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In Re: Camden Police Cases v. City of Camden; City of Camden Police Department

August 18, 2011

IN RE: CAMDEN POLICE CASES
DERRICK BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CAMDEN; CITY OF CAMDEN POLICE DEPARTMENT;
CAMDEN COUNTY; CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE; STATE OF NEW JERSEY OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL; KEVIN PARRY, JASON STETSER,
ROBERT BAYARD, ANTONIO FIGUEROA, DAN MORRIS, DOES 1-10, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS POLICE OFFICERS, DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

(Doc. Nos. 14)

OPINION

This case is one of the many cases before the Court stemming from the alleged misconduct of five Camden City police officers. Plaintiff Derrick Brown alleges that Officers Robert Bayard, Antonio Figueroa, Kevin Parry, Jason Stetser, and Daniel Morris (the "Police Officers") searched and arrested him without probable cause and stole money from him. Plaintiff asserts various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his constitutional rights as well as state-law tort claims. Currently before the Court is the motion by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office (the "CCPO") to dismiss all claims against it. (Doc. No. 14). Because the CCPO is entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, the Court grants its motion to dismiss.

I.BACKGROUND*fn1

On September 17, 2008, Plaintiff was sitting outside of a friend's home in Camden, New Jersey. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Figuero and Bayard arrived at the house, arrested him without probable cause, and transported him in a police vehicle to his residence. Defendants Stetser and Parry were waiting at Plaintiff's residence when Defendants Figuero and Bayard arrived with Plaintiff. According to Plaintiff, the Police Officers thoroughly searched Plaintiff's residence without a search warrant and stole $11,000 in cash from a box that Plaintiff kept within his home.

The Police Officers then transported Plaintiff to the Camden City Police Department and charged him with possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine and heroin), possession with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute within 1000 feet of a school, possession of a rifle without a license, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. According to Plaintiff, the Police Officers falsified the criminal complaint against him. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the Police Officers falsely attested that they witnessed Plaintiff trade a controlled substance for money and that after they searched Plaintiff's residence, they discovered "in plain view" approximately $2,000 in cash, a rifle, and several packages of cocaine and heroin. (Compl. ¶¶ 7-8).

Because Plaintiff could not afford bail, he was detained pending trial. The Police Officers allegedly gave false testimony before a grand jury, which indicted Plaintiff. Plaintiff remained in custody awaiting trial until November 2009, when he was released and all charges were eventually dropped pursuant to an application by the CCPO.

Plaintiff filed the Complaint in September 2010. He asserts the following claims: (1) "false arrest/imprisonment" under § 1983; (2) "malicious prosecution" under § 1983; (3) "malicious abuse of process" under § 1983; (4) "conspiracy to violate civil rights" under 42 U.S.C. § 1985; (5) a "Monell" claim under § 1983; (6) "common law negligence" based on "failure to train, supervise, discipline, or assign law enforcement officers;" (7) "common law false arrest and imprisonment;" (8) "common law malicious prosecution;" (9) "common law malicious abuse of process;" (10) "common law intention [sic] infliction of emotional distress;" (11) "common law negligent infliction of emotional distress;" and (12) "common law theft and conversion."

Plaintiff does not sue the Camden County Prosecutor in his individual capacity. Regarding the CCPO, Plaintiff alleges:

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office is responsible for the detection, arrest, indictment, and conviction of offenders against the laws of the State of New Jersey and at times relevant to this cause of action, it supervised, controlled, managed and/or was responsible for the action of the Camden City Police Department and that entities' [sic] employees/police officers . . . . Defendant Camden County Prosecutor's Office therefore is responsible for the actions of each of the other defendants named in this complaint, under the doctrines of common law agency and respondeat superior. The actions of each of the other defendants named in this complaint therefore are imputed to defendant Camden County Prosecutor's Office. (Compl. ¶ 5). Plaintiff further alleges that the CCPO was "aware of condoned, encouraged, and failed to deter or stop, the . . . pattern, history, and custom of the [Police Officers] violating the civil rights of individuals within the boundaries of the City of Camden." (Compl., Count 5, ¶ 2). According to Plaintiff, the CCPO was on "actual notice of the need to train, supervise, discipline or terminate" the Police Officers prior to Plaintiff's false arrest, but the CCPO "intentionally, recklessly, and/or negligently, as a matter of policy and practice, failed to properly supervise, discipline, train, or otherwise sanction" the Police Officers. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 6).

The CCPO now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).*fn2 The CCPO argues that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims and state-law tort claims should be dismissed because the CCPO is entitled to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. The CCPO also argues that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims should be dismissed because the CCPO is not a "person" under § 1983, and because the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity bars Plaintiff's claims. The CCPO further argues that the Complaint fails to state a claim against it under § 1983.

Plaintiff opposes the CCPO's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff argues that the CCPO is not entitled to sovereign immunity because the Eleventh Amendment applies to only state officials and the CCPO was acting on behalf of Camden County when it failed to properly train and supervise the Police Officers. Plaintiff also argues that his § 1983 claim should not be dismissed because local government officials can be sued in their official capacities under § 1983. Regarding the doctrine of prosecutorial immunity, Plaintiff argues that the CCPO is not immune because it was not acting within its prosecutorial role when it trained and supervised the Police Officers.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

The CCPO moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. A motion to dismiss based on state sovereign immunity is appropriate under both Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6). See Carter v. City of Philadelphia, 181 F.3d 339, 343 (3d Cir. 1999) (considering immunity under 12(b)(6)); Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 693 n.2 (3d Cir. 1996) (considering immunity under 12(b)(1)). Motions under Rule 12(b)(1) may be "facial" or "factual" challenges to the court's jurisdiction. Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). In reviewing a facial challenge, the court must dismiss a plaintiff's claims if "the allegations on the face of the complaint, taken as true, [do not] allege facts sufficient to invoke [its] jurisdiction." Licata v. U.S. Postal Serv., 33 F.3d 259, 260 (3d Cir. 1994). If the moving party makes a factual challenge to the court's jurisdiction, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations" and the court may consider and weigh evidence outside of the pleadings. Med. Soc'y of N.J. v. Herr, 191 F. Supp. 2d 574, 578 (D.N.J. 2002). When the moving party supports its motion with evidence, "the court should treat the . . . challenge as a factual attack on jurisdiction." Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. Although a plaintiff generally bears the burden of proving that the court has jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff's claims, id., the party asserting Eleventh Amendment immunity has the "burden of production and persuasion," Druz v. Noto, No. 09-5040, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53348, at *14 (D.N.J. May 28, 2010).

Here, the CCPO submits evidence in support of its motion to dismiss based on the Eleventh Amendment.*fn3 Thus, the Court construes the CCPO's motion as a factual challenge under Rule 12(b)(1).

III.DISCUSSION

A.Eleventh Amendment Sovereign ...


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