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Lampon-Paz v. Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 14, 2019



          Kevin Mcnulty, United States District Judge.

         The pro se plaintiff, Manuel Lampon-Paz, is a frequent litigant in this district.[1] He brings this action against the United States Department of Justice, the State of New Jersey, and other related defendants. The most recent version of the complaint is the Amended Complaint (DE 106), filed on August 14, 2018.[2]

         Now before the court are motions by the United States (DE 130) and the State of New Jersey (DE 136) to dismiss the Complaint for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The allegations, although obviously deeply and sincerely felt, fail to state a claim that can be addressed by this federal court. The motions to dismiss are granted.

         I. Allegations and Procedural Background

         The allegations of the Complaint may be summarized as follows.

         The plaintiff, a former air marshal, alleges on behalf of himself and a minor child, EDLP, that these governmental defendants created discord in his relationships, coerced sexual acts, and engaged in physical abuse of the plaintiffs. Mr. Lampon-Paz dated and later married CMLP, who was living in the U.S. illegally at the time. The two concealed her illegal status and concocted a false story, involving a trip back and forth to Colombia, so that she could apply to live in the U.S. legally. The government allegedly attempted to coerce sexual favors from CMLP. Mr. Lampon-Paz insists that he and CMLP should be prosecuted for immigration fraud, but the government refuses to do so. The couple unfortunately were divorced in 2016, and Mr. Lampon-Paz attributes die divorce to the defendants' actions.

         I here summarize a sampling of the large number of incidents recited in the Complaint:

• "[A]n unknown blonde female" told him to "be quiet about what we did to your wife or we will take the passport evidence in the charity care case to the prosecutor." (Compl. at 6);
• "[A]n elderly gentleman told me to take back my filing or that I would regret it at the U.S. Attorney's Office" (Compl. at 7);
• "On two occasions, my tire has blown out and it had lost all but one lug nut. These items happened while I was out visiting or at the gym." (Compl. at 7);
• "I have been punched in the face while walking home from a bar." (Compl. at 7);
• Plaintiffs house and car were broken into and he was "unable to wake up and had my covers removed from my pelvis and a bruise on my buttocks," among other things. (Compl. at 7);
• Plaintiffs child, EDLP, "has awakened with the back door open and the covers completely removed from his body while he was at my residence." (Compl. at 7);
• "An individual named Mr. O. was left alone with EDLP in his kindergarten class on several occasions" and that an individual in California "seemingly removed EDLP's pants while he was in detention and that this same individual was in on a field trip with EDLP and took him in his car when EDLP fell ill." (Compl. at 7, 13, 15);
• Defendants "have used electronic surveillance unlawfully" to chat with him through an internet poker site. (Compl. at 16).
• "[A] helicopter flew close, within 15 feet, of our house and used EDLP's first name." (Compl. at 16).

         II. Applicable Standards

         Rule 12(b)(1) governs jurisdictional challenges to a complaint. These may be either facial or factual attacks. See 2 Moore's Federal Practice § 12.30[4] (3d ed. 2007); Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977).

         A facial challenge asserts that the complaint does not allege sufficient grounds to establish subject-matter jurisdiction. Lincoln Ben. Life Co. v. AEI Life, LLC, 800 F.3d 99, 105 (3d Cir. 2015); Iwanowa v. Ford Motor Co., 67 F.Supp.2d 424, 438 (D.N.J. 1999). It "review[s] only whether the allegations on the face of the complaint, taken as true, allege facts sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of the district court." Common Cause of Penn. v. Pennsylvania, 558 F.3d 249, 257 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Taliaferro v. Darby Twp. Zoning Bd., 458 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 2006)).

         A factual attack, on the other hand, permits the Court to consider evidence extrinsic to the pleadings. Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000), holding modified on other grounds by Simon v. United States, 341 F.3d 193 (3d Cir. 2003). Such a factual attack "does not provide plaintiffs the procedural safeguards of Rule 12(b)(6), such as assuming the truth of the plaintiffs allegations." CNA v. United States, 535 F.3d 132, 144 (3d Cir. 2008).

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For 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 Trustees Thereof v. Tishman Const. Corp. of New Jersey, 760 F.3d 297, 302 (3d Cir. 2014). Federal 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.

         The briefs and pleadings of a pro se litigant, such as Mr. Lampon-Paz here, will be construed without strict regard to legal forms. See Niblack v. Murray, No. CV126910MASTJB, 2016 WL4086775, at *1 n.l (D.N.J. July 29, 2016) (citing Pratt v. Port Auth. of N.Y.& N.J., 563 Fed.Appx. 132, 134 (3d Cir. 2014) ("[B]ecause [the plaintiff] is proceeding pro se, we will construe his brief liberally."); Marcinek v. Comm'r, 467 Fed.Appx. 153, 154 (3d Cir. 2012) (holding that courts are "under an obligation to liberally construe the submissions of a pro se litigant")). See generally Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). I have construed Lampon-Paz's submissions in the liberal spirit of Haines. Nevertheless, even "pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013).

         III. Motion to Dismiss of United States

         A. Res Judicata

         The United States moves to dismiss the Complaint on grounds of res judicata, based on final decisions rendered by Judge Martini in two prior actions brought by this plaintiff.[3] Those prior decisions are No. 12-4485 (WJM), 2013 WL 2475859 (Lampon-Paz i), and No. 13-5757 (WJM), 2014 WL 252909 [Lampon-Paz U\. (Copies of those prior decisions are attached to the defendant's motion. (DE 130-3, 130-5). I cite to page numbers in the slip opinions.)

         Because the res judicata doctrine is here invoked as between actions in federal district court, federal standards apply:

Claim preclusion bars suit when three elements are present:
"(1) a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit involving (2) the same parties or their privies and (3) a subsequent suit based on the same cause of action." Lubrizol Corp. v. Exxon Corp., 929 F.2d 960, 963 (3d Cir. 1991).

Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 341-42 (3d Cir. 2016). Those three elements of res judicata are satisfied here.

         1. Pinal judgment

         Judge Martini's decisions in Lampon-Paz I and II were final judgments on die merits. A dismissal for lack of jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), because it does not touch the merits, is presumptively without prejudice and therefore not final. Siravo v. Crown, Cork & Seal Co., 256 Fed.Appx. 577, 580-81 (3d Cir. 2007) (non-precedential) (citing In re Orthopedic "Bone Screw" Prods. Liab. Litig., 132 F.3d 152, 155 (3d Cir. 1997)). A final dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), however, constitutes a final judgment. See Federated Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 399 n.3 (1981).

         In Lampon-Paz I, Judge Martini granted dismissal under both Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6). Because Mr. Lampon-Paz had not exhausted administrative remedies, his appeal from a decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MPSB) was denied for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. at 4. As to "Plaintiffs remaining claims," however, Judge Martini granted dismissal "because Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Id. Because the plaintiff had previously amended his complaint once and further amendment appeared futile, the dismissal was entered with prejudice.

         In Lampon-Paz II, Judge Martini sua sponte found a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and also granted a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. As to jurisdiction, Judge Martini cited case law from other Circuits dismissing on jurisdictional grounds claims, like those of the plaintiff, that the government was engaging in mind control or sending subliminal messages. Id. at 9-10. Because the "Third Circuit has not taken a stance" on that jurisdictional issue, however, Judge Martini went on to hold that "[e]ven if the court had jurisdiction to entertain Plaintiffs claim, the Complaint would still have to be dismissed on a variety of other procedural and substantive grounds." Id. at 10. The grounds cited ...

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