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Jameel Ibrahim v. Attorney General New Jersey
Case Number: 21-1129
Judge: PER CURIAM
Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Philadelphia, PA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with objecting to proceedings in a child support case.
In February 2020, Ibrahim filed an amended complaint, which was identical to the
original, except that it named, in the caption, Koceyda Hopkins and Korea Rodriguez as
additional defendants. ECF No. 8. Before Hopkins and Rodriguez were served, the
Attorney General moved to dismiss the complaint and the District Court granted the
motion. The District Court also dismissed the claims against the unserved defendants,
ruling that Ibrahim failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and,
alternatively, that Ibrahim’s claims were precluded by the dismissal of his identical or
1 Letters from Jameel Ibrahim, Ibrahim v. State of N.J. Att’y Gen., No. 18-cv-03461
(D.N.J. July 1, 8, and 10, 2019), ECF No. 73-75. Ibrahim appealed the District Court’s
eventual dismissal of that case. C.A. No. 21-1128.
Ibrahim filed a civil cover sheet identifying the defendants as “New Jersey Attorney
General, et al,” but the caption of the complaint and certificate of service list only the
Attorney General. ECF Nos. 1, 1-1, 1-2.3
similar claims in his first case. ECF No. 20 at 7 n.2, 21.3
Ibrahim moved for
reconsideration and the District Court denied the motion. Ibrahim appealed.4
We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.5
Because Ibrahim’s timely appeal
from the denial of his motion for reconsideration “brings up the underlying judgment for
review,” we will review the District Court’s dismissal order as well as the order denying
reconsideration. See McAllister v. Sentry Ins. Co., 958 F.2d 550, 552-53 (3d Cir. 1992).
We review a district court’s dismissal for failure to state a claim de novo.6
Ass’n. v. City of Newark, 901 F.3d 146, 151 (3d Cir. 2018) (Rule 12(b)(6)); Allah v.
Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000) (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)). We review
In February 2021, a month after Ibrahim filed his notice of appeal, an executed
summons was filed in the District Court indicating that Hopkins was served in December
2020, between the District Court’s dismissal of the case and denial of reconsideration.
ECF No. 31.
Ibrahim specified, in his notice of appeal, a non-existent order entered on January 10,
2021, and used a form that identified a different appellate court. However, we conclude
that his notice of appeal is adequate to raise a challenge to the final judgment entered on
January 4, 2021. See Gov’t of the V.I. v. Mills, 634 F.3d 746, 751-52 (3d Cir. 2011)
(“The duty to construe appeal notices liberally is heightened in cases involving pro se
5 Given the District Court’s rulings, the recent service of the complaint on one defendant
does not affect the finality of the judgment. The lack of service on another defendant
also has no effect. See United States v. Studivant, 529 F.2d 673, 674 n.2 (3d Cir. 1976).
6 As Ibrahim was proceeding in forma pauperis, the District Court had the authority to
dismiss the claims against then-unserved defendants sua sponte pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 n. 19 (3d Cir.
2002) (stating that non-prisoner indigent plaintiffs are “clearly within the scope of §
“a denial of a motion for reconsideration for abuse of discretion, but we review the
District Court's underlying legal determinations de novo and factual determinations for
clear error.” Howard Hess Dental Labs. Inc. v. Dentsply Int’l Inc., 602 F.3d 237, 246 (3d
Cir. 2010). “We may affirm a district court for any reason supported by the record.”
Brightwell v. Lehman, 637 F.3d 187, 191 (3d Cir. 2011).
On appeal, Ibrahim’s arguments are varied and wide-ranging,7 but his focus is on
an April 26, 2000 hearing conducted by a Child Support Hearing Officer. He claims that
the officer acted without jurisdiction over him and improperly used the threat of default
or incarceration to coerce him into agreeing to genetic testing. His arguments also
include (1) objections to any system of compelled child support; (2) contentions that the
Title IV-D system, see 42 U.S.C. §§ 651-669b, which requires states to maintain child
support enforcement programs in order to qualify for certain federal funds, see Blessing
v. Freestone, 520 U.S. 329, 332-34 (1997), is constitutionally infirm or must be fully
voluntary; (3) claims that New Jersey’s statutory and administrative implementation of
Title IV-D’s requirements is unconstitutional; and (4) arguments that the particular
treatment of his case failed to adhere to New Jersey’s regulations or violated his due
7 Our review is limited to those arguments properly made before the District Court. See
Simko v. U.S. Steel Corp., 992 F.3d 198, 205 (3d Cir. 2021) (arguments raised for the
first time on appeal are forfeited and considered only under truly exceptional
process rights. Upon review, we conclude, as the District Court did, that Ibrahim failed
to allege sufficient facts to state a plausible federal claim against any of the defendants.
In support of his argument that the New Jersey courts lacked personal jurisdiction
over him, Ibrahim cites his heritage and claims to be an “American National and non U.S.
Citizen” based on his own declaration, suggesting that these allegations have
jurisdictional relevance. These arguments are frivolous. See United States v. Benabe,
654 F.3d 753, 767 (7th Cir. 2011) (explaining that a person claiming to be a “sovereign
citizen” is “not beyond the jurisdiction of the courts,” and that “[t]hese theories should be
rejected summarily, however they are presented”); cf. United States v. Anzaldi, 800 F.3d
872, 878 (7th Cir. 2015) (discussing “sovereign citizen” and “Moorish national” claims).
Next, Ibrahim contends that personal jurisdiction could not be established by
compulsion and treats Title IV-D proceedings as matter of contract. He relies on a
meritless argument that Title IV-D is somehow less binding because Title 42 of the
United States Code has not been enacted as positive law. “Congress’s failure to enact a
title into positive law has only evidentiary significance and does not render the
underlying enactment invalid or unenforceable.” Ryan v. Bilby, 764 F.2d 1325, 1328
(9th Cir. 1985). When a title has not been enacted as positive law, the Statutes at Large
provide the definitive legal text, rather than the United States Code. U.S. Nat. Bank of
Oregon v. Indep. Ins. Agents of Am., Inc., 508 U.S. 439, 448 (1993). Ibrahim does not
cite any discrepancies between these sources. And, contrary to Ibrahim’s contentions, the
fact that federal and state law permit voluntary acknowledgement of paternity plainly
does not demonstrate that personal jurisdiction in child custody cases can only be 6
established through explicit consent. Leaving aside these frivolous arguments, Ibrahim
did not allege sufficient facts to support his conclusory claim that the New Jersey courts
lacked personal jurisdiction.8
Ibrahim contends that he is challenging the constitutionality of a state statute, but
he either restates his jurisdictional objections or makes generalized appeals to due process
without specific facts. In support of his due process claim, Ibrahim cites various
provisions of New Jersey statues and regulations and claims that they were not correctly
followed in his case. These arguments, which often misstate the applicable law,9 do not
support a federal due process claim in this case.
Ibrahim cites to one subclause of the then-applicable New Jersey statute governing
personal jurisdiction over non-residents in child support cases but did not allege that he
was not a New Jersey resident at the time of the case or address the six other potential
bases for personal jurisdiction within that provision. See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:4-30.68
(1998) (current version at N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:4-30.129).
9 For instance, Ibrahim argues that he did not receive notice of the OCSS’ administrative
complaint procedures, as required by N.J. Admin. Code § 10:110-4.2. That section was
adopted by a new rule in 2004, and so was not in place at the time of the April 2000
hearing. See 36 N.J. Reg. 1207(a) (Mar. 1, 2004). He also cites to N.J. Admin. Code
§ 10:110-5.3 and claims that it applies to his case. But the “administrative enforcement”
addressed in that provision “means the use of high volume automated data processing to
search various State data bases,” not, as Ibrahim assumes, the use of Child Support
Hearing Officers. N.J. Admin. Code § 10:110-1A.1.
Ibrahim also contends that the hearing officer at the April 2000 hearing violated
New Jersey Court Rule 4:43-2(b). That provision allows a court to enter a default
judgment in certain circumstances on the motion of a party. Ibrahim emphasizes that it
does not apply to “Family Part matters recognized by Part V of these rules,” and suggests
that default judgment is therefore unavailable in Family Part cases. See N.J. Ct. R. 4:43-
2(b). But this passage was only added to the rule in 2007. See 2 N.J. Prac., Ct. R. Ann.
R. 4:43-2 (West 2021). And the present rules provide for default judgments in Family
Part cases in a separate provision within Part V. N.J. Ct. R. 5:5-10.7
Ibrahim argues that the hearing officer wrongly threatened to recommend
contempt and incarceration. At the time of the April 2000 hearing, Rule 5:25-3 permitted
a Child Support Hearing Officer to request that the court adjudicate a person in contempt.
See 2 N.J. Prac., Ct. R. Ann. R. 5:25-3 (West 2021). Ibrahim does not allege that
contempt proceedings were initiated. And, to the extent that Ibrahim is arguing that
counsel should have been appointed for him, there is no automatic federal right to
counsel at civil contempt proceedings for an indigent person subject to a child support
order, even if that individual faces up to a year of incarceration. See Turner v. Rogers,
564 U.S. 431, 448 (2011). Ibrahim also claims that the hearing officer exceeded her
authority, but his arguments are not consistent with his factual allegations. A Child
Support Hearing Officer may not resolve contested paternity cases but may “recommend
that the court order a party to participate in blood or genetic tests for the purpose of
establishing paternity.” N.J. Ct. R. 5:25-3. Ibrahim has not alleged a due process (or any
federal) claim against the defendants based on the hearing officer’s actions.10
Finally, Ibrahim identifies no applicable legal basis for his claim that New Jersey
violates federal privacy laws by soliciting the Social Security Number of a non-custodial
parent from a custodial parent, or that the custodial parent violates the law by providing
the Social Security Number.
10 Ibrahim claims that either the hearing officer’s conduct or New Jersey’s
implementation of Title IV-D violates federal separation of powers principles. Even if
Ibrahim alleged sufficient facts to support a separation of powers claim, it would concern
the separation of powers within the government of New Jersey and would not be a federal
While Ibrahim may regret submitting to genetic paternity testing twenty-one years
ago, he did not provide sufficient allegations to state plausible federal claims against the
defendants based on alleged infirmities in Title IV-D, New Jersey’s implementation of
that Title, or the specific proceedings in his case. The District Court properly dismissed
Ibrahim’s complaint for failure to state a claim.11
Ibrahim sought reconsideration merely
because of his disagreement with the District Court's analysis; that disagreement did not
provide a basis for reconsideration. See Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v.
Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). The District Court did not abuse its
discretion in denying reconsideration.
Outcome: Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court.12