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Dantinne v. Brown

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 26, 2018

Richard Dantinne, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Randy Brown, Sandy Student, Nichole Stone, William McGoey, and Evesham Township, Defendants.

          OPINION

          JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ U.S.D.J.

         This matter is before the Court on Motions to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. Oral argument on the motions was heard on November 8, 2017 and the record of that proceeding is incorporated here. For the reasons expressed on the record that date, and those below, the motions to dismiss will be granted.

         Background

         Plaintiff's first Complaint was filed in State court and was replaced by a federal court Complaint filed on January 24, 2017. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 8] and Second Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 30]. In lieu of Answers, all Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss which are presently before the Court. [Doc. Nos. 44-47, 49]. All Defendants assert that no federal jurisdiction exists and, if any part of Plaintiff's Complaint is viable, jurisdiction is appropriate in State court.

         This lawsuit arises out of a press conference held by Mayor Randy Brown (“Brown”) of Evesham Township (“Evesham”) on or about January 12, 2017. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) At that press conference, Brown allegedly stated “words to the effect that sexual harassment complaints had been filed against Plaintiff” and that “Plaintiff's conduct ‘without question' ‘crossed the line.'” (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 11.) He further alleged that “the administration was hiding and covering up the sexual harassment complaints.” (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 10.)

         Plaintiff originally sued Randy Brown and then later named Sandy Student, Nichole Stone, William McGoey, and Evesham Township. Student, Stone, and McGoey are members of the Evesham Township Board of Education. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges he was defamed, his privacy was invaded, he was denied due process, and his liberty interests were deprived.[1] (See generally Second Am. Compl.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that his offer of employment with the Gloucester Township Board of Education was withdrawn due to “Brown's conduct . . . outside the scope of [his] employment as Mayor.” (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 28-29, emphasis in original.) Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint has alleged an alternative theory that Brown “was acting within the course and scope of his duties as Mayor.” (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 31(a)-(f).)

         Discussion

         Applicable Standards

         A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) must be granted if the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear a claim. In re Schering Plough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012). When a defendant files a motion under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction for the sake of remaining in federal court. Gould Elec., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000). The Court applies this standard to the issue of immunity. See Young v. United States, 152 F.Supp.3d 337, 344 (D.N.J. 2015).

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) may involve either a facial challenge to subject matter jurisdiction or a factual challenge to the jurisdictional allegations. Gould Elec., 220 F.3d at 176. If the defendant's attack is facial-i.e., “asserting that the complaint, on its face, does not allege sufficient grounds to establish subject matter jurisdiction”-a court must accept all allegations in the complaint as true. Taliaferro v. Darby Twp. Zoning Bd., 458 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 2006). Alternatively, a defendant may “challenge a federal court's jurisdiction by factually attacking the plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations as set forth in the complaint.” Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). A factual challenge attacks the existence of a court's subject matter jurisdiction apart from any of the pleadings and, when considering such a challenge, a presumption of truthfulness does not attach to a plaintiff's allegations.” Id.; see also Martinez v. U.S. Post Office, 875 F.Supp. 1067, 1070 (D.N.J. 1995).

         Alternatively, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move for dismissal of a claim based on “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if the alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), ordinarily only the allegations in the complaint, matters of public record, orders, and exhibits attached to the complaint, are taken into consideration.[2] See Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pa. Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead evidence. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 561 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). The question before the Court is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (2007). Instead, the Court simply asks whether the plaintiff has articulated “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         “A claim has facial plausibility[3] 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). “Where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         The Court need not accept “‘unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, '” Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted), however, and “[l]egal conclusions made in the guise of factual allegations . . . are given no presumption of truthfulness.” Wyeth v. Ranbaxy Labs., Ltd., 448 F.Supp.2d 607, 609 (D.N.J. 2006) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see also Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005) (“[A] court need not credit either ‘bald assertions' or ‘legal conclusions' in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss.”)). Accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-80 (finding that pleadings that are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth). Further, although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). See also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”).

         Thus, a motion to dismiss should be granted unless the plaintiff's factual allegations are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has ...


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