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D.O. and M.O., On Behalf of C.O., A Minor Child, M.W. and G.W v. Edward F. Borden

March 31, 2011

D.O. AND M.O., ON BEHALF OF C.O., A MINOR CHILD, M.W. AND G.W., ON BEHALF OF C.W., A MINOR CHILD, AND J.G. INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EDWARD F. BORDEN, JR., HADDONFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND BOROUGH OF HADDONFIELD, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiffs, D.O and M.O., on behalf of their minor child C.O., M.W. and G.W., on behalf of their minor child, C.W., and J.G., individually,*fn1 filed a putative class action suit in this Court against Defendants, Edward J. Borden, Jr., a Commissioner and the Public Safety Director of the Borough of Haddonfield, the Haddonfield Police Department, and the Borough of Haddonfield. According to Plaintiffs, Defendants have violated Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2008-2, and its predecessor, Law Enforcement Directive 2005-4 (individually or collectively, "the AG's Directive"). The AG's Directive promulgates "Guidelines for Stationhouse Adjustment of Juvenile Delinquency Offenses." Plaintiffs allege that, in disregarding the Directive, Defendants have infringed upon their constitutional rights. Presently before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint and to dismiss Plaintiffs' injunctive, declaratory, and equity claims.

For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiffs have set forth federal constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state constitutional claims under the Constitution of the State of New Jersey. This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over their state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND*fn2

In December 2005, Peter C. Harvey, then the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, issued Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2005-4, promulgating "Guidelines for Stationhouse Adjustment of Juvenile Offenses." The intent of the AG's Directive was to provide law enforcement agencies with an alternative method to punish and discipline first-time juvenile offenders, while averting the more severe consequences and ramifications of the juvenile justice system.*fn3 Pursuant to the AG's Directive, a juvenile officer would conduct a stationhouse adjustment wherein the juvenile, his or her parent or caregiver, and the victim meet with the officer to discuss the juvenile's minor offense. The parties then attempt to resolve the matter, which may include restitution, a referral of the juvenile for services, and assurances that the juvenile will not commit any future offenses. Moreover, as part of the AG's Directive, a section, entitled "Mandatory Availability of Stationhouse Adjustments," reads, in relevant part:

All municipal and other law enforcement agencies having patrol jurisdiction within the State of New Jersey shall make stationhouse adjustments available as a method of handling minor juvenile delinquency offenses within their jurisdiction. (Pl. Amend. Compl. at 6).

In or around late March 2008, the New Jersey Attorney General, Anne Milgram, promulgated Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2008-2, which revised and replaced Directive 2005-4. In all relevant respects, the Directives are said by the parties to be similar. In a section entitled "Offenses to be Considered for Stationhouse Adjustment," the AG's Directive provides: "Ordinance violations, petty disorderly persons offenses and disorderly persons offenses shall be considered for stationhouse adjustment. Fourth-degree offenses may also be considered for stationhouse adjustment if the juvenile has no prior record that is known to the law enforcement agency." (Directive 2008-2, at 4). The AG's Directive specifies certain offenses excluded from the diversionary policy, but adds, in a subsection entitled "Other Factors to be Considered," that "Police shall also consider the following factors when determining the appropriateness of conducting a stationhouse adjustment[.]" (Id. at 5). Among the salient factors are the juvenile offender's age and prior record and the cooperation and attitude of all parties, including the juvenile and his or her parent or caregiver.

On or around October 2, 2007, the Borough of Haddonfield ("Borough") and the Haddonfield Police Department, at the behest of Edward F. Borden, Jr., a Commissioner and the Public Safety Director of the Borough of Haddonfield, issued an official policy memorandum marked as 07-007 ("Policy Memorandum"). The Policy Memorandum provided, in part: "All patrol personnel will process juveniles violating any alcohol or narcotics offense on a formal petition. These offenses will not be given a Station House Adjustment." (Pl. Amend. Compl. at 6). In accordance with the Policy Memorandum, "Borden directed officers under 'strict instructions' to ignore the Attorney General's directive, to not provide stationhouse adjustments and to charge all juveniles involved in alcohol-related offenses." (Id. at 7). In furtherance of the Borough's policy against underage alcohol consumption or drug use, Borden handled confidential juvenile records, including police reports, sharing them between the Haddonfield Police Department and the Haddonfield School District.

In 2008, J.G., a minor at the time,*fn4 was charged with a minor alcohol-related offense. Similarly, in 2009, C.O. and C.W., both minors, were charged with minor alcohol-related offenses. Because of the Borough's policy, however, all three individuals were denied a stationhouse adjustment in lieu of their formal charges.

In May 2010, D.O. and M.O., individually and on behalf of their child, C.O., brought a putative class action suit against Defendants in this Court. About a month later, the complaint was amended to add as plaintiffs M.W. and G.W., on behalf of their minor child, C.W., and J.G., individually. According to Plaintiffs, Defendants' disregard of and refusal to effectuate the AG's Directive violates Plaintiffs' constitutional rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution, and the right to be free of unreasonable seizures guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus, Plaintiffs advance federal civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, along with corollary New Jersey state constitutional claims. In relief, Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and declaratory, injunctive, and equitable remedies.

In July 2010, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint and their injunctive, declaratory, and equity claims.*fn5 Soon thereafter, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the Haddonfield Police Department as a defendant, acknowledging that for purposes of Section 1983 the Police Department is inseparable from the Borough, which already is named as a defendant in the case.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v.

Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "'not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1953 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ." (citation omitted)). Under the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has instructed a two-part analysis. First, a claim's factual and legal elements should be separated; a "district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950).

Second, a district court "must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). "[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Id.; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) ("The Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: 'stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal ...


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