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Baptiste v. Attorney General of United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 27, 2019





         The plaintiff, Oscar Baptiste, was removed from the United States to Panama based on his conviction of an aggravated felony. From Panama, he is continuing to litigate this action, which seeks a seeking a writ of mandamus compelling the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service ("USCIS") to adjudicate (i.e., grant) his N-400 application for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. This matter has been the subject of two prior written opinions in connection with Mr. Baptiste's motions to stay his removal. Now before the Court is the motion (DE 14) of the United States to dismiss the complaint or petition for mandamus ("Pet.", DE 1) for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         Since the motion was filed, events have overtaken us. First, the final order of removal has been executed, and Mr. Baptiste is litigating this case from Panama. Second, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has denied his appeal from the ICE administrative proceedings, in terms that dispose of many or most of the issues here.


         Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., provides for the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The defendant, as the moving party, bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Animal Science Products, Inc. v. China Minmetals Corp., 654 F.3d 462, 469 n. 9 (3d Cir. 2011). For the 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; see also West Run Student Housing Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat. Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013). That facial-plausibility standard is met "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement'. . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         The Petition attaches documents, primarily pleadings and decisions referred to in the body of the Petition itself. A court considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is confined to the allegations of the complaint, with narrow exceptions:

"Although phrased in relatively strict terms, we have declined to interpret this rule narrowly. In deciding motions under Rule 12(b)(6), courts may consider "document[s] integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint," In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (emphasis in original), or any "undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiffs claims are based on the document," PBGC v. White Consol Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)."

In re Asbestos Products Liability Litigation (No. VI), 822 F.3d 125, 134 n.7 (3d Cir. 2016);see also Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014) ("However, an exception to the general rule is that a 'document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint' may be considered Nvithout converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment.' ") (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory, 114 F.3d at 1426); Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

         Attached to both sides' papers, in addition, are copies of judicial decisions:

[O]n a motion to dismiss, we may take judicial notice of another court's opinion-not for the truth of the facts recited therein, but for the existence of the opinion, which is not subject to reasonable dispute over its autiienticity. See Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 774 (2d Cir. 1991); United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1582 (7th Cir. 1991); see also Funk v. Commissioner, 163 F.2d 796, 800-01 (3d Cir. 1947) (whether a court may judicially notice other proceedings depends on what the court is asked to notice and on the circumstances of the instant case).

S. Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Wah Kwong Shipping Grp. Ltd., 181 F.3d 410, 426-27 (3d Cir. 1999). See generally Fed. R. Evid. 201.

         I therefore will take into consideration those extrinsic documents, not for their truth, but to establish the content of prior relevant decisions and the basis on which they were made.


         The Petition, unlike the usual civil complaint, takes the form of a comprehensive statement of facts and memorandum of law, and it attaches exhibits documenting the procedural history of the immigration case and a related state domestic violence proceeding.

         A. Proceedings before the immigration authorities and in this Court

         The petitioner, a native and citizen of Panama, was declared a lawful permanent resident in 2003. On July 27, 2007, he submitted an N-400 application for naturalization. On May 24, 2008, he was arrested on a domestic violence charge, and an order of protection was entered. (See DE 1-5 at pp. 4-11) On July 31, 2008, USCIS denied the N-400 application. (DE 8-3; DE 1-5 at pp. 13-15)

         The USCIS decision denying the 2007 N-400 application is attached to the Petition. (DE 1-5 p. 13) The basis for denial was doubt about Mr. Baptiste's "good moral character," see 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(a)(1), as a result of the order of protection that was then currently in effect on a pending domestic violence charge. Mr. Baptiste argues that the matter was not nearly as serious as it may have appeared; for example, the order did not ban him from the marital home. Moreover, the USCIS decision states that the court had "placed" him in a Family Violence counseling program, whereas in reality Baptiste had voluntarily enrolled. Nevertheless, it cannot be disputed that, as stated in the USCIS decision, the order of protection was entered on June 25, 2008 and was currently in effect. The order itself, and documentation of the court's denial of Mr. Baptiste's 2015 application to retroactively "correct" it, are attached to die Petition. (DE 1-5 at pp. 4-11)

         The 2008 USCIS decision denying naturalization states that "[y]ou are unable to establish your good moral character until all court actions are fully disposed of." (DE 1-5 at pp. 14-15) From the exhibits attached to the Petition, it is incontestable that the protective order was in effect and the State court proceedings had not yet been disposed of when USCIS rendered its decision on July 31, 2008. The notice of dismissal of the domestic violence charges on the state docket is dated over five months later, January 8, 2009. (DE 1-5 p.4) Mr. Baptiste also alleges that he received misleading procedural advice from the immigration officials, and that they violated deadlines for processing applications.

         Mr. Baptiste did not, however, appeal the 2008 denial of his 2007 N-400 naturalization application. Instead, when the domestic violence matter concluded on January 8, ...

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