United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss
brought by Defendants Douglas Banks, the State of New Jersey,
and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
(Docket Item 12.) Defendants seek to dismiss all claims of
pro se Plaintiff Terrence-Lee Britt's Complaint,
which alleges retaliation (Count I) and “unequal/unfair
treatment” (Count II), both of which Plaintiff claims
led to “undue emotional, physical[, ] and mental
trauma.” (Docket Item 1.) Plaintiff has not filed a
brief in opposition. Plaintiff seeks both money damages and
injunctive relief. As explained more fully below, the
Eleventh Amendment bars a plaintiff from receiving money
damages from a State defendant in Federal Court. Prospective
injunctive relief is also unavailable in this case.
Therefore, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss shall be
alleges that in or about March or April 2018, he filed a suit
against Defendants (his employer) because they had violated
his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”). (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff alleges
that, because of that suit, Defendant Banks denied Plaintiff
the right to present a witness at an unrelated November 2018
disciplinary hearing, at which Plaintiff was an appellant.
(Id. at 1-2.) Plaintiff alleges no further details
about the hearing or the circumstances surrounding it other
than to state that it is “common that one can use any
witness that one would feel fit to help in their
defense” at such a hearing. (Id. at 1.)
Plaintiff alleges that he is the only individual to whom
Defendant Banks has denied the utilization of a witness.
(Id. at 2.)
alleges that he was suspended after the hearing.
(Id. at 1-2.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant
Banks first levied a 90-day suspension on Plaintiff, which
constituted “unequal/unfair treatment as there are
other employees whose actions were similar, exact[, ] and/or
worse than [Plaintiff's], ” but who did not receive
such harsh punishments. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff also
alleges that on or about January 2, 2018, Defendant Banks
issued Plaintiff a notice of disciplinary action that
suspended Plaintiff for 30 days. (Id.) Plaintiff
alleges that this “is not consistent with
Defendants' suspension standards which have been always
followed.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the
above actions constituted abuse of authority on Defendant
Banks's part, which caused Plaintiff to suffer emotional,
physical, and mental trauma. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks
both money damages and injunctive relief. (Id. at
STANDARD OF REVIEW
bring this Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. To withstand a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). Claims are facially plausible “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678.
“[A]n unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation” will not survive a motion to dismiss.
Id. “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 a cause of action's elements will
not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration
in original) (citations omitted) (quoting Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
district court must “accept as true all allegations in
the plaintiff's complaint as well as all reasonable
inferences that can be drawn from them, and [must] construe
them in a light most favorable to the non-movant.”
Tatis v. Allied Interstate, LLC, 882 F.3d 422, 426
(3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Sheridan v. NGK Metals
Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 262 n.27 (3d Cir. 2010)). The court
may only consider the allegations in the complaint and
“matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to
the complaint[, ] and items appearing in the record of the
case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran &
Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994). In
applying this standard to pro se pleadings and other
submissions, as here, the Court must liberally construe the
well-pleaded allegations, and draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the pro se litigant. Higgs v.
Attorney Gen. of the U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
2011); Capogrosso v. Supreme Court of N.J., 588 F.3d
180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009).
The Eleventh Amendment Bars Most of the Claims
Defendants did not raise the Eleventh Amendment as a ground
for dismissing this suit, the Court may raise the issue
sua sponte. Bowers v. NCAA, 346 F.3d 402,
417 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Parella v. Retirement Bd. of
the R.I. Employees' Retirement Sys., 173
F.3d 46, 54-55 (1st Cir. 1999)). The Eleventh Amendment
provides that “[t]he Judicial power of the United
States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or
equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United
States by citizens of another State, or by Citizens or
Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. Amend. XI.
The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally held the
Amendment to mean that “in the absence of consent a
suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments
is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh
Amendment[, ] . . . regardless of the relief sought.”
Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465
U.S. 89, 100 (1984). This bar can sometimes extend to suits
brought against state officials: if the suit is effectively a
suit against the State itself, as opposed to the state
official, then it will be barred. Id. at 101.
the bar will not apply to state officials when the suit is
“challenging the constitutionality of a state
official's action” and seeks injunctive relief.
Id. at 102 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S.
123 (1908)). As an additional requirement, such injunctive
relief may only “govern the official's future
conduct, ” and may not “award retroactive
monetary relief.” Id. at 102-03 (citing
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974)).
case at hand, Plaintiff names the State of New Jersey and one
of its agencies, the Department of Children and Families, as
defendants. The Eleventh Amendment bars the suit as against
those Defendants, both for money damages and for injunctive
relief. Therefore, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted in
favor of both the State of New Jersey and the Department of
Children and Families. See, e.g.,
Howard v. N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs.,
398 Fed.Appx. 807, 811-12 (3d Cir. 2010) (holding that the
New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, a