United States District Court, D. New Jersey
GARRETT COLLICK, NOAH WILLIAMS, and NANCY WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY, KATHLEEN M. WALDRON, ROBERT FULLEMAN, ELLEN DESIMONE, WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, JOHN DOES 1-20 names fictitious as presently unknown, employees, representatives, and/or agents of defendant WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, JANE DOES 1-20 names fictitious as presently unknown, employees, representatives, and/or agents of defendant WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, JOHN SMITH 1-5 names fictitious as presently unknown, employees, representatives, agents, and/or spokespersons of defendant WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY, and JANE SMITH 1-5 names fictitious as presently unknown, employees, representatives, agents, and/or spokespersons of defendant WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY, Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
November 17, 2016, 1 filed an Opinion ("Op.", ECF
no. 27) and Order ('Order", ECF no. 28) granting in
part and denying in part the motion of William Paterson
University ("WPU") and other defendants to dismiss
the complaint. In that opinion I held, inter alia,
that the issue of WPU's sovereign immunity from §
1983 and certain other claims could not be decided on the
pleadings, but would require factual development. (Op.
Section III.A, pp. 12-16) I therefore denied the motion to
dismiss as to that issue, without prejudice to its
consideration on a properly supported motion for summary
WPU sought, and I granted (ECF no. 37), leave to file a
motion for reconsideration of the sovereign immunity issue in
light of intervening Third Circuit authority, Maliandi v.
Montclair State University, 845 F.3d 77 (3d Cir. Dec.
27, 2016). That motion for reconsideration (ECF no. 38) is
now before the Court. The plaintiffs have filed a response
(ECF no. 39), and WPU has filed a reply (ECF no. 40). I
decide the motion without oral argument. For the reasons
stated herein, the motion for reconsideration is denied and I
will adhere to my prior ruling.
standards governing a motion for reconsideration are well
settled. See generally D.N.J. Loc. Civ. R. 7.1 (i).
Reconsideration is an "extraordinary remedy, " to
be granted "sparingly." NL Indus. Inc. v.
Commercial Union Ins. Co., 935 F.Supp. 513, 516 (D.N.J.
1996). Generally, reconsideration is granted in three
scenarios: (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. Everson, 2004 WL 1587894, at *1
(D.N.J. May 21, 2004). Local Rule 7.1(i) requires such a
motion to specifically identify "the matter or
controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge or
Magistrate Judge has overlooked." Id.; see also
Egloffv. New Jersey Air Nat'l Guard, 684 F.Supp.
1275, 1279 (D.N.J. 1988). Evidence or arguments that were
available at the time of the original decision will not
support a motion for reconsideration. Damiano v. Sony
Music Entm't, Inc., 975 F.Supp. 623, 636 (D.N.J.
1997); see also North River Ins. Co., 52 F.3d at
1218; Bapu Corp. v. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc.,
2010 WL 5418972, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec. 23, 2010) (citing P.
Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161
F.Supp.2d 349, 352 (D.N.J. 2001)).
first object that this is not a proper motion for
reconsideration. I disagree. This motion was filed with leave
of the Court; it is succinct and focused; it relies on recent
Court of Appeals authority not before the Court on the
original motion; and it refrains from repeating arguments
previously made. Although ultimately I do not grant it, it is
a model of a proper reconsideration motion, and other
litigants would do well to emulate it.
Opinion treated the issue of WPU's sovereign immunity
thus. First, WPU waived its Eleventh Amendment federal-forum
immunity by removing the action to federal court. That issue
of subject matter jurisdiction is therefore out of the case.
WPU nevertheless retains whatever defenses, including
sovereign immunity, it could have asserted in state court.
(Op. 12) In analyzing whether an entity is an arm of the
State for purposes of sovereign immunity, the New Jersey
state courts have analogized to the Eleventh Amendment case
law-in particular, to the three-part test of Fitchik v.
New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, Inc., 873 F.2d 655
(3d Cir. 1989) ((1) whether the payment of the judgment would
come from the state; (2) what status the entity has under
state law; and (3) what degree of autonomy the entity
has). (Op. 12, 14)
Eleventh Amendment case law, I wrote, is therefore highly
relevant, though not literally applicable. (Op. 12-13) I
noted that WPU had not substantially addressed the first
Fitchik factor. (Op. 14) As to the second factor,
WPU cited, and I briefly analyzed, the statutory framework of
the State college system and the authority exercised by State
colleges. (Op. 15) As to the third, WPU offered a citation to
a 2011 State Reorganization plan, but did not adequately link
it to specific facts about the autonomy of state colleges.
the immunity issue did not present itself (as it would under
the Eleventh Amendment) as a jurisdictional challenge under
Rule 12(b)(1), which would permit the Court to consider
extrinsic evidence, but rather as an affirmative defense. The
Court's hands were thus tied by a Rule 12(b)(6) standard,
which is largely confined to the face of the pleadings and
the law. (Op. 13-14) In sum, I held, "WPU's
contentions are suggestive, and the issue might profitably be
revisited at the summary judgment stage. I cannot make the
necessary findings without a factual record, however, and the
issue is not clear enough as a matter of law to justify
dismissal on a Rule 12(b)(6) basis." (Op.
Maliandi, the Court of Appeals considered the
Eleventh Amendment immunity of Montclair State University
("MSU"). MSU, like WPU, is one of eight colleges in
the State university system. WPU somewhat overstates the
holding of Maliandi in stating that "as a
matter of law, the legal status of New Jersey's state
colleges entitled them to sovereign immunity...." (WPU
Brf. 1) What Maliandi actually held was as follows:
"We now resolve this dispute by concluding that MSU is
an arm of the State, and in the process, we seek to
synthesize our jurisprudence regarding the Fitchik
factors for the benefit of district courts in future Eleventh
Amendment cases." 845 F.3d at 86. As noted above, that
Eleventh Amendment issue is closely related to, though
distinct from, the sovereign immunity issue asserted by WPU.
Fitchik analysis is fact-bound and entity-specific:
"[E]ach step of that analysis is a
'fact-intensive' undertaking that requires a fresh
analysis and 'individualized determinations' for each
entity claiming Eleventh Amendment immunity."
Maliandi, 845 F.3d at 84. Thus Maliandi
cited, but did not give dispositive effect to, prior
decisions analyzing the Eleventh Amendment status of
institutions in the Pennsylvania State College system, the
University of Iowa, and New Jersey's own Rutgers
law-school chestnut, Baltimore & Ohio Railway v.
Goodman, 275 U.S. 66, 48 S.Ct. 24 (1927) (Holmes, J.)
(the "stop, look, and listen" case), suggests that
a matter may become settled in the case law, and what was an
issue of fact may thereby become an issue of
Has that transformation occurred here? I err on the side of
caution and answer that question in the negative.
not have before me a ruling that is squarely on point.
Maliandi decides a jurisdictional issue of Eleventh
Amendment forum immunity (not a defense of state sovereign
immunity), with respect to MSU (not WPU). I think it is too
soon to announce that the sovereign-immunity status of WPU is
now beyond factual dispute.
analogous, a state's sovereign immunity does not have the
federalism-based double focus of the Eleventh Amendment
analysis: "comity and state sovereignty are
constitutional precepts and l[i]nchpins of our federalist
system of government." Id. at 99. It is not a
limitation on federal court jurisdiction, and, for the
reasons stated, that procedural posture limits my
consideration of extrinsic facts. Those facts may turn out to
make a difference. Although I might think that MSU and WPU
have many features in common, I might also be mistaken. Some
of those common features can be ascertained on a Rule
12(b)(6) motion-for example, the structure of the legislation
that constitutes the state university system. Others,
however, cannot-for example, "the percentage of an
entity's funds that come from non-state sources, "
see Id. at 89-90. And some factors-such as MSU's
decision to rely on generalities as to the state's
funding of liabilities-may reflect that particular
institution's administrative elections or even its
litigation-strategy choices. See Id. at 87.
short, the necessary balancing is highly sensitive,
I am reluctant to simply reason that WPU is very similar to
MSU, and therefore should be treated the same. That may be
the case; indeed, the factors, upon factual exploration,
might turn out to actually strengthen WPU's claim of
immunity vis-a-vis that of MSU. I nevertheless see ...