United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge
se Plaintiff Paul Callender brings this action against
the State of New Jersey alleging violation of his due process
and equal protection of the law, seeking an unspecified
amount of damages to remedy an unfavorable decision by the
New Jersey Supreme Court in a medical malpractice
case. Because Plaintiff seeks to bring this
action in forma pauperis, the Court has an
obligation to screen the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2). The Court finds as follows:
Because Plaintiff's application discloses that he is
indigent, the Court will, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915,
permit the Complaint to be filed without prepayment of fees,
and will direct the Clerk of Court to file the Complaint.
Section 1915(e)(2)(B) requires the Court to screen the
Plaintiff's Complaint and to dismiss any claim that is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).
A complaint “is frivolous where it lacks an arguable
basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting
1915(e)(2)'s predecessor, the former § 1915(d)).
Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations
in a complaint, that tenet is “inapplicable to legal
conclusions” and “[a] pleading that offers labels
and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted).
Plaintiff's Complaint, like his previous complaint filed
contesting the rulings of the New Jersey Appellate Court and
trial court, suffers from a lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and must be dismissed. Plaintiff's Complaint
is barred, in turn, by a lack of diversity jurisdiction, by
Eleventh Amendment immunity, by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine, and by the doctrine of res judicata, or claim
courts of limited jurisdiction, the federal courts may only
exercise jurisdiction over cases in which the Constitution
and Congress expressly grant them power. Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994);
Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d
412, 418 (3d Cir. 2010). Because this case presents no
federal question for this Court to resolve, subject matter
jurisdiction must be predicated upon the diversity of
citizenship of the parties. The diversity statute, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a), provides that district courts “have
original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter
in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000,
exclusive of interest and, and is between ... citizens of
different States.” The statute requires complete
diversity among the parties: in cases with multiple
plaintiffs or multiple defendants, no plaintiff be a citizen
of the same state as any defendant. See Exxon Mobil Corp.
v. Allapattah Svcs. Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 553, (2005);
Zambelli, 592 F.3d at 419. A natural person is
deemed to be a citizen of the state where he is domiciled.
See Swiger v. Allegheny Energy, Inc., 540
F.3d 179, 182 (3d Cir.2008) (citing Gilbert v.
David, 235 U.S. 561, 569 (1915)). Plaintiff provides a
Post Office box in Atlantic City, New Jersey as his address;
as such, he is presumed to be domiciled in New Jersey. As a
citizen of the same state as the Defendant, the State of New
Jersey, there is no diversity of citizenship, and without
diversity of citizenship, this Court is without subject
matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's case.
Furthermore, the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff's
case. The Eleventh Amendment to the United States
Constitution makes states immune from lawsuits in federal
courts seeking monetary damages brought by their own citizens
or by citizens from other states unless the state consents to
be sued or Congress otherwise abrogates the state's
sovereign immunity. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1
(1890). In this case, Plaintiff can point to no action by
Congress or by the State of New Jersey waiving its sovereign
immunity and consenting to a suit such as his. Accordingly,
sovereign immunity provides a second reason this Court has no
jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's case against the State
of New Jersey.
Plaintiff's Complaint is also barred by the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which precludes federal
district courts from reviewing the decisions of state courts.
See Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S.
413 (1923); District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983). Federal district courts
lack jurisdiction to hear appeals from civil judgments of
state courts. Only the Supreme Court can “reverse or
modify” state court judgments. Exxon Mobil Corp. v.
Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284-85 (2005)
(citing Rooker, 263 U.S. at 416). There are four
requirements that must be met for the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine to apply: (1) the federal plaintiff lost in state
court; (2) the plaintiff “complain[s] of injuries
caused by [the] state-court judgments”; (3) those
judgments were rendered before the federal suit was filed;
and (4) the plaintiff is inviting the district court to
review and reject the state judgments. Great W. Mining
& Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159,
166 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoting Exxon, 544 U.S. at 284)).
All four requirements are met here: Plaintiff lost in state
court, see Callender v. Brabson, 218 N.J. 530
(2014), Plaintiff claims that his medical malpractice case
was “unjustly dismissed” at all three levels of
the New Jersey court system, Plaintiff filed this Complaint
two years after the Supreme Court denied his petition for
certification, and Plaintiff asks this Court to review the
decisions of the state courts. (Compl. at 1-2.) This is the
third reason this Court is without jurisdiction to hear
Finally, Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by the doctrine
of res judicata, or claim preclusion. Claim preclusion
applies when “there has been (1) a final judgment on
the merits in a prior suit involving (2) the same parties or
their privies and (3) a subsequent suit based on the same
cause of action.” Lubrizol Corp. v. Exxon
Corp., 929 F.2d 960, 963 (3d Cir. 1991). “The
doctrine of res judicata bars not only claims that were
brought in a previous action, but also claims that could have
been brought.” In re Mullarkey, 536 F.3d 215,
225 (3d Cir.2008) (citing Post v. Hartford Ins. Co.,
501 F.3d 154, 169 (3d Cir. 2007)). Here, the Third Circuit
affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff's prior Complaint in
this Court contesting the actions of the Appellate Court and
trial court in the same medical malpractice case, both
Callender and the State of New Jersey were involved in the
prior action, and Plaintiff brings the same causes of action
this time (due process and equal protection violations) that
he brought last time. Moreover, given that Plaintiff filed
his original complaint on January 21, 2016, and the New
Jersey Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's petition on July
18, 2014, there is no reason why he could not have included
any alleged harms resulting from the Supreme Court decision
in his original complaint. As a result, res judicata bars
Plaintiff's Complaint in this case.
Further, the Court will not grant Plaintiff leave to amend
because it is not plausible that he might cure these
jurisdictional defects, and because this suit itself
represents Plaintiff's second unsuccessful attempt to
bring this matter before this federal court.
accompanying Order will be entered.
 This Court previously dismissed a
prior version of Plaintiff's Complaint, where Plaintiff
sought to remedy an unfavorable decision by the New Jersey
Appellate Court and trial court in the same medical
malpractice action. See Callender v. State of New
Jersey, No. 16-634, Docket Item 4.] The Third Circuit
affirmed the Court's opinion on subject matter
jurisdiction grounds because “New Jersey has neither
consented to nor waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity
here.” Callender v. State of New Jersey, F.
App'x, 2017 WL 35719 at *1 (3d Cir. Jan. 4, 2017). The
Third Circuit additionally held that the Court “did not
err in failing to provide Callender an opportunity to amend
his complaint ...