United States District Court, D. Delaware
RODNEY L. BURR, Plaintiff,
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Ill. in his Official Capacity as Attorney General of the State of Delaware and TRINIDAD NAVARRO, in his Official Capacity as New Castle County Sheriff, Defendants.
GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.
Presently before the court are defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiffs complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
On September 11, 2011, Rodney L. Burr ("plaintiff'), a resident of Elkton, Maryland, was stopped by Officer T. Wiant of the New Castle County Police Department. (D. I. 10-1.) He was issued a Uniform Traffic Complaint and Summons or citation for failure to wear a seatbelt, in violation of 21 Del.C. § 4802(a)(1) (the "seatbelt statute"). (D.I. 14 at ¶ 1.) Failure to wear a seatbelt is a "civil violation, " "carr[ying] no criminal penalt[ies]... or [affecting] motor vehicle records." (D.I. 10-1; D.I. 17 at ¶ 6.) The violation carried a fine of $68.50. Delaware v. Burr, C.A. No. 11-913-GMS, 2012 WL 113012, at *1 (D. Del. Jan. 12, 2012). Plaintiff dislikes wearing a seatbelt, and this was his second citation for this violation. (See D.I. 2 at ¶¶ 11-12.)
Plaintiff was required to pay the fine within a month of receiving the ticket. ( Id. ) Instead, five days before payment was due, he removed his traffic case from the Delaware Justice of the Peace Court to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(b), and 1443(1). ( Id.; D.I. 14 at ¶ 2.) The day after removal, plaintiff filed a petition with this court alleging the seatbe lt statute violated his "civil rights and rights under the Fourteenth Amendment" and was thus unconstitutional. Burr, 2012 WL 113012, at *1. On January 12, 2012, the court remanded plaintiffs traffic case back to the Justice of the Peace Court, but permitted him to amend his petition if he wished to file a civil action. Id.
On May 20, 2013, plaintiff filed a Restated Complaint ("complaint") against Joseph R. Biden, Ill. the Attorney General of Delaware ("Biden"), and Trinidad Navarro, the Sheriff of New Castle County ("Navarro") (collectively "defendants") alleging the seatbelt statute violates the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (D.I. 2 at ¶¶ 13-14, 60-63.) That same day, he clarified his contention, stating the seatbelt statute "violates the substantive due process protections of the Fourteenth Amendment... as reflected... in Lawrence v. Texas." (D.I. 6 at 1.) Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 2 at ¶ 62; D.I. 2 at 20.) On June 12, 2013, defendants moved to dismiss. (D.I. 10; D.I. 13.)
Ill. PARTIES' CONTENTIONS
A. Defendants' Contentions
Navarro maintains he is an improper party, as he has no authority to enforce traffic laws. (D.I. 10.) He claims plaintiff erred in stating he, as Sheriff of New Castle County, is "responsible for executing and administering the laws of the State of Delaware, including [the seatbelt statute]." ( Id. at ¶¶ 6-14; D.I. 2 at ¶ 14.) Navarro explains the New Castle County Police Department, not the Sheriff's Office, is responsible for enforcing traffic laws. (D.I. 10 at ¶¶ 6-7, 11 & n.5.) He further contends he has never personally enforced any traffic laws in his position as Sheriff. ( Id. at ¶¶ 8-10.) Finally, he explains the Sheriff's Office is not a law enforcement agency. ( Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.)
Biden contends plaintiff's constitutional argument involving the seatbelt statute fails to state a claim pursuant to FED. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (D.I. 14 at ¶¶ 6-7.) Specifically, he claims plaintiff's application of the strict scrutiny test is "without merit[, ] and that his reliance on Lawrence is misplaced." ( Id. ) He explains the Supreme Court 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims defendants are "responsible for executing and administering the laws of the State of Delaware, including [the seatbelt statute]." (D.I. 2 at ¶¶ 13-14.) in Lawrence did not establish the application of the strict scrutiny test for a vague right to privacy, and the Court applied the less-strict rational basis test. ( Id. at ¶¶ 6, 8-10.) He also claims the statute involved in Lawrence was substantially different from the seatbelt statute,  and would fail under the application of the rational basis test, as it furthered no legitimate public interest. ( Id. at ¶¶ 9-10.) The seatbelt statute, however, easily meets the requirements of the rational basis test, since it furthers multiple legitimate public interests. ( Id. at ¶ 10.) Lastly, he states the passage of the seatbelt statute in response to the Federal Highway Safety Act of 1966 has no effect on the statute's constitutional validity. ( Id. at ¶ 11.)
Biden further claims plaintiffs suit is barred by both the Eleventh Amendment and the sovereign immunity provision of the Delaware Constitution. ( Id. at ¶ 12.) He contends the Eleventh Amendment "bars a suit against state officials when the state is the real, substantial party in interest." ( Id. ) (internal quotation marks omitted). A "state official sued in his official capacity" cannot be sued under§ 1983. ( Id. ) To be sued under§ 1983, a defendant must have been personally involved in the underlying action. ( Id. ) The sovereign immunity provision of the Delaware Constitution "reinforces the effect of the Eleventh Amendment, " and plaintiff failed to demonstrate waiver of that immunity. ( Id. )
B. Plaintiff's Contentions
Plaintiff does not contest Navarro's motion to dismiss. (D.I. 15.) Rather, he acknowledges his error in naming Navarro as a defendant, stating "in view of new information which has come to light, and authorities raised..., [I ...