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Rodriguez v. The State of Florida
United States District Court, D. New Jersey
November 2, 2018
JEAN EMMANUEL RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
THE STATE OF FLORIDA, et al., Defendants
B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
new case, Plaintiff Jean Emmanuel Rodriguez purports to sue
as defendants the State of Florida and 27 other states. Mr.
Rodriguez asserts that the states are applying the
“stand-your-ground” law unequally in a racially
discriminatory way. He cites four examples in which an
altercation occurred between persons of different races. In
two instances, a white person shot an unarmed black person
and was exonerated under a state's
“stand-your-ground” law, while in the other two
examples an African American individual was allegedly
attacked by a Caucasian person and shot the Caucasian and was
prosecuted, notwithstanding the
“stand-your-ground” law. Mr. Rodriguez, who
resides in Somers Point, New Jersey, does not claim that he
was a witness or participant in any of these matters, but he
seeks relief in the form of a civil judgment in the amount of
$23, 000, 000.00, according to his Civil Cover Sheet [Docket
Item 1-1]. The Court makes the following findings:
1. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's application
for permission to proceed without prepayment of fees under 28
U.S.C. § 1915. Based on the information in Mr.
Rodriguez's financial affidavit, his application to file
this matter without prepayment of fees will be GRANTED. The
Complaint will be filed with the Clerk of the Court.
2. Where a Complaint is filed in forma pauperis under 28
U.S.C. § 1915, the assigned Judge must review the
Complaint to determine whether the case may proceed. Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court, upon a preliminary
screening, “shall dismiss the case at any time if the
court determines that... (B) the action or appeal - (i) is
frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against
a defendant who is immune from such relief.”
3. Applying this standard, the Complaint must be dismissed
for several fundamental reasons.
4. First, plaintiff Rodriguez seeks monetary relief against
28 states. This suit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment of
the Constitution which provides that a State cannot be sued
directly in its own name for money damages. Ex Parte
Young, 209 U.S. 123, 150-60 (1908); see also
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n.14 (1985)
(“Unless a State has waived its Eleventh Amendment
immunity or Congress has overridden it, ... a State cannot be
sued directly in its own name regardless of the relief
sought.”) Accordingly, this suit cannot proceed against
these states in federal court for money damages or any other
form of relief.
5. Second, the Plaintiff lacks standing to bring claims for
relief where, as here, he has not shown that he has suffered
a harm that is particular and specific to himself. Instead,
he makes conclusory allegations and generalized grievances
with various States' laws or practices. The Complaint
fails to demonstrate that Mr. Rodriguez has standing to raise
these claims, or that any amendment to the Complaint might,
in the future, give him standing under Article III of the
U.S. Constitution. Under Article III, federal courts are only
empowered to decide “cases or controversies.” For
a federal court to have the power to decide a case or
controversy, a plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating that
he has suffered a particularized harm for which a court can
provide a remedy. To meet the minimal constitutional mandate
for Article III standing, a plaintiff must show: (1) An
“injury in fact”; (2) “a causal connection
between the injury and the conduct complained of”; and
(3) that the injury will likely “be redressed by a
favorable decision.” Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). An “injury
in fact” is defined as “an invasion of a legally
protected interest which is (a) concrete and
particularized... and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural
or hypothetical.” Id. at 560.
6. This also means that this Court is not empowered to hear a
plaintiff's generalized grievances as the plaintiff's
personal disagreement with a public policy or practice that
has not actually caused cognizable injury to the plaintiff
(or for which no such individual injury is threatened and
imminent). See Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Americans
United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454
U.S. 464, 474-75 (1982). Nor may a plaintiff sue for harms
suffered by others. Thus, a federal court, under Article III
of the Constitution, must refrain “from adjudicating
‘abstract questions of wide public significance'
which amount to ‘generalized grievances',
pervasively shared and most appropriately addressed in the
representative branches.” Id. The
representative branches are the U.S. Congress and the
legislatures of the various states.
7. In the present case, Plaintiff expresses his
dissatisfaction with the perceived injustices perpetrated and
directed toward other persons in other states, and he nowhere
states any specific facts pointing to an individualized
injury that he has suffered due to some violation of other
persons' constitutional rights. Accordingly, Mr.
Rodriguez lacks standing under Article III of the
Constitution to present such generalized grievances to this
Court, and the Complaint will be dismissed.
8. The Court has also considered whether these deficiencies
might be curable by an amendment, since a court has the
obligation to construe a pro se litigant's pleadings
liberally. It is not foreseeable that plaintiff could supply
any set of facts which would cure the above deficiencies
concerning both Eleventh Amendment immunity and lack of
Article III standing.
9. Accordingly, upon a preliminary screening, the
accompanying Order will dismiss the ...
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