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Heine v. Commissioner of The Department of Community Affairs of The State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 28, 2015

HEINE et al.
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY et al., Respondents. Petitioners,

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Jugde.

The Plaintiffs in this case ask me to reconsider my ruling of August 22, 2014 (Dkt. Nos. 50-51), in which I dismissed their Sixth Amended Complaint. The Plaintiffs, however, have failed to raise any issues which warrant a modification to my ruling. I will therefore deny the motion for reconsideration.

Background

The Plaintiffs in this case allege that New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs has promulgated and enforced regulations that result in discrimination. (Opinion, [1] 2) The gist of many of the allegations is that the State regulates rooming houses, and defines a rooming house with reference to two or more unrelated persons living together. Plaintiffs have brought claims under the U.S. Constitution, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). They seeks $800 million in damages, reimbursement of certain costs and fines, and costs of suit.

On August 22, 2014, I dismissed all counts of the Plaintiffs' complaint. (Opinion, 1) For five of the six counts (counts 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6)1 held that the Plaintiffs' claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. (Opinion, 5) That Amendment gives the State of New Jersey immunity from suits seeking monetary damages unless one of several exceptions applies. Because none of those exceptions applied, I found that the Eleventh Amendment left this Court without jurisdiction to hear the Plaintiffs' claims. (Opinion, 5-9)

The remaining count (Count 3), alleges discrimination under the Americanswith Disabilities Act (Count 3). Count 3 asserts that the DCA's regulations and practices violated individuals' "barrier free needs, " contrary to the ADA. (Opinion, 10) In particular, the Defendants allegedly "have not provided any recommendations or information about available financing, both low cost and government subsidized, and programs for residential upgrades and construction of barrier free access." (Opinion, 10)

The Eleventh Amendment, I explained, did not bar the Court from hearing Count 3 because Congress abrogated state sovereign immunity when it enacted the ADA. (Opinion, 9, citing United States v. Georgia, 546 U.S. 151, 154 (2006)). I dismissed Count 3, however, because I found that it failed to state an ADA claim on which relief could be granted. (Opinion, 10) As I explained, Count 3 does not allege a violation of any recognized duty to provide accommodations to persons with disabilities. Plaintiffs seem to allege that the Defendants failed to provide "recommendations or information" about financing disability-related improvements. I was unable to discern, however, any violation of a duty owed by State government, and I could not relate these allegations to State licensure of boarding houses. (Opinion, 9-11 & n.9) This opinion assumes familiarity with the analysis in my prior Opinion.

The motion for reconsideration

The Plaintiffs timely filed a motion for reconsideration. A motion for reconsideration is granted only in three situations: (1) when there has been an intervening change in the law; (2) when new evidence has become available; or (3) when necessary to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice. See North River Ins. Co. v. Cigna Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995); Carmichael v. Eversori, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11742 (D.N.J. May 21, 2004).

Change in the law

Heine has not suggested that there has been a change in the law since the Court's August 22, 2014 decision. This first option is therefore not a grounds to reconsider my prior holding.

New evidence

Plaintiffs do indicate that new evidence has become available. They allude to "information regarding the fire codes, their enforcements, and the imminent hazard exclusions." (Mot., 3) First, Plaintiffs seem to be alleging that the housing units in which they resided (and from which some were evicted) were served with an "imminent hazard notice" by the Defendants. Second, Plaintiffs allege that "imminent hazard notices may be issued by local inspectors, but those inspectors work as agents of the Division of Fire Safety in Trenton." (Mot., 3)

This evidence-assuming it is new-does nothing to address the problem of Eleventh Amendment immunity. Heine is still bringing suit against the State of New Jersey to recover damages. Such a suit is ...


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