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Banda v. Burlington County

September 26, 2006

JOHN M. BANDA, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
BURLINGTON COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

IRENAS, Senior District Judge

Pro Se Plaintiff John M. Banda, Jr. ("Banda") brings this § 1983 suit against Burlington County,*fn1 the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, and Burlington County Prosecutors Robert Bernardi and Glen Filippone,*fn2 (collectively "Defendants") asserting that Defendants violated Banda's due process rights by prosecuting a forfeiture proceeding against his 1979 Ford Mallard Camper.*fn3 Burlington County moves for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) and the other Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). For the reasons that follow, both motions will be granted in their entirety.

I.

On December 14, 2000, a forfeiture complaint and summons were filed in the Burlington County Superior Court, Special Civil Part, for the forfeiture of Plaintiff John M. Banda Jr.'s 1979 Ford Mallard Camper ("R.V.").*fn4 The forfeiture complaint and summons were issued in connection with Banda's arrest on charges involving endangering the welfare of a juvenile and abuse of a juvenile.*fn5 Allegedly, the R.V. was an instrument of the charged crimes.

On January 3, 2001, the forfeiture complaint and summons were hand-delivered by a court officer to the Burlington County Detention Center ("BCDC"), where the Plaintiff was confined. However, due to administrative errors at the detention center, the complaint and summons were never logged into the BCDC's legal papers book, and Defendants do not dispute that Banda never received the papers.

The forfeiture complaint was heard in the Burlington County Superior Court, Special Civil Part on March 19, 2001, and default judgment in favor of the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office was granted against the R.V. On March 30, 2001, Banda filed a Motion to Vacate the default judgment,*fn6 which was denied. On August 23, 2002, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, reversed the lower court's holding, vacating the default judgment on grounds that Burlington County Superior Court lacked personal jurisdiction over Banda because he was never actually served with process. Banda and the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office subsequently executed a settlement agreement and the R.V. was returned to Banda.*fn7

Banda alleges that Burlington County, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, Burlington County Prosecutor Bernardi (sued in his official and individual capacities), and Assistant Burlington County Prosecutor Filippone (sued in her official and individual capacities) have violated his constitutional rights by depriving him of his property without due process of law, by failing to notify him of the forfeiture proceeding prior to the date of the hearing. Banda seeks monetary damages totaling $135 million. Additionally, Banda seeks restoration of his drivers' license, "to be left alone by ALL [sic] law enforcement agencies within the State of New Jersey with no retaliation of any kind," a "brand new R.V. motor home / camper of [his] choice," and expungement of his criminal history.*fn8

Burlington County moves for judgment on the pleadings. The other Defendants move for summary judgment.

II.

"Judgment [on the pleadings] will not be granted unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the trial court is required to view the facts presented in the pleadings and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. In this fashion the courts hope to insure that the rights of the nonmoving party are decided as fully and fairly on a rule 12(c) motion, as if there had been a trial." Soc'y Hill Civic Ass'n v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045 (3d Cir. 1980).

"[S]ummary judgment is proper 'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the Court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

"'With respect to an issue on which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof, the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'-- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'" Conoshenti v. Public Serv. Elec. & Gas, 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex). "The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (A party ...


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