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Yazid-Mazin v. McCormick

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 24, 2013

MADEQ DEANDRE YAZID-MAZIN, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH McCORMICK, et al., Defendants.

MADEQ DEANDRE YAZID-MAZIN, #687, Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903, Plaintiff Pro Se.

OPINION

FREDA L. WOLFSON, District Judge.

Madeq Deandre Yazid-Mazin, [1] a pretrial detainee at Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center ("MCACC"), seeks to file a Complaint without prepayment of the filing fee. This Court will grant his application to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons expressed in this Opinion and, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court will dismiss the federal claims raised in the Complaint, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint asserting a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court will decline supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under state law.

I. BACKGROUND

Madeq Deandre Yazid-Mazin brings this action against the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, several individual prosecutors, the North Brunswick Police Department, North Brunswick Sergeant Kenneth McCormick, North Brunswick Detective James Benanti, MCACC Warden Edmond C. Cicchi, and Freeholder Ronald G. Rios, for violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The case arises from Mr. Yazid-Mazin's arrest on April 6, 2013, and his indictment in July 2013 in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County, for burglary, receiving stolen property, and resisting arrest. Although his pleading is not a model of clarity, and he has attached several unexplained documents to the Complaint, [2] this Court gleans that Mr. Yazid-Mazin claims that his 2013 arrest and pending criminal prosecution were in retaliation for the fact that, on several occasions since 2001, the New Jersey Supreme Court and the Appellate Division vacated his convictions in Middlesex County on the basis of violations of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The attachments to the Complaint and this Court's independent research reveal: (1) in 2001, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed Plaintiff's 1998 conviction for possession of heroin with intent to distribute within 100 feet of school property in North Brunswick Township on the ground that the issuance of a no-knock search warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights, see State v. Johnson, 168 N.J. 608 (2001); (2) in 2003, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey vacated Plaintiff's Middlesex County convictions for unlawful possession of a weapon, hindering apprehension, and prior-felon in possession of a weapon charge on the ground that defense counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to move to suppress the seizure of the gun on Fourth Amendment grounds, see State v. Johnson, 365 N.J.Super. 27 ( N.J.Super. Ct., App. Div., 2003); (3) after the Law Division conducted a hearing on Plaintiff's suppression motion and denied it, in 2006, the Appellate Division reversed and granted the suppression motion, see State v. Johnson, No. A-1041-04T4, 2006 WL 1764621 ( N.J.Super. Ct., App. Div., 2006); and (4) in 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division's judgment, see State v. Johnson, 193 N.J. 528 (2008).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), 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(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

"[A] pleading that offers labels or conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 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[3], 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).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Claims

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a cause of action for violation of constitutional rights by a person acting under color of state law.[4] To recover under § 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

As an initial matter, this Court will dismiss the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office and the North Brunswick Police Department as defendants. A police department is not a "person" subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Draper v. Darby Tp. Police Dept., 777 F.Supp.2d 850, 856 (E.D. Pa. 2011); PBA Local No. 38 v. Woodbridge Police Dept., 832 F.Supp. 808, 825-26 (D.N.J. 1993). To the extent that the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office is a governmental entity which is subject to suit under § 1983, it is entitled to absolute immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. See Coley v. County of Essex, 462 F.Appx. 157, 161 (3d Cir. 2011); Beightler v. Office of Essex County Prosecutor, 342 F.Appx. 829, 832 (3d Cir. 2009).

This Court declines to construe these defendants as Middlesex County and North Brunswick Township, entities which are subject to suit under Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 688-90 (1978), because the Complaint does not sufficiently plead § 1983 claims against these entities. Specifically, neither the county nor the township can be found liable under § 1983 simply because they employ wrongdoers. Id. at 691-92; Natale v. Camden County Correctional Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 583 (3d Cir. 2003). "Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983." Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. Plaintiff asserts that Middlesex "County has a pattern of abuse with deliberate indifference, malice, slander tactics, intimidation, inadequate police training that subordinate[s'] misconduct created unreasonable constitutional seizure and search of home in violation of the proxy rights by their intentional acts, and that defendant(s) was aware of risk and was deliberately indifference or indifferent to it, and that defendant[s'] conduct caused ultimate injuries." (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 12.) However, because the Complaint does not set forth facts to support these conclusions and a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted), this Court must disregard Plaintiff's "conclusions, [which] are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Santiago v. Warminster Tp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010) ("We take as true all the factual allegations of the Third Amended Complaint and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, but we disregard legal conclusions and recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). As this Complaint ...


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