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NIBLACK v. CITY OF ASBURY PARK

May 11, 2005.

STANLEY L. NIBLACK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ASBURY PARK, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARY COOPER, District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff Stanley L. Niblack, a prisoner incarcerated at Monmouth County Correctional Institution, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Court (1) grants Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis; (2) directs the Clerk to file the Complaint without pre-payment of the filing fee; (3) assesses the $250.00 filing fee against Plaintiff; (4) directs the agency having custody of Plaintiff to deduct an initial partial filing fee from Plaintiff's institutional account and forward same to the Clerk, when funds exist; and (5) directs the agency having custody of Plaintiff to forward payments from his institutional account to the Clerk each subsequent month that the amount in the account exceeds $10.00, until the $250.00 filing fee is paid in full. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), (b). Having reviewed Plaintiff's allegations, the Court dismisses the Complaint in part.

  I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff sues the City of Asbury Park and three of its police officers for searching and seizing him without probable cause on two occasions, allegedly in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, applicable to states through the Fourteenth Amendment, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts the following facts in support of his claims. On December 26, 2002, officers Montgomery, White and Newman stopped Plaintiff, searched him, and held him for 30 minutes. Plaintiff asserts that on July 11, 2003, the same officers pulled him over for no reason, as he was driving. He alleges that when he complained about harassment, the officers searched the vehicle, manually and by using a dog.

  Plaintiff states that he wrote to the prosecutor's office and the Chief of Police but he received no relief. He asks this Court to award damages against each Defendant and to order the City to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the officers.

  II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

  The in forma pauperis statute requires the Court, prior to docketing or as soon as practicable after docketing, to review a complaint in a civil action in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis or a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A. The PLRA requires the Court to sua sponte dismiss any claim if the Court determines that it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id.

  "When a federal court reviews the sufficiency of a complaint, before the reception of any evidence either by affidavit or admissions, its task is necessarily a limited one. The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). "In addition, under a notice pleading system, it is not appropriate to require a plaintiff to plead facts establishing a prima facie case." Swierkiewicz v. Soreman, 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002); see Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coord. Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to include only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The statement of the claim must simply "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). "This simplified notice pleading standard relies on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. Moreover, a pro se complaint is held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

  A claim is frivolous if it "lacks even an arguable basis in law" or its factual allegations describe "fantastic or delusional scenarios." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989); see also Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990). "Given the Federal Rules' simplified standard for pleading, `[a] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 514 (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).

  Liberally construing Plaintiff's allegations and accepting them as true, as the Court is required to do at this stage of the litigation, the Court construes Plaintiff's Complaint as presenting two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for search and seizure without probable cause, contrary to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

  III. DISCUSSION

  Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code authorizes a person such as Plaintiff to seek redress for a violation of his federal constitutional rights by a person who was acting under color of state law. To recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 152 (1970).

  A. Statute of Limitations

  The statute of limitations on civil rights claims is governed by New Jersey's two-year limitations period for personal injury. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Montgomery v. DeSimone, 159 F.3d 120, 126 (3d Cir. 1998); Cito v. Bridgewater Twp. Police Dep't, 892 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1989). This statute requires that "an action for an injury to the person caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default, must be convened within two years of accrual of the cause of action." Cito, 892 F.2d at 25 (quoting Brown v. Foley, 810 F.2d 55, 56 (3d Cir. 1987)). Under federal law governing the accrual of § 1983 claims, "the limitations period begins to run from the time when the plaintiff knows ...


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