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Roman Thomas v. City of Camden Through Its Police Department

June 29, 2011

ROMAN THOMAS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CAMDEN THROUGH ITS POLICE DEPARTMENT, SERGEANT ALVIE GRIMES, INVESTIGATOR BRIAN RICE, SERGEANT JEFFREY CRAIG,
INVESTIGATOR JEFFREY DUNLAP, INVESTIGATOR TERRY KING, AND JOHN DOES 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Presently before the Court is the motion of defendants Alvie Grimes, Jeffrey Craig, Jeffrey Dunlap, and Terry King for judgment on the pleadings on plaintiff's claims that they violated his federal and state constitutional rights for maliciously prosecuting him.*fn1 For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motions will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Roman Thomas, claims in his First Amended Complaint that on April 20, 2004 defendants Alvie Grimes, Jeffrey Dunlap, and Terry King, investigators for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, and Jeffrey Craig, an investigator for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, caused a criminal charge to be filed against him alleging a second degree conspiracy to distribute over five pounds of marijuana.*fn2 The charge wasdismissed on January 10, 2008. Plaintiff claims that this criminal charge constituted malicious prosecution, in violation of his federal and state constitutional rights.

Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that plaintiff's claims for malicious prosecution fail because he cannot meet the elements of such a claim against any of the defendants. Defendants also contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's federal constitutional claims. Plaintiff has not opposed defendants' motion.

DISCUSSION

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction Plaintiff has brought federal constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as claims under New Jersey law. This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's related state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1367.

B. Standard for Judgment on the Pleadings

A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings may be filed after the pleadings are closed. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c); Turbe v. Gov't of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). In analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion, a court applies the same legal standards as applicable to a motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe, 938 F.2d at 428.

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 Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1969 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ."); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) ("Iqbal . . . provides the final nail-in-the-coffin for the 'no set of facts' standard that applied to federal complaints before Twombly.").

Following the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has instructed a two-part analysis in reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). First, the factual and legal elements of a claim 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, 578 F.3d at 210 (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. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). A complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. Id.; see alsoPhillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that 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 evidence of' the necessary element").

A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

C. Analysis

Plaintiff's state and federal constitutional violation claims against defendants are all based on his allegation that he was maliciously prosecuted for a drug distribution conspiracy charge.*fn3 According to plaintiff's complaint, on April 20, 2004, defendant Craig and other unidentified officers came to plaintiff's house to arrest ...

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