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Marie Burke, A/K/A Marie v. Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office

April 19, 2011

MARIE BURKE, A/K/A MARIE
JEAN-PHILIPPE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MONMOUTH COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, DEFENDANT.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff, Marie Burke, a/k/a Marie Jean-Philippe ("Plaintiff") brings this action alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § ("Section") 1983 for malicious prosecution, conspiracy, and failure to instruct and/or exercise supervisory control, as well as state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress (the "emotional distress claims"). (Dkt. entry no. 1, Compl.)*fn1 The defendant, Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office ("Defendant"), now moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(c). (Dkt. entry no. 11, Mot. for J. on the Pleadings.) The Court decides the motion on the papers, pursuant to Rule 78(b). For the following reasons, the Court will grant the motion.

BACKGROUND

For purposes of addressing this motion only, the Court will accept the following allegations contained in the Complaint as true, although it appears that the material facts are not in dispute. See Cal. Pub. Employees' Ret. Sys. v. Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 134 (3d Cir. 2004).

Plaintiff experienced a psychiatric episode on October 27, 2008, that caused her to have a delusional belief that children at a local school were in imminent harm of being attacked. (Compl. at ¶ 7.) She went to the school to warn school officials of the perceived threat, who responded by contacting the police department. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff was arrested and charged with creating a false public alarm under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-3(a). (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 14.)

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant knew she was suffering from mental illness at the time of the school incident, and therefore should not have prosecuted her for causing a false public alarm, insofar as the statute requires that the false alarm be made "knowing that the report or warning is false or baseless." (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.) She also complains that Defendant produced no exculpatory evidence to that effect during the presentation to the Grand Jury, which resulted in her indictment on the false public alarm charge and caused her to be subjected to the rigors of a criminal trial. (Id. at ¶ 20.) At Plaintiff's trial, the prosecution produced a single witness, the arresting officer, who testified that in his view, Plaintiff had been suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time of the school incident. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.) A jury found Plaintiff not guilty by reason of insanity. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

DISCUSSION

Defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) on the grounds that it is absolutely immune from liability under Section 1983 and the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, because the acts alleged in the Complaint all involve the exercise of Defendant's prosecutorial functions. (Dkt. entry no. 11, Def. Br.) Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Dkt. entry no. 11, Pl. Br.)

I. Rule 12(c) Standard

Rule 12(c) provides that a party may move for judgment on the pleadings. The movant under Rule 12(c) must show clearly that no material issue of fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rosenau v. Uniford Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 290-91 (3d Cir. 1988)). In reviewing a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court must view the facts in the pleadings and the inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Id.

Plaintiff contends that the motion for judgment on the pleadings is procedurally improper because Defendant relies on "statements of 'fact' . . . that Defendant presented 'all' evidence to the grand jury," a stance with which Plaintiff disagrees. (Pl. Br. at 3.) For reasons explained below, we find that no material issue of fact exists that would warrant either denial of Defendant's Rule 12(c) motion or conversion of the motion to one for summary judgment under Rule 56.

II. Section 1983 Claims

Plaintiff brings claims under Section 1983 for malicious prosecution, conspiracy, and failure to instruct and/or exercise supervisory control. ...


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