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Randy Brown v. City of Essex County State of New Jersey

August 16, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William J. Martini



This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex Vicinage Probation Division, and Chief Probation Officer Christopher Stanecki's (collectively, "State Defendants") motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), as well as on Defendants County of Essex (improperly pled as "City of Essex County State of New Jersey"), Essex County Sheriff's Office and Armando B. Fontoura's (collectively, "Essex County Defendants") motion to file a late pleading and to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are GRANTED in their entirety.


This case arises out of Plaintiff Randy Brown's bail hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court on September 24, 2009. (Compl. ¶ 6.) At that hearing, Plaintiff alleges he was denied bail due to a separate, outstanding warrant from Essex County, New Jersey ("Essex County Warrant") that turned up when his name was run through the system. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that the Essex County Warrant is for a different person, possibly named Dwayne Brown, and that he has tried to address the mistake with both Essex County and the Manhattan Criminal Court. (Compl. ¶ 21.) The Manhattan Criminal Court seems to have agreed with Plaintiff and "dismissed" this outstanding warrant on October 1 or 16, 2009.*fn1 (Compl. ¶¶ 11, 30.) However, Plaintiff claims that he had already incurred damages, since he had been remanded and not granted bail, and since he was classified by the Department of Corrections as a "high" offender based on the presence of the Essex County Warrant. (Compl. ¶ 12.) He was moved to "low" classification on January 21, 2010. (Compl. ¶ 27.) While not completely clear, Plaintiff's multiple filings seem to indicate that he served a prison sentence, or was otherwise detained, through April or May of 2010 as a result of the charges in Manhattan Criminal Court.*fn2 While the Manhattan Criminal Court "dismissed" the Essex County Warrant, Plaintiff alleges that he was unable to fully clear it off his record without the help of Essex County. For example, Plaintiff claims that his Department of Corrections records now state the birth date listed on the Essex County Warrant and not his actual birth date. (Compl. ¶ 24.) Essentially, Plaintiff is claiming that Defendants did not do enough to help clear up the mix-up regarding the outstanding warrant, despite his repeated requests.

As a result of the events stated above, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey alleging a variety of claims against Defendants. The case was then removed to this Court on August 4, 2010. Plaintiff's Complaint asserts the following claims: "(1) abuse of power, (2) failure to follow proper procedures, (3) negligence, (4) pain and suffering, (5) false imprisonment, (6) slander, (7) cruel and unusual punishment, (8) defamation, (9) loss of property, (10) loss of use of property." (Pl.'s Compl., Form A.) His complaint also more specifically lists Section 1983 claims under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment. (Compl. ¶ 53.) On December 9, 2010, in response to a motion to dismiss filed by Essex County Defendants, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's tort claims*fn3 as to all Defendants. Essentially, what remains at this point are Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment.

On January 11, 2011, after receiving an extension of time, the State Defendants filed their instant motion to dismiss. While waiting for the Court to act on that motion, the Essex County Defendants allegedly forgot that since their first motion to dismiss was granted, they had an obligation to answer or otherwise move. Therefore, on January 25, 2011, a few weeks after the deadline to answer or otherwise move passed, they filed their instant second motion to dismiss and for leave to file a late pleading.


A. Motion to Dismiss Standard Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true,*fn4 the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). The factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level, see Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, such that the court may "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Furthermore, the Plaintiff must "provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief,'" which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility...." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (2009).

In determining the sufficiency of complaint filed by a pro se Plaintiff, courts must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff, even after Iqbal. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). Courts must therefore "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). However, a pro se litigant's complaint must still comply with the pleading standards set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires that allegations in a complaint set out a "short and plain statement of the claim." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93-94. Notwithstanding the liberal construction of pro se complaints, a court need not accept legal conclusions disguised as statements of fact, unsupported conclusions or unwarranted references, regardless of the status of the plaintiff. See Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007); Okpor v. Kennedy Health System, Civ. No. 10-1012, 2010 WL 3522784, at *2 (D.N.J. Sept. 2, 2010). Thus, a pro se litigant cannot rely on bald assertions or legal conclusions to survive a motion to dismiss. Morse, 132 F.3d at 906.

B. Motion to File a Late Pleading Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b), "a district court may extend the deadline for a motion paper for good cause . . . if the party failed to act because of excusable neglect." Essentially, excusable neglect requires "a demonstration of good faith on the part of the party seeking an enlargement and some reasonable basis for noncompliance within the time specified in the rules." Petrucelli v. Bohringer & Ratzinger, 46 F.3d 1298, 1312 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Dominic v. Hess Oil, 841 F.2d 513, 517 (3d Cir. 1988)). In determining whether a party's neglect is excusable, courts must look to the following factors: (1) danger of prejudice to the non-movant; (2) length of the delay and potential effect on judicial proceedings; (3) reason for the delay including whether it is in reasonable control of the movant; and (4) whether the movant acted in good faith. See Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs., 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993) (listing excusable neglect factors in the context of Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9006(b)(1)); In re Orthopedic Bone Screw Prods. Liab. Litig., 246 F.3d 315, 323-29 (3d Cir. 2001) (applying the Pioneer factors in a Rule 6(b) setting).

C. Essex County Defendants' Motion to File a Late Pleading

Before Essex County Defendants' second motion to dismiss can be addressed, it must be determined whether it should be accepted out of time. After analyzing the factors laid out in the standard set forth above, the Court determines that Essex County Defendants' motion should be accepted out of time. First, there is no danger of prejudice to the non-movant. Plaintiff is no longer in jail, and will not be prejudiced by any delay caused by the motion. Moreover, Essex County Defendants filed their motion only a few weeks after it was due on December 30, 2010. There was no substantial delay or effect on the proceedings, as State Defendants' motion to dismiss was also still pending. Furthermore, as is the case here, the Third Circuit has held that if a failure to file within the allotted time period is an honest oversight and not part of a "sinister, well-conceived plan" to frustrate the non-movant's efforts, a good faith movant will generally be allowed to file a late ...

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