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Robert L. Gary v. State of New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection

March 26, 2012

ROBERT L. GARY
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS OFFICE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sanchez, J.

MEMORANDUM

Pro se Plaintiff Robert L. Gary brings claims against the Federal Trade Commission and its employees (FTC), former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Christopher J. Christie, and Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Andrew Ruymann (together, Federal Defendants) for failing to uphold their fiduciary duty to protect him and provide him restitution for the monetary loss he suffered at the hands of United Credit Adjusters, Inc., in violation of his First, Fifth, Seventh, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Gary seeks injunctive and equitable relief, as well as compensatory damages in the amount of $100 million, pursuant to the civil rights statutes, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, and 2000d, and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b).*fn1

The Federal Defendants ask this Court to dismiss Gary's Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6), for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim for violations of Gary's constitutional rights. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Federal Defendants' motion in its entirety.

FACTS*fn2

This case arises from Gary's dealings with United Credit Adjusters, Inc. (United Credit), a credit repair and credit counseling company. Sometime before November 2007, Gary paid United Credit $1,049 to "clear up" his credit. United Credit, however, did not provide Gary with credit repair services. On November 16, 2007, Gary submitted a complaint about United Credit to the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General. On October 14, 2008, after receiving multiple complaints from other consumers, the New Jersey Attorney General filed suit against United Credit for violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act by requiring advance payment for credit services and failing to provide such services.

On March 9, 2009, Roger Hines, a division investigator for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, contacted Gary in response to Gary's United Credit complaint. Hines informed Gary about the Attorney General's case against United Credit and indicated Gary may be eligible for restitution from United Credit. Gary spoke with Hines again on June 2, 2009, when Gary called to inquire about the status of the case against United Credit and asked, inter alia, when he could expect his "restitution." Am. Compl. ¶ 18.

On July 28, 2009, the New Jersey court entered a final consent judgment in the Attorney General's lawsuit requiring United Credit to pay restitution to a small group of injured consumers of which Gary was not part. Hines advised Gary that because United Credit could not make restitution to all injured consumers, Gary would not receive restitution from the consent judgment, but he should "wait on the Federal Government to get [his] money back." Id. ¶ 24; see also id.¶ 66 (alleging Hines told Gary he should "wait on the [FTC]").

In the meantime, on February 24, 2009, the FTC filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey against United Credit seeking injunctive relief to enjoin United Credit's fraudulent business practices and equitable relief to force United Credit to return its fraudulently procured profits. On June 26, 2009, having previously contacted the FTC, Gary received a letter from its Consumer Response Center "thanking [him] for his correspondence and assuring [him] the [FTC] acts in the public interest to stop business practices that violate the law[s] that it enforces." Id. ¶ 36.

On October 27, 2010, Gary instituted suit against the State Defendants, and on January 31, 2011, Gary filed an Amended Complaint, adding the Federal Defendants. Gary alleges six causes of action against the Federal Defendants based on violations of his constitutional and civil rights. Specifically, Gary alleges the Federal Defendants violated his rights because they have "a fiduciary duty to protect [him] from the harm that he received by the acts of [United Credit]," id. ¶¶ 42-43, and "[i]t is self-evident that the Federal . . . defendants dropped the ball. Passed the buck on who would protect [his] Civil Rights that were violated by [United Credit], id. ¶ 44.

DISCUSSION*fn3

A party may seek dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Knauss v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 10-2636, 2012 WL176685, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 20, 2012). Jurisdiction must be established as a threshold matter. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998). This requirement "'spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States' and is 'inflexible and without exception.'" Id. at 94-95 (quoting Mansfield, C. & L.M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) may be brought as a facial or factual challenge. See Church of the Universal Bhd. v. Farmington Twp. Supervisors, 296 F. App'x 285, 288 (3d Cir. 2008). Where the motion challenges jurisdiction on the face of the complaint, the court must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Mortenson v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)); Williams v. U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, No. 11-3719, 2011 WL 4352370, at *3 (D.N.J. Sept. 16, 2011). By contrast, when the existence of subject matter jurisdiction is challenged in fact, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's allegations," and the court may consider evidence outside the pleadings to satisfy itself of its power to hear the case. Gould Elecs., Inc., 220 F.3d at 176; Machon v. Pa. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, No. 11-4151, 2012 WL 592323, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 23, 2012) (explaining where answer has not yet been filed, motion is necessarily facial attack). As the party asserting subject matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff has the burden of proving such jurisdiction exists. Symczyk v. Genesis Healthcare Corp., 656 F.3d 189, 191 n.4 (3d Cir. 2011); Li v. Renewable Energy Solutions, Inc., No. 11-3589, 2012 WL 589567, at *3 (D.N.J. Feb. 22, 2012).

As with subject matter jurisdiction, the burden falls on the plaintiff to establish personal jurisdiction once such defense is raised. See O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., Ltd., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007). In the absence of an evidentiary hearing, a plaintiff "need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction." Id. (citation omitted). To meet this burden, a plaintiff may not rely "on the bare pleadings alone," but must respond with "actual proofs, not mere allegations." Patterson v. Fed. Bureau of Investigation, 893 F.2d 595, 603-04 (3d Cir. 1990) (citation omitted) (indicating "sworn affidavits or other competent evidence" are satisfactory proof); see also Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 330-31.

"Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k), a District Court typically exercises personal jurisdiction according to the law of the state where it sits." O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 316. The Pennsylvania long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of personal jurisdiction "to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States." 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยง 5322(b). Therefore, to decide whether personal jurisdiction exists, this Court must determine whether the individual Federal Defendants-to the extent the claims alleged were brought against the individual Federal Defendants in their personal capacity-have "'certain minimum contacts with . . . [Pennsylvania] such that the maintenance ...


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