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Williams v. Chester

September 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pollak, J.


PlaintiffGary Williams brought suit asking the court to grant damages for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights due to the issuance of an allegedly defective warrant in Lawrence Township, New Jersey. Detective William Chester and Lieutenant J. McCormick of the Lawrence Township Police Department were named as defendants, along with Doris Galuchie, Assistant Prosecutor of Mercer County, New Jersey. Before this court and ripe for disposition is defendant Galuchie's motion to dismiss (docket no. 9) for lack of personal jurisdiction.


The plaintiff, Gary Williams, acting pro se, filed a complaint alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights have been violated. Williams claims that, on February 11, 2006, he and his wife*fn1 were stopped by a police officer in Clinton Township, New Jersey*fn2 for driving with a faulty breaklight. Compl. ¶ 1. Williams alleges that because his wife, the driver, was unable to show identification, Williams was asked to provide his identification. Id. Williams asserts that the unidentified police officer then arrested him because of outstanding warrants against him from Lawrence Township, New Jersey, and Sylvester, Georgia. Compl. ¶ 1; Statements of Facts, page 1, appended to Motion to Request Counsel Filed May 11, 2009 (hereinafter Statement of Facts). Williams claims that the warrants from New Jersey alleging that he committed theft by deception were erroneously issued because the photograph attached to the warrant did not portray Williams. Compl. ¶ 1. He asserts that due to this error he was held for a period of four months. Id. Williams further alleges that he pled guilty to the charges contained in the New Jersey warrant, in exchange for a sentence limited to time served, because he feared he was in imminent danger in prison. Statements of Facts, page 3. Defendant Galuchie's alleged involvement was that she was the prosecutor who "believed" that Mr. Williams committed theft by deception. Statements of Facts, page 2.

Williams alleges he was later arrested in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 17 of 2007 because of the warrants issued in Georgia. Statements of Facts, page 1. Williams does not allege that this arrest was connected to the New Jersey arrest warrants and criminal proceedings or to any conduct by defendants in this suit.

On March 12, 2009, defendant Doris Galuchie, acting pro se, filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Galuchie asserts that she is a resident of New Jersey and the events in question took place took place only in the state of New Jersey. Certification in Support of Motion to Dismiss ¶ 2-3.

Williams has not filed an answer to Galuchie's motion to dismiss. Since the filing of the motion to dismiss, Williams attended a pretrial conference with Magistrate Judge M. Faith Angell (docket no. 11), and filed a motion to have counsel appointed (docket no. 14), which Magistrate Judge Angell denied. Appended to Williams' motion was a statement of facts about his claims that elaborated on the factual allegations in his complaint. At the pretrial conference, Williams indicated that he was willing to voluntarily dismiss the complaint. Judge Angell's Order of April 30th, 2009 (docket no. 13). Following the pretrial conference, Williams filed a motion for reconsideration of the denial of his motion for appointment of counsel, with the same statement of facts and additional argument attached. See Motion for Reconsideration Filed June 22, 2009 (docket no. 16). In this document, Williams withdrew his consent to a voluntary dismissal. Id. at 1.


A. Williams' Failure to Respond to Galuchie's Motion to Dismiss Despite

Williams' failure to specifically answer Galuchie's motion to dismiss, the merits of the motion will be considered. Local Rule 7.1 provides that, with the exception of a motion for summary judgment, "[i]n the absence of a timely response, [a] motion may be granted as uncontested." E.D. Pa. R. 7.1(c). However, the Third Circuit has held that a motion to dismiss should not be granted merely because the non-movant has failed to file a timely answer. Stackhouse v. Mazurkiewicz, 951 F.2d 29, 30 (3d Cir. 1991). Instead, the court should consider the merits of the motion using what filings it has available. Id. Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, a district court relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Industries, Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.1993). Because Williams has failed to file an answer to the motion to dismiss, the merits of the motion will be determined using the filings he has provided to date, most importantly the complaint.

B. Review of the Court's Personal Jurisdiction Over Defendant Galuchie

The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a court's jurisdiction. Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002)). Here, the court has not held an evidentiary hearing. Thus, the plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction while taking the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and while resolving all factual disputes in the plaintiff's favor. Id. (citing Pinker, 292 F.3d at 368).

A federal district court can only exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants if the courts of the state where the district court sits would also have personal jurisdiction over the defendants. D'Jamoos ex rel. Estate of Weingeroff v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 102 (3d Cir. 2009). If the state long-arm statute authorizes jurisdiction, then the court must analyze whether exercise of jurisdiction would offend the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. The due process limitations on the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a defendant are satisfied when the defendant has purposefully established sufficient minimum contacts with the forum and the exercise of jurisdiction comports with notions of fair play and substantial justice. Burger King ...

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