United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JOSEPH G. WOJAK, Plaintiff,
BOROUGH OF GLEN RIDGE, GLEN RIDGE BOARD OF EDUCATION, GLEN RIDGE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, TOWN OF BLOOMFIELD, BLOOMFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION, JOHN DOES 1-10, JANE DOES 1-10, and ABC CORPORATIONS 1-10, Defendants. CHARLES SANDERS, LEE ROTH, and JOSEPH MAROTTA, Plaintiffs
BOROUGH OF GLEN RIDGE, GLEN RIDGE BOARD OF EDUCATION, TOWN OF BLOOMFIELD, and BLOOMFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants.
MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Joseph G. Wojak, Charles Sanders, Lee Roth, and Joseph
Marotta allege that their properties straddle the border that
separates the towns of Bloomfield and Glen Ridge, New Jersey.
Sanders, Roth, and Marotta have school-aged children who have
been assigned to attend the public schools of Bloomfield.
They believe they are entitled to send their children to the
public schools of Glen Ridge. Plaintiff Joseph G. Wojak does
not have school-aged children, but alleges that the
school-assignment policy has decreased the value of his
are the Borough of Glen Ridge, Glen Ridge Board of Education
("Glen Ridge BOE"), Glen Ridge Public Schools, the
State of New Jersey, the Township of Bloomfield, and the
Bloomfield Board of Education ("Bloomfield BOE").
Plaintiffs allege that defendants' actions constitute a
regulatory taking and a denial of due process rights.
the complaints allege that entitlement to attend the Glen
Ridge schools, rather than the Bloomfield schools, enhances
the value of a property. That proposition is far from
self-evident. The Rule 12(b)(6) standard requires, however,
that I accept the allegations of the complaints as true for
purposes of this motion only.
plaintiffs make no general claim that the inability to attend
the school of one's choice in the town of one's
choice constitutes a constitutional deprivation. If it did,
then all the residents of a town would possess a
claim that they were deprived of the opportunity to attend
the schools of another town. Nor do plaintiffs claim that the
State is not entitled to set up school districts and assign
schools based on the place of residence. Nor do I understand
the plaintiffs to be saying that the local authorities are
not entitled to promulgate a rule for dealing with
"border" properties. The particular rule here is
tied to the "predominate assessed valuation" of the
property, but presumably the State or the towns had wide
latitude to select a rule based on square footage, mailing
address, or any other relevant factor. Plaintiffs here are
making the narrower claim that the existing rule was applied
erroneously, or that the manner of its application violated
their federal rights.
Allegations of Joseph G. Wojak
about January 1, 1929, the Township of Bloomfield and the
Borough of Glen Ridge passed resolutions concerning the
assessment of taxes for "border properties" that
are not entirely within the boundaries of either town. (Wojak
AC ¶ 2; Removal Ex. A). In the spring of 1968, plaintiff
Joseph G. Wojak ("Wojak") purchased real property
commonly known as 26 Stonehouse Road, Glen Ridge, New Jersey
07003 (the "Wojak Address"). (Wojak AC ¶
1). The property at the Wojak Address is specifically
mentioned in the January 1, 1929 resolutions. (Wojak AC
about February 15, 1968, Wojak received a letter from the
then-Superintendent of Glen Ridge Public Schools, James F.
Gray. (Wojak AC ¶ 4; Removal Ex. B). This letter reads,
"The residence at 26 Stonehouse Road, Bloomfield, meets
the residency requirement of being fifty percent or more
within the Borough of Glen Ridge and therefore entitles
eligible occupants to enroll in the Glen Ridge Public
Schools." (Wojak AC ¶ 4; Removal Ex. B).
Wojak's two children attended the Glen Ridge schools and
graduated from Glen Ridge High School in 1980 and 1984.
(Wojak AC ¶ 5).
1977 or early 1978, the Borough of Glen Ridge adopted a
resolution which stated, in part, "(1) Henceforth the
tuition policy of this district shall be strictiy enforced as
to all non-domiciliary children including those domiciled in
residences on die municipal boundary, unless it appears as to
a boundary line property that the predominate portion of the
assessed valuation is located in tiiis school district."
(Wojak AC ¶ 6; Removal Ex. C).
about December 6, 1977, George H. Callahan, then-attorney for
the Borough of Glen Ridge, sent a letter to Peter N.
Perr[e]tti, Jr., dien-attorney for the Glen Ridge BOE. (Wojak
AC ¶ 7; Removal Ex. D). Callahan addressed die 1977 or
1978 resolution. (Wojak AC ¶ 7; Removal Ex. D). He
proposed diat notices should be sent to all residents whose
children might be excluded from Glen Ridge Schools; he
mentioned that all objecting residents could appeal to the
county superintendent of education, in accordance with the
procedures outlined by the State BOE. (Wojak AC ¶ 8;
Removal Ex. D).
says he was never notified of any resolution or hearing
proposal affecting his property rights. (Wojak AC
¶¶ 9, 12). At the time he filed die original
complaint in March 2016, Wojak was planning to sell his home.
(Wojak AC ¶ 10; Removal ¶ 2). It was tiien that he
learned that die occupants of die Wojak Address no longer had
die right to send children living there to Glen Ridge
schools; any resident children would be assigned to die
Bloomfield schools. (Wojak AC ¶¶ 10-11). Wojak
alleges tiiat his property is wortii significantly less as a
result of die change in school-district assignment. (Wojak AC
diminution in value, Wojak claims, amounts to an
unconstitutional taking and denial of due process. (Wojak AC
¶ 17). He filed a civil action in Essex County Superior
Court, Law Division on or about March 1, 2016. (Removal
¶ 2). The Glen Ridge BOE tiien removed this case to die
U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
of Wojak's amended complaint claims a denial of due
process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution. (Wojak AC l/¶¶ 1-10). Count 2 alleges
that the change in school district assignment constitutes a
regulatory taking under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Wojak AC
Allegations of Charles Sanders, Lee Roth, and Joseph
case has been consolidated with a related case brought by
plaintiffs Charles Sanders, Lee Roth, and Joseph Marotta.
(Consol.). Plaintiff Charles Sanders ("Sanders")
owns real property known as 16 Stonehouse Road, Glen Ridge,
New Jersey 07028. (SRM Compl. ¶ 1). Plaintiff Lee Roth
("Roth") now owns real property known as 26
Stonehouse Road, Glen Ridge, New Jersey 07028 (i.e., the
Wojak Address). (SRM Compl. ¶ 2). Plaintiff Joseph
Marotta ("Marotta") owns the real property known as
20 Stonehouse Road, Glen Ridge, New Jersey 07028. (SRM Compl.
Roth, and Marotta all own border properties and reside in
dwelling spaces which they say are primarily situated in the
Borough of Glen Ridge. (SRM Compl. ¶ 4). However, they
are required to pay taxes to Bloomfield and enroll their
children in Bloomfield schools. (SRM Compl. ¶ 4).
Sanders, Roth, and Marotta-and the previous owners of the
properties-allegedly were not afforded an opportunity to
address their "irregular situation" with
defendants. (SRM Compl. ¶¶ 6-7). These plaintiffs
seek to pay taxes to Glen Ridge and enroll their children in
Glen Ridge schools. (SRM Compl. ¶ 8). Count 1 of their
complaint alleges a due process violation. (SRM Compl.
¶¶ 12-16). Count 2 alleges a regulatory taking.
(SRM Compl. ¶¶ 17-21). These plaintiffs seek
damages, a declaration that their property is situated in the
Borough of Glen Ridge, and a declaration that the children
residing with them are eligible to enroll in Glen Ridge
schools. (SRM Compl.).
Ridge BOE moved to consolidate the Sanders, Lee, Marotta
litigation with the Wojak litigation on January 13, 2017.
(Consol.). I granted that unopposed motion on March 21, 2017.
(ECF No. 26).
Cross Claims and Counterclaim
April 5, 2016, Glen Ridge BOE filed cross claims against the
other defendants. (ECF No. 4). On May 11, 2016, the Borough
of Glen Ridge filed cross claims the other defendants, and
also filed a counterclaim against Wojak "for the value
of the benefits conferred upon [Wojak] for [Wojak]'s use
of the Glen Ridge public schools without payment of taxes or
tuition in lieu thereof."(ECF No. 9). On March 27, 2017,
the Bloomfield BOE filed cross claims against all defendants
for contribution and indemnification. (ECF No. 27).
Rule 12(b)(6) Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of a complaint, in whole or in part, if it fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. The defendant, as the
moving parry, bears the burden of showing that no claim has
been stated. Animal Sci. Prods., Inc. v. China Minmetals
Corp., 654 F.3d 462, 469 n.9 (3d Cir. 2011). For the
purposes of a motion to dismiss, the facts alleged in the
complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences
are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. New Jersey
Carpenters & the Trs. Thereof v. Tishman Constr. Corp. of
New Jersey, 760 F.3d 297, 302 (3d Cir. 2014).
Rule of Procedure 8(a) does not require that a complaint
contain detailed factual allegations. Nevertheless, "a
plaintiffs 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
complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient to
raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a speculative level,
so that a claim is "plausible on its face."
Id. at 570; see also West Run Student Hous.
Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat'l Bank, 712 F.3d 165,
169 (3d Cir. 2013). That facial-plausibility standard is met
"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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he
plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability
requirement'... it asks for more than a sheer
possibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. At 678.
Rule 12(b)(1) Standard
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(1) may
be raised at any time. Iwanowa v. Ford Motor Co., 67
F.Supp.2d 424, 437-38 (D.N.J. 1999). Rule 12(b)(1) challenges
are either facial or factual attacks. See 2 James Wm. Moore,
Moore's Federal Practice § 12.30 (3d ed. 2007).
The defendant may facially challenge subject matter
jurisdiction by arguing that the complaint, on its face, does
not allege sufficient grounds to establish subject matter
jurisdiction. Iwanowa, 67 F.Supp.2d at 438. Under
the "facial" 12(b)(1) standard, as under Rule
12(b)(6), the allegations of the complaint are assumed to be
construe the State of New Jersey's arguments for
dismissal based on sovereign immunity as a facial challenge
to the amended complaint's jurisdictional basis.
Accordingly, for these purposes the Court will take the
allegations of the complaint as true. See Gould Elecs.,
Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).
III.A discusses the regulatory takings claims. Section III.B
discusses the due process claims.
Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that private
properly shall not "be taken for public use, without
just compensation." U.S. Const, amend. V. This Clause is
applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.
See Chicago, B. & Q.R. Co. v. Chicago, 166 U.S.
226 (1897); see also Murr v. Wisconsin, 137 S.Ct.
1933, 1942 (2017). Under the Takings Clause, it is clear that
the government must provide compensation when the government
physically takes or permanently occupies property. See
Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning
Agency, 535 U.S. 302, 321 (2002); Loretto v.
Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp., 458 U.S. 419 (1982).
The Takings Clause itself "does not address in specific
terms the imposition of regulatory burdens on private
property." Murr, 137 S.Ct. at 1942.
the Supreme Court has held that regulations "can be so
burdensome as to become a taking." Id. This
area of the law has been characterized by "ad hoc,
factual inquiries, designed to allow careful examination and
weighing of all the relevant circumstances."
Tahoe-Sierra, 535 U.S. at 322 (internal citation and
quotation marks omitted). Regulatory takings jurisprudence
seeks to balance two competing objectives. One objective is
"the individual's right to retain the interests and
exercise the freedoms at the core of private property
ownership." Murr, 137 S.Ct. at 1943; see
Lucas v. S. Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003,
1028 (1992). The other is "the government's
well-established power to 'adjus[t] rights for the public
good." Murr, 137 S.Ct. at 1943 (citing
Andrus v. Allard, 444 U.S. 51, 65 (1979). In
general, "while property may be regulated to a certain
extent, if the regulation goes too far it will be recognized
as a taking." Pa. Coal Co. v. Mahon, 290 U.S.
393, 415 (1922).
every land-use regulation or zoning change that impacts
property value is considered a regulatory taking; in fact,
most are not. "Land-use regulations are ubiquitous and
most of them impact property values in some tangential
way-often in completely unanticipated ways. Treating them all
as per se takings would transform government
regulation into a luxury few governments could afford."
Tahoe-Sierra, 535 U.S. at 324. As the Supreme Court
explained in Penn Central,
"Government hardly could go on if to some extent values
incident to property could not be diminished without paying
for every such change in the general law, "
Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. [at 413],
and this Court has accordingly recognized, in a wide variety
of contexts, that government may execute laws or programs
that adversely affect recognized economic values.
Penn Cent Transp. Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S.
104, 124 (1978). For instance, in United States v. Willow
River Power Co., the government erected a dam that
caused a three-foot increase in a river's water level.
324 U.S. 499, 509-11 (1945). The change in water level
decreased the capacity of a power plant. Id. The
Supreme Court found that this did not constitute a
"taking of private property" under the Takings
Clause. Id. Hadacheck v. Sebastian found that a
diminution in value from $800, 000 to $60, 000, caused by a
prohibition of brickmaking within a designated area, did not
constitute a taking. 239 U.S. 394 (1915); see Goldblatt
v. Hempstead,369 U.S. 590, 594 (1962). In
Tahoe-Sierra, a thirty-two-month moratorium on
development in the Lake Tahoe area was ordered by an
environmental planning agency to maintain the status quo
while studying the impact of any development on the
environment. 535 U.S. at 321. This did not constitute a
compensable "taking" either. Id. Penn
Central held the New York City Landmarks Preservation