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Alfred v. State

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 29, 2013

MICHELLE E. ALFRED, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.

Michelle E. Alfred, Atlantic City, NJ, Plaintiff pro se.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michelle E. Alfred seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her constitutional rights.[1]

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint, and supplemental Letters, and are accepted as true for purposes of this review.

Plaintiff alleges that she is being harassed by Harvy Broughton and his friends Catherine Thacker and Ibhade Ibhadedifdon.[2] Of these three individuals, only Ibhade Ibhadedifdon is named as a Defendant here;[3] In general terms, Plaintiff alleges that Ibhade Ibhadedifdon has stolen Plaintiff's identity.

Although Plaintiff's Complaint is not entirely clear, it appears that she is alleging that Ms. Ibhadedifdon made a false report that Plaintiff was harassing her. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Atlantic County Court Administrator Bryant Tetter knows that Ms. Ibhadedifdon "files a lot of false claims in court." Plaintiff alleges that she was subject to a "false arrest" on September 1, 2012, when she was arrested pursuant to a warrant issued against her on October 8, 2009, for a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4A (Harassment), a copy of which is attached to one of Plaintiff's supplemental Letters (Docket Entry No. 2). The document is a computer printout entitled "COPY OF WARRANT, " is addressed "TO ANY POLICE OFFICER, " and directs arrest as follows:

YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED TO ARREST THE DEFENDANT WHOSE NAME AND ADDRESS ARE SHOWN BELOW AND BRING HIM BEFORE THIS COURT TO ANSWER A COMPLAINT CHARGING AN OFFENSE IN THE JURISDICTION OF THIS COURT OR HOLD THE DEFENDANT TO BAIL BEFORE AN AUTHORIZED OFFICIAL IF AN AMOUNT OF BAIL IS SHOWN ABOVE.

(Docket Entry No. 2, Letter, Att.) The warrant states that it is issued by Order of Judge G. Bruce Ward, a judge of the Atlantic County Municipal Court, and is "authorized" by Court Administrator Brian W. Jetter.[4] The warrant further sets a bail amount of $500, not subject to bond. Plaintiff alleges that she was released on September 8, 2012. She alleges that she suffered chest pain while she was confined and that she believes she had a heart attack.

In the original Complaint, Plaintiff names the following Defendants: the State of New Jersey, the Atlantic City Police Department, the Atlantic City Municipal Court, Judge Bruce Ward, Court Administrator Bryant Tetter, Clerk to Judge Ward Ms. Cotice Witherspoon-Stanford, Atlantic City Police Department Sgt. Brennum, Littlefield City Lawyer Brian Braun, Ms. Ibhade Ibhadedifdon, Mayor L. Langford, Chief of Police Mr. Earnest Jubilee, Captain of Police Mr. Vanenburg, Detective Lori Nylam, Detective Stephen Rando, Investigator Charlotte Berries, the Atlantic City Prosecutors Office, Ms. Tina Lolita, Ms. Diana Licki of the Prosecutors' Office, James Lenard (lawyer for Harry Broughton), State Parole Officer Mr. B. Smith, Sgt. McGrafe of the Criminal Justice Unit, and Mr. Charles Cresenzo of the Criminal Justice Unit.

In a Letter [3] to the Court dated July 15, 2013, Plaintiff seeks leave to add Ventnor Prosecutor Mr. Mosca who allegedly interviewed her at the courthouse on March 26, 2013, the day that charges against her were dropped. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Mosca asked her for identification and asked her to tell him "what happened." It is not clear whether Mr. Mosca is alleged to have interviewed Plaintiff before or after the charges were dropped or whether he had any participation in the criminal action against her.

Plaintiff demands that a grand jury be convened and that federal criminal corruption charges be brought against all those involved. She also seeks damages in the amount of $50 million for malicious prosecution, false reports, defamation, and emotional suffering.

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

A. Screening Standard

Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a person is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), or in which a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 28 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 because Plaintiff sought and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

According to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, "a pleading that offers labels or conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim[5], the complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc. , 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, "pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc. , 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).

B. General Pleading Standards

In addition, Rule 10(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

A party must state its claims... in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.... If doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence... must be stated in a separate count or defense.

Rule 18(a) controls the joinder of claims. In general, "[a] party asserting a claim... may join as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a).

Rule 20(a)(2) controls the permissive joinder of defendants in civil actions:

Persons... may be joined in one action as defendants if:
(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or ...

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