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J.C. v. Richards

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 26, 2019

J.C. individually, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,


          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns civil rights claims brought by a pro se litigant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and Motion for Recusal. For the reasons expressed herein, this Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and deny Plaintiff's Motion for Recusal.


         On September 17, 2018 Plaintiff, identified only as J.C., filed a complaint in this Court against the Borough of Clementon, Donna Carns, Randall Freiling, Charles Grover, Jenai Johnson, Kimberly Morrell, Anthony M. Ogozalek, Jr., Gene Richards, and Robert Worrick (collectively, “Defendants”). The complaint alleges that in September 2016, Plaintiff received a notice stating he had plant growth on his property that was in violation of the Borough of Clementon's code. A trial was held concerning this alleged code violation, in which the charge was apparently sustained. The code violation allegedly entailed a fine, court costs, and later criminal penalties. Plaintiff alleges various civil rights violations occurred during the investigation, prosecution, and attempted appeal of the underlying case.

         On September 18, 2018, this Court issued an Order to Show Cause to Plaintiff, directing Plaintiff to either (1) show cause why Plaintiff should be able to proceed under the pseudonym “J.C.” or (2) amend the complaint so that the caption contains his name. Plaintiff responded to this Order to Show Cause on October 5, 2018, arguing he should be able to proceed under what Plaintiff asserted were his initials. On November 1, 2018, this Court ordered Plaintiff to amend his complaint to reflect his full name or face dismissal, without prejudice.

         Plaintiff thereafter filed a Motion for Reconsideration on November 29, 2018 and a “Reply in Opposition to November 1st Filing” on December 6, 2018. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Recusal on December 6, 2018. Considering no Defendant has entered an appearance, this Court finds these motions fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.


         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

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

         B. Motion for Reconsideration Standard

         Plaintiff brings a motion for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Rule 59(e) allows a Court to “alter or amend a judgment.” Because there has been no final judgment entered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), a Rule 59(e) motion is inapplicable. Jones v. Sanko S.S. Co., No. 10-6787 (JBS/KMW), 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26205, at *10-11 (D.N.J. Mar. 2, 2016) (citing Mitchell v. Twp. Of Willingboro Mun. Gov't, 913 F.Supp.2d 62, 78 (D.N.J. 2012)).

         Instead, this Court will construe Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration as one under Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7.1(i).[1] Local Rule 7.1(i) allows a party to file a motion with the Court requesting the Court to reconsider the “matter or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge or Magistrate Judge has overlooked.” Construing this motion liberally, this appears to be exactly the argument Plaintiff sets forth. (See Pl.'s Mtn. for Recons. 1 n.1 (“Thus, Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration does not attempt to raise arguments or evidence Plaintiff neglected to put forth earlier, but rather urges the Court to grant due consideration to overlooked evidence Plaintiff presented.”).)

         The Local Rule 7.1(i) standard applies to Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration. Under Local Rule 7.1(i), the moving party must demonstrate “‘the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.'” Andreyko v. Sunrise Sr. Living, Inc., 993 F.Supp.2d 475, 478 (D.N.J. 2014) (citations omitted). In doing so, the moving party must show the “‘dispositive factual matter or controlling decisions of law'” it believes the court overlooked in its initial decision. Mitchell, 913 F.Supp.2d at 78 (citation omitted). A mere disagreement with the Court will not suffice to show that the Court overlooked relevant facts or controlling law. United States v. Compaction Sys. Corp., 88 F.Supp.2d 339, 345 (D.N.J. 1999).

         C. Motion for Reconsideration

         Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration is essentially a restatement, some of it word-for-word, of his other filings and mostly shows mere disagreement with the Court's Orders rather than that the Court overlooked any dispositive legal or factual matters. The Court finds, however, that Plaintiff has presented a single question of law and fact that this Court must consider. Plaintiff asserted in his response to the Court's September 18, 2019 Order to Show Cause that he was presently seeking expungement, although the Court stated he only planned on seeking expungement at some later date. Thus, the question presented to this Court is whether Plaintiff may proceed using only his initials if he seeks expungement of state court criminal records under the All Writs Act. For that reason, all arguments except Plaintiff's argument concerning expungement, shall not be considered by the Court.

         Plaintiff's Complaint appears to request expungement pursuant to the All Writs Act. In Plaintiff's Complaint, Plaintiff states “Plaintiff's claim for expungement (if needed) is authorized by the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651.” (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 1.) Although the addition of “if needed” appears to indicate that Plaintiff did not presently wish to pursue expungement, Plaintiff has made clear in later briefing to the Court that Plaintiff does wish to pursue expungement in this ...

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