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Johnson v. Passaic County

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 23, 2014

JEREMY JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PASSAIC COUNTY, HONORABLE MARILYN C. CLARK, HONORABLE RAYMOND A. REDDIN, PROSECUTOR GINA PFUND, GYSELLE DA SILVA, OFFICER NAVARRO, and MIGUEL FELIPE Defendants.

OPINION

KEVIN MCNULTY, District Judge.

Defendants Marilyn C. Clark (Docket No. 11), Raymond A. Reddin (Docket No. 14), and Passaic County (Docket No. 13) have moved to dismiss the Complaint ("Compl., " Docket No. 1) of pro se Plaintiff Jeremy Johnson. For the reasons set forth below, the claims against Judge Clark, Judge Reddin, and the County of Passaic will be dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Factual Assertions and Claims

Plaintiff Jeremy Johnson, a resident of Georgia, filed his Complaint in this Court on July 16, 2013.[1] According to his Complaint, Johnson traveled to New Jersey with with his wife and 2-year-old son to visit his in-laws. Compl. ¶ 1. During that visit, he alleges, he was falsely arrested, denied appropriate bail, maliciously prosecuted, and assaulted.

The details surrounding Johnson's arrest are not fully set forth in the Complaint. It appears that it arose out of an altercation between Johnson and Defendant Miguel Felipe. Johnson alleges that Felipe arrived "at the dwellings of the Plaintiff" at Sixth Avenue in Paterson on September 5, 2010. Compl. ¶ 8. After entering the home, Felipe physically assaulted Johnson. Johnson "successfully defended himself, physically" against Felipe. "Out of spite, and to retaliate against the Plaintiff, " Felipe filed an allegedly false report with the Passaic County Police. Id.

According to Johnson, this report led to his false arrest by Defendant Officer Navarro on or around September 15, 2010 for a "disorderly persons offense[, ] a violation of a municipal ordinance involving breach of peace." Compl. ¶ 7.[2] It seems that Johnson was in the residence located on Sixth Avenue in Paterson, New Jersey at the time of the arrest. Compl. ¶ 7.[3]

The complaint alleges that, during a bail hearing on September 17, 2010, Superior Court Judge Raymond A. Reddin increased Johnson's bail from "$50, 000 with a 10% to $100, 000 without 10%." Compl. ¶ 4. He alleges that this bail decision was in error because he had limited resources and did not have a criminal record. He also had a "stable residential and employment history" and thus did not present a risk of flight. Id. Apparently, Johnson posted bond and was released.

Eight months later, on Monday, May 16, 2011, Johnson appeared for a status conference before Passaic Vicinage Criminal Division Presiding Judge Marilyn C. Clark. Compl. ¶ 3. During that conference, he alleges, Judge Clark "unlawfully revoked the Plaintiffs bond[, ] sending him back into Passaic County Jail." Id. This was unlawful, Johnson says, because he had met all of the requirements and conditions of his release and attended every required court appearance. Id. That very evening, when in custody, he was attacked and physically assaulted by two Passaic County corrections officers.[4] He was then released, "without reason, " seventy-two hours later. Id. Johnson claims that Judges Clark and Reddin intentionally violated his right to bail provided for in the New Jersey Constitution and in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 4.

Johnson also brings a claim for malicious prosecution against Gina Pfunds, Prosecutor of the Passaic County Domestic Violence Unit. Compl. ¶ 5. He alleges that Pfunds intentionally disregarded confessions of two witnesses who admitted they had falsely accused Johnson. With knowledge of these confessions, Pfunds nevertheless secured an indictment before a grand jury (Docket No. 10-3993). Id.

Johnson also brings a claim for abuse of process under New Jersey law and the Eighth Amendment against Gyselle Da Silva, an Assistant Prosecutor in Passaic County. Compl. ¶ 6. According to the Complaint, Da Silva, who worked under Pfund, was responsible for the prosecuting the case against Johnson. Johnson alleges that Da Silva prolonged his prosecution to gain credibility and to further her career by impressing her superior, Pfund. He further alleges that Da Silva used the legal process to compel him to accept a plea offer. Id.

Johnson also names as a defendant the County of Passaic, alleging that the County is responsible for the actions of its employees, presumably referring to the individually named Defendants. Compl. ¶ 1.

B. The Pending Motions

Defendants Judge Clark, Judge Reddin, and the County of Passaic move for dismissal of the claims Johnson brings against them. Docket Nos. 11, 14, 13. The remaining Defendants have not yet appeared, answered, or moved to dismiss the Complaint.

As noted above, Johnson alleges that Judges Clark and Reddin intentionally violated his right to bail provided for in the New Jersey Constitution and in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 4.

Judge Clark moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., on the following grounds: This Court lacks jurisdiction because a judge is entitled to sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and because judges are not persons amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to have this Court review and overrule rulings in state court proceedings, such action is barred by the Rooker-Feldman and Younger doctrines. In addition, Plaintiff's claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations and by the New Jersey Tort Claims Act's notice requirement. Finally, judges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity.

Judge Reddin adds that he has not yet been properly served with the Complaint and Summons. Therefore, under Rule 12(b)(5)), he moves for dismissal for failure to comply with Rule 4(m).

The County of Passaic also moves for dismissal, on the following grounds: The County has not been properly served. The claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations and by the New Jersey Tort Claims Act's notice requirement. Johnson has failed to state a claim for relief because the County cannot be held liable for the actions of individuals who are not County employees. Finally, Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts to sustain a claim against the entity under Section 1983 Monell liability.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Applicable ...


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