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Elaine Castiglione v. Scott Basen

August 16, 2011

ELAINE CASTIGLIONE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SCOTT BASEN, ET. AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolfson, United States District Judge:

*NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

The instant § 1983 action, brought by pro se Plaintiff Elaine Castiglione ("Plaintiff"), arises out of an arrest and the subsequent prosecution of Plaintiff for violations of certain state criminal statutes. In her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts numerous constitutional violations by the following defendants: 1) the Borough of Freehold and Scott Basen, James Butler, Cathy Sheedy, and Stacy Kitson, all employees of the Borough of Freehold (collectively, "Freehold Defendants"); 2) the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office, and George Martin, Officer Tuohy, Officer Cooper, Officer Hoppock, Officer Muscarella, and Officer Gonzalez, all employees of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders (collectively, "Monmouth Defendants"); and 3) the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, John Loughery and Anita White-Gillyard, both employees of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office (collectively, "Monmouth Prosecution Defendants"). Presently, there are several motions before the Court; the Freehold Defendants' motion to set aside default, Plaintiff's motion to stay the instant proceedings and the Monmouth Defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment of, the claims asserted against them by Plaintiff. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court vacates the entry of default against the Freehold Defendants, denies Plaintiff's motion to stay, and grants the Monmouth Defendants' motion to dismiss.

I. Background

A. Procedural History

This case has a tortured procedural history. Plaintiff brought this action in June 2009, asserting various constitutional claims against numerous defendants. At the inception of this case, Plaintiff filed a number of motions dealing primarily with issues of service of the Complaint, which the Magistrate Judge resolved. After having been served, the Freehold Defendants did not timely file responsive pleadings. As such, the Clerk's Office entered default as to these defendants. See Docket Entry on November 30, 2009. Thereafter, the Freehold Defendants filed a motion to set aside default. See Docket Entry 17. Without opposition from Plaintiff, the Magistrate Judge granted the motion. See Docket Entry 24. The Monmouth Defendants timely filed an Answer on November 9, 2009. See Docket Entry 4.

After the entry of default against the Freehold Defendants was set aside, they moved to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment of, all claims against them. See Docket Entry 30. The Monmouth Defendants joined in this motion. See Docket Entry 38. Meanwhile, Plaintiff requested default against the Monmouth Prosecution Defendants for failure to timely file responsive pleadings, and the Clerk's Office entered default against them. See Docket Entry on January 21, 2010. The Monmouth Prosecution Defendants then moved for an extension of time to file response/reply and to vacate default, see Docket Entry 35, which Plaintiff opposed. See Docket Entry 37. The Magistrate Judge granted the motion to vacate default against the Monmouth Prosecution Defendants. See Docket Entry 45. Since then, these defendants have not moved for any relief.

Subsequently, Plaintiff complained that she did not receive copies of the motion to vacate default by the Freehold Defendants, and therefore, was deprived of her due process rights. In the interest of justice, the Court, in a letter order dated June 28, 2010, vacated the Magistrate Judge's order to set aside default against the Freehold Defendants and provided Plaintiff an opportunity to oppose that motion. See Docket Entry 61. Consequently, the Court also vacated the Freehold Defendants' pending motion to dismiss/for summary judgment. Id. However, the Court did not disturb the order to vacate default against the Monmouth Prosecution Defendants, as that motion had been opposed by Plaintiff. Also, the Monmouth Defendants' motion to dismiss/for summary judgment remained pending. Id. Notably, the Court found that Plaintiff's improper attempt to file an amended complaint did not comply with the Rules and as such, the amended complaint was removed from the docket.

Plaintiff then filed an interlocutory appeal of the Court's June 28, 2010 letter order to the Third Circuit. See Docket Entry 66. Because of the appeal, the proceedings were stayed. Thereafter, the Third Circuit refused to hear the appeal on November 18, 2010. See Docket Entry 74. Subsequent to the circuit's denial, the Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to the Freehold Defendants' motion to set aside default and to the Monmouth Defendants' motion to dismiss/summary judgment. See Docket Entry 77. Plaintiff filed her opposition to these motions, but the Clerk's Office mistakenly construed Plaintiff's filings as motions for recusal and to transfer case to the Ninth Circuit. See Docket Entry 78. Indeed, Plaintiff clarified -- albeit her clarifications are puzzling -- that the motion for recusal was filed with the Third Circuit and the motion to transfer was filed with the United States Supreme Court. See Docket Entry 83. Based on the motion to transfer, Plaintiff moves to stay the instant proceedings.

Having culled through and reviewed the voluminous submissions by the parties since the initiation of this case, to reiterate, this Opinion will only resolve the motion to set aside default by the Freehold Defendants, the motion to dismiss/summary judgment by the Monmouth Defendants and finally, the motion to stay by Plaintiff.

B. Background Facts

The Complaint arises from a state criminal proceeding. Plaintiff was charged by the Borough of Freehold with violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-4(a), falsifying or tampering with records; N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1(a)(1), criminal attempt; and N.J.S.A. 2C:28-3(b)(2), unsworn falsification to authorities. See Compl., p. 4. However, neither the Complaint nor any of the briefs filed by either party has provided any details as to the underlying criminal action or events that gave rise to these charges. The Complaint merely alleges in a conclusory fashion that Plaintiff was falsely arrested and falsely prosecuted for these charges. Compl., pp. 4-6. In some detail, the Complaint sets forth the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff's detention after her arrest. Plaintiff asserts, inter alia, that she was "chained to bench for extended period" and "despite her five requests, Plaintiff was not allowed by [defendant] Tuohy to use the bathroom until such time when crippling kidney pain developed and Plaintiff became noticeably ill from back up of urine." Compl., p. 4. The Complaint also alleges that Plaintiff is currently the subject of a criminal proceeding, and that proceeding was initiated maliciously by the Freehold Defendants. Compl., pp. 5-6. However, it does not provide any facts as to the current status of that proceeding. It would appear that the criminal proceeding is ongoing.

Based on her arrest and prosecution, Plaintiff vaguely alleges that all defendants violated the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, but does not state the exact causes of action which she is bringing under those Amendments. Plaintiff also asserts violations of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1341 by ...


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