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Lawrence v. Mercer County Probation Division Child Support Enforcement

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 14, 2018



          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         Presently before the Court is Defendant, New Jersey Judiciary, Mercer Vicinage Probation Division, Child Support Enforcement Unit's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Felix Lawrence's Complaint (ECF No. 8) pursuant Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons discussed herein, Defendant's motion is granted.


         Plaintiffs Complaint is difficult to understand. It appears that Plaintiffs Complaint is based on an August 29, 2017 child support judgment, and the State's efforts to enforce the order. On April 7, 2017, Plaintiff received a "Notice of Reporting to Credit Agencies" letter, which reported that Plaintiff owed $9, 943.00 in past due child support and that Defendant would be reporting this information to credit bureaus and lending institutions. (ECF No. 1-1 at 17 "Notice of Reporting Letter"). On July 27, 2017, Plaintiff responded to this letter, claiming that Defendant failed to provide any evidence supporting its claim that Plaintiff owed the amount listed. (ECF No. 1-1 at 15-16, "July Response Letter"). In his letter, Plaintiff also demanded an opportunity to inspect and copy Defendant's records. (Id.).

         On August 29, 2017, Plaintiffs child support arrears totaled $13, 529.00, and Plaintiff was ordered to make a lump sum payment of $1, 000 by September 15, 2017, and weekly payments of $200. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2-3, "Child Support Judgment"). Plaintiff failed to make any payments. As such, a Notice of Delinquency was sent to Plaintiff on September 20, 2017. (ECF No. 1-1 at 12, "Delinquency Letter"). According to the Notice, no payment has been posted to his child support account and, as of the date of the Notice, his current balance owed was $14, 018.00 (Id.). Plaintiff responded to this Notice five days later contesting his status as a debtor and demanding proof for the amount owed. (ECF No. 1-1 at 20-21, "September Response Letter").

         In any event, on November 27, 2017, Defendant levied uneventfully upon Plaintiffs bank account and filed notice with state and federal tax collectors that it was levying on all tax refunds. There was insufficient funds in his account, and Defendant did not collect any funds. (ECF No. 1-1 at 19, "US Bank Letter").

         Based on these actions, Plaintiff seeks for the Court to compel Defendant to produce evidence that establishes that it had jurisdiction to issue the support order, and to issue orders prohibiting Defendant from executing further collection efforts.

         Legal Standards

         I. Rule 12(b)(1) Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(1), a claim can be dismissed for "lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter." This motion to dismiss may be asserted at any time in a case. In re Kaiser Group Int'l, Inc., 399 F.3d 558, 565 (3d Cir. 2005). "When subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff must bear the burden of persuasion." Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). If the defendant's attack is facial, the court may take all allegations in the complaint as true and "may dismiss the complaint only if it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff will not be able to assert a colorable claim of subject matter jurisdiction." Liu v. Gonzales, No. 07-1797, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74611, at *7 (D.N.J. Oct. 5, 2007).

         Where, as here, Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court should read Plaintiffs complaint generously and hold it "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, "a pro se plaintiff is not exempt from his burden of providing some affirmative evidence, i.e. not just mere allegations, to establish a prima facie case, and to show that there is a genuine dispute for trial." Niblack v. Murray, No. 12-6910, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99325, at *7 (D.N.J. July 29, 2016) (citing Barnett v. N.J. Transit Corp., 573 Fed.Appx. 239, 243 (3d Cir. 2014)).


         Although Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs Complaint based on the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, because this matter involves domestic relations disputes arising from child support proceedings, the Court finds that Younger abstention is appropriate. See Anthony v. Council, 316 F.3d 412, 417 (3d Cir. 2003) (applying Younger abstention to action challenging state court orders on child support). "[I]n order for a district court to abstain under Younger, three requirements must be met: (1) there must be ongoing state proceedings that are judicial in nature; (2) the state proceedings must implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings must provide an adequate opportunity to raise federal claims." Dixon v. Kuhn, 257 Fed.Appx. 553, 555 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Anthony, 316 F.3d at 418). Here, all three factors are present.

         First, judicial proceedings concerning child support orders and obligations are "ongoing." In Anthony, the Third Circuit explained that because "child support orders and the mechanisms for monitoring, enforcing and modifying them comprise a unique system in continual operation," they remain "ongoing" until the child support order is finally discharged. 316 F.3d at 420. As such, under Younger, because New Jersey has "such a comprehensive and fluid system designed to address the ever-present and ever-changing realities of child support orders," for this Court ...

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