressed recognition of Plaintiff's former wife's law firm, but not Plaintiff's attorney. ( Id. ¶ 5). Also during that session, after Plaintiff refused to accept his former wife's custody and parenting time proposal in full, Plaintiff alleges that the mediator "angrily rose from the conference table at which [they] were meeting and said, I have the ear of the Judge.'" ( Id. ).
Plaintiff further alleges that Judge Sogluizzo "seemed aggressive" with Plaintiff during a July 27, 2012 hearing. ( Id. ¶ 8). Specifically, he alleges that Judge Sogluizzo said she "took umbrage" when Plaintiff's then-attorney "raised the issue of gender bias" against Plaintiff. ( Id. ). In addition, he alleges that Judge Sogluizzo "indignantly demanded [that Plaintiff] pay for the mother's legal fees in full for the motion after the issue of gender was raised." ( Id. ).
Plaintiff further alleges that, on January 23, 2013, Judge Sogluizzo ruled that additional discovery regarding Plaintiff's former wife's mental health was unnecessary, and that his former wife was "singly protected by the Court from submitting her complete psychiatric and medical history, even though, especially in parenting matters, these items are typically relevant to best interests of children." ( Id. ¶ 9).
Plaintiff further alleges that, during a May 22, 2013 hearing, Judge Sogluizzo stated that Plaintiff was "principled" and "indicated that she didn't appreciate principle." ( Id. ¶ 10). He alleges that, at that same hearing, Judge Sogluizzo permitted Plaintiff's former wife to introduce certain testimony over Plaintiff's objection that it constituted "double hearsay." ( Id. ). He also alleges that Judge Sogluizzo "admonished" him at that hearing. ( Id. ).
Plaintiff further alleges that Judge Sogluizzo refused to recuse herself after Plaintiff orally moved for recusal on January 16, 2014. ( Id. ¶ 11). He also alleges that, during trial, Judge Sogluizzo did not permit Plaintiff's expert and other witnesses to testify, however his former wife's expert was permitted to testify for a full day. ( Id. ¶ 12).
Plaintiff further alleges that, "[m]ost egregiously, on October 8, 2013, Judge Sogluizzo entered an Order, with no motion pending and during an adjournment in trial, that stated that the mother was the custodial parent, and me, the father, the non-custodial parent." ( Id. ¶ 14). Plaintiff alleges that he called Chambers to inquire about the order and spoke with Pacilio. ( Id. ). He alleges that Pacilio informed Plaintiff that the Order was a "formality." ( Id. ). After contacting various family court administrators, Plaintiff obtained an amended order, however he alleges that "the damage done... has been difficult." ( Id. ).
Finally, Plaintiff alleges that he encountered various administrative errors during his family court proceeding. For example, he alleges that he improperly received a "Notice of Motion" even though there was no motion pending. ( Id. ¶ 15). In addition, he alleges that, after trial concluded, there was an exhibit missing from his evidence box. ( Id. ¶ 16). He further alleges that Pacilio refused to give Plaintiff a receipt when Plaintiff handed in his final written summations, ( id. ¶ 17), and that he received incomplete and mixed information regarding court dates, ( id. ¶¶ 18-19, 22, 23). Lastly, he alleges that when he requested a copy of Orders issued by Judge Sogluizzo over the past ten years, he received no response. ( Id. ¶ 20). Plaintiff alleges that he initially requested the orders via letter to Nadler, Counsel to the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, on May 19, 2014, and that he followed up by letter to Chief Justice Rabner on June 16, 2014. ( Id. ).
Plaintiff filed his initial complaint on June 25, 2014, (D.E. No. 1, ("Compl.")), and his Amended Complaint on July 9, 2014. (Am. Compl.). Plaintiff's stated causes of action appear to be: (1) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for Fourteenth Amendment violations against Judge Sogluizzo, and (2) a civil rights conspiracy claim. Plaintiff does not specify which individuals he asserts his conspiracy claim against. However, the Court construes it to be pled against all Defendants.
On August 4, 2014, Plaintiff requested default judgment against Judge Sogluizzo. (D.E. No. 6, Request for Default). The Clerk of the Court entered default judgment on August 5, 2014. (August 5, 2014 Entry of Default as to Defendant, Marueen P. Sogluizzo). On August 15, 2014, Judge Sogluizzo moved to vacate the entry of default and Defendants moved to dismiss. (D.E. No. 7, Motion to Vacate Clerk's Entry of Default; D.E. No. 8-1, Brief in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Def. Mov. Br.")). Unger opposed Defendant's motion to dismiss on September 29, 2014. (D.E. No. 15, Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Pl. Opp. Br.")). On March 11, 2015, Magistrate Judge Michael Hammer ...