United States District Court, D. New Jersey
August 4, 2005.
LEON PARKER, Plaintiff,
JUDGE RAND, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JEROME SIMANDLE, District Judge
Plaintiff Leon Parker, an inmate at Camden County Correctional
Facility, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This Court (1) grants Plaintiff's
application to proceed in forma pauperis; (2) directs the
Clerk to file the Complaint; (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 his
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. Having thoroughly reviewed Plaintiff's allegations, the
Court finds that the Complaint, as written, fails to state a
federal claim upon which relief may be granted. The Court grants
Plaintiff 45 days leave to file an amended complaint. If an
amended complaint is not filed within 45 days, then without
further notice, the Court will enter an order dismissing the
Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A.
Plaintiff asserts violations of his constitutional rights
against Judge Rand and Mark Wittman. His statement of claims is
set forth below verbatim:
Judge Rand for violating my civil rights due process
of the law. Mark Wittman for putting a warrant out on
me and locking me up without due process of law.
(Compl. ¶ 6.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD
The in forma pauperis statute, as amended by the Prison
Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub.L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810,
110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), 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.
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 v. Soreman,
534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding,
467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).
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 civil rights by a person who was acting under color of
state law. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State
or Territory . . . subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other
person within the jurisdiction thereof to the
deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in
equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
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); Sample v. Diecks,
885 F.2d 1099, 1107 (3d Cir. 1989).
Plaintiff's damage claim against Judge Rand fails as a matter
of law because Judge Rand is absolutely immune from suit under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for money damages. "[J]udges . . . are not liable
to civil actions for their judicial acts, even when such acts are
in excess of their jurisdiction, and are alleged to have been
done maliciously or corruptly." Figueroa v. Blackburn,
208 F.3d 435, 440 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Stump v. Sparkman,
435 U.S. 349, 355-6 (1978)). Because the alleged wrongdoing by Judge Rand
appears to consist of judicial acts which are absolutely
protected from suit for damages under § 1983, the damage claim
against Judge Rand is subject to dismissal under
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).
Plaintiff also sues Mark Wittman on the ground that he "put a
warrant out for me to be arrested without the proper due process." (Compl. 4.c.) It is unclear to the Court who Mark
Wittman is because the section of the Complaint for identifying
his position and place of employment is illegible.
The Court construes Plaintiff's Complaint as attempting to
assert a Fourth Amendment false arrest claim under § 1983. The
Fourth Amendment prohibits a police officer from seizing a
citizen except upon probable cause. Albright v. Oliver,
510 U.S. 266, 274-75 (1994); Orsatti v. New Jersey State Police,
71 F.3d 480, 483 (3d Cir. 1995). The Fourth Amendment provides in
relevant part: "The right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants
shall issue, but upon probable cause." U.S. Const. amend IV. As
the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit observed:
Whether that arrest was constitutionally valid
depends in turn upon whether, at the moment the
arrest was made, the officers had probable cause to
make it whether at that moment the facts and
circumstances within their knowledge and of which
they had reasonably trustworthy information were
sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that
the [suspect] had committed or was committing an
United States v. Kithcart, 134 F.3d 529
, 531 (3d Cir. 1998)
(quoting Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89
, 91 (1964)); see also
Mosley v. Wilson, 102 F.3d 85
, 94-5 (3d Cir. 1996) ("To find
that there was an unlawful arrest in violation of the
Fourth Amendment, the jury need only have found that under the facts and
circumstances within [the officer's] knowledge, a reasonable officer could not
have believed that an offense had been or was being committed by
the person to be arrested").
In this case, the facts set forth in the Complaint do not
support an inference that Plaintiff was arrested without probable
cause. However, the Court is mindful that a district court may
not dismiss a pro se complaint without either granting leave to
amend or concluding that any amendment would be futile. See
Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 110-111 (3d Cir.
2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F. 3d 113, 116 (3d Cir. 2000).
"`Futility' means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to
state a claim upon which relief could be granted." Shane,
213 F.3d at 115. In this case, Plaintiff's allegations do not
foreclose the possibility that police arrested him without
probable cause. The Court will therefore grant Plaintiff 45 days
from the date of the entry of the Order accompanying this Opinion
to file an amended complaint.*fn1 If an amended complaint is
not filed, then the Court will dismiss the action upon the expiration
of the 45-day period without further notice.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court grants Plaintiff's
application to file the Complaint in forma pauperis and grants
Plaintiff 45 days leave to file an amended complaint. If no
amended complaint is filed within 45 days of the date of the
entry of the Order accompanying this Opinion, then the Court will
enter an order dismissing the Complaint without further notice.