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Mouratidis v. Katz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 7, 2019

LOUIS MOURATIDIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JUDGE DEBORAH S. KATZ, JUSTICE VIRGINIA A. LONG, JUDGE STEPHEN SKILLMAN, DAVID P. ANDERSON, JR., MATTHEW BOXER, PAUL J. WALKER, SUSAN A. FEENEY, KAREN KESSLER, VINCENT E. GENTILE, JUDGE EDWARD H. STERN, CLERK JOSEPH H. ORLANDO, and DEPUTY CLERK JOHN K. GRANT, Defendants.

          Louis Mouratidis Appearing pro se.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns various claims made by Plaintiff Louis Mouratidis against a New Jersey Superior Court Judge, members of the New Jersey Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, and the clerk and deputy clerk of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division. This matter is before the Court because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis and the Court must screen this complaint before allowing the case to proceed. Also before the Court are Plaintiff's Motions for a Preliminary Injunction and a Temporary Restraining Order, Motion to Amend, and Request for Leave of Court Under the Doctrine of Relation Back (collectively, the “Pending Motions”). This Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, with prejudice. As a result, this Court will also dismiss all Pending Motions as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         This Court takes it facts from Plaintiff's Complaint filed on November 1, 2018.[1] Plaintiff has named twelve putative Defendants: Justice Virginia A. Long, Judge Stephen Skillman, David P. Anderson, Jr., Matthew Boxer, Paul J. Walker, Susan A. Feeney, Karen Kessler, Vincent E. Gentile, Judge Edward H. Stern (collectively, the “ACJC”), Judge Deborah S. Katz, Clerk Joseph H. Orlando, and Deputy Clerk John K. Grant (collectively, Mr. Orlando and Mr. Grant will be referred to as the “Clerk Defendants”). Plaintiff claims these individuals have perpetrated a series of state and federal crimes against him, violated New Jersey statutes, violated rules of conduct, and violated constitutional rights giving rise to claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986.

         In spite of the amount of violations claimed of state and federal law, the facts of this case are straightforward. Between April 2017 and January 2019, Plaintiff has attempted to petition for a waiver of transcript fees. Plaintiff alleges he needs these transcripts in order to modify or dissolve a final order in a Family Part proceeding in the Superior Court, Chancery Division. His requests were heard before Judge Katz, a New Jersey Superior Court judge in the Camden Vicinage who serves as the Assignment Judge. Plaintiff claims his petitions were properly filed and meritorious. All have been denied.

         As a result, Plaintiff resorted to two alternate means to have his petitions heard before another Superior Court judge. First, Plaintiff filed motions for recusal before Judge Katz. Second, Plaintiff filed a grievance before the New Jersey Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, comprising of the nine individuals described supra. The motions for recusal were denied. The grievance was also denied because Plaintiff essentially complained that Judge Katz's decision was incorrect and not that her conduct was in some way improper, according to the ACJC's description of the complaint. The ACJC advised Plaintiff that the proper avenue for his grievance would be an appeal.

         As a result, Plaintiff thereafter filed an appeal with the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division in October 2018. Plaintiff received a letter shortly thereafter from Defendant Orlando stating that his appeal was deficient and would be dismissed for three reasons. Plaintiff did not thereafter attempt to amend his filing to correct the deficiencies noted by Mr. Orlando.

         Instead, Plaintiff filed this action. In it, Plaintiff alleges that the members of the ACJC and Judge Katz conspired to deny him the ability to receive transcripts at public expense. This conspiracy, Plaintiff alleges, “discriminated by its disruptive impact against the Plaintiff” and:

deprived [Plaintiff] again (directly) of the laws [of] the State of New Jersey [i]njured in his persons & deprived of flexing & exercising rights & privileges of a Disabled Citizen of the United States of America, rights to properly petition, right to contest civil injunctions, rights not to be enslaved. In direct violations to the First - Fifth & Fourteenth Amend. U.S.C.A. In which has promoted the 8th Amend. Violation incorporating the New Jersey Const. Art. I. Sec. 1. Sec. 12.

(Pl. Compl. ¶ 25.)

         Additionally, Plaintiff claims the ACJC:

has without doubt, willfully neglected to investigate and or cover up the actions of the judge who committed the illegal countless acts and actions in accordance to N.J.R.G.A. 2:15-8(a)(1) - (2) - (3) - (4) (5) and (6), incorporating the N.J. Rules of Judicial Conduct Canons R. 1.1 - 1.2 - 2.1 - 3.2 - 3.9.

(Pl. Compl. ¶ 28.)

Finally, Plaintiff alleges the Clerk Defendants[2]:
refused to file Plaintiff[']s legislative proper appeal and documents by fabricating that the Plaintiff has not filed the proper documents, in which is inconsistent with the evidence of exhibits provided.

(Pl. Compl. ¶ 38.)

         Plaintiff generally complains of psychological injuries as a result of the actions of the putative Defendants. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he suffers from “Massive Post Traumatic Stress Disorder under his Rehabilitation, Sub category specifically from Abusive Legal Proceedings generically coined, Legal Abuse Syndrome - Judicial Legal Combet [sic] Trauma, It's an assault on the stress of the human mind, via: brain.” (Pl. Compl. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff does not clearly request any particular relief, although it appears he requests this Court to dissolve the restraining order and grant him declaratory relief in addition to punishing putative Defendants under various criminal statutes.[3]

         This Court, after receiving Plaintiff's Complaint, administratively terminated the action until Plaintiff filed the correct in forma pauperis application (the “IFP Application”). Plaintiff did so in November 2018 and the Court granted his IFP Application, but restricted the Clerk from filing his Complaint or issuing summons until the screening process was completed. In the interim between the filing of this Opinion and the grant of Plaintiff's IFP Application, Plaintiff filed the Pending Motions with supporting legal briefs and filed a notice stating he had filed another petition for waiver of transcript fees. Plaintiff's Complaint is ripe for screening.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.

         B. Screening Standard

         Although § 1915 refers to “prisoners, ” federal courts apply § 1915 to non-prisoner IFP applications. See Hickson v. Mauro, No. 11-6304, 2011 WL 6001088, at *1 (D.N.J. Nov. 30, 2011) (citing Lister v. Dep't of Treasury, 408 F.3d 1309, 1312 (10th Cir. 2005)); Lister, 408 F.3d at 1312 (“Section 1915(a) applies to all persons applying for IFP status, and not just to prisoners.”). Once IFP status has been granted, a court must follow the screening provisions of the IFP statute. The screening provisions of the IFP statute require a federal court to dismiss an action sua sponte if, among other things, the action is frivolous or malicious, or if it fails to comply with the proper pleading standards. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); Martin v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., No. 17-3129, 2017 WL 3783702, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug. 30, 2017) (“Federal law requires this Court to screen Plaintiff's Complaint for sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to dismiss any claim if that claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and/or to dismiss any defendant who is immune from suit.”).

         As indicated, this Court must follow the Rule 12(b)(6) standard in considering a pro se complaint. Pro se complaints must be construed liberally, and all reasonable latitude must be afforded the pro se litigant. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976). But, pro se litigants “must still plead the essential elements of [their] claim and [are] not excused from conforming to the standard rules of civil procedure.” McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”); Sykes v. Blockbuster Video, 205 Fed.Appx. 961, 963 (3d Cir. 2006) (finding that pro se plaintiffs are expected to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).

         When screening a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] 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) (alteration in original) (citations omitted) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957); Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry & Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994); Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

To determine the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must take three steps. First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Third, “whe[n] there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should ...

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