United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JEVON D. GREEN, Plaintiff,
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.
STANLEY R. CHESLER, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court upon three separate motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint. They were filed by (1) Defendant the State of New Jersey [docket entry 23]; (2) Defendants 21st Century Insurance, Marilyn S. Calma and Rowel M. Calma [docket entry 35]; and (3) Maywood Municipal Court, Maywood Police Department, Officer Kevin Madden and Officer Matthew Parodi (collectively, the "Maywood Defendants") [docket entry 37]. Pro se Plaintiff Jevon D. Green ("Plaintiff" or "Green") has opposed the motions. The Court has considered the papers filed by the parties and proceeds to rule based on the written submissions and without oral argument, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons that follow, each motion to dismiss will be granted, and the case will be closed.
This civil rights action arises out of the traffic stop and arrest of Plaintiff Green on July 21, 2008. Plaintiff alleges that, on that date, while driving through Maywood, New Jersey, he was pulled over by two police officers, Defendants Officer Parodi and Officer Madden. According to the Complaint, after Officer Madden inspected Green's license, registration and proof of auto insurance, he asked Green to step out of the vehicle. Green alleges that he informed Officer Madden that he was experiencing neck and back pain from a previous injury and did not want to exit the vehicle for fear of aggravating the pain. He further alleges that Officer Madden opened the car door, at which time Green complied with the request to step out of the vehicle, with his hands in the air. The Complaint avers that Officer Madden conducted a pat-down search of Green and then grabbed him in a headlock. Then, Green alleges, Officer Parodi approached and grabbed Green's arm to handcuff him. Green avers that he was detained for at least three months. The Amended Complaint alleges that Green was convicted of the charges brought against him in connection with his July 21, 2008 arrest, though it is not clear what those charges were and on what date the judgment of conviction was entered.
Plaintiff initially submitted this lawsuit for filing, together with an in forma pauperis application, on August 15, 2011. The Court granted the application to proceed in forma pauperis and, upon screening the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), dismissed the action on two grounds: for failure to plead sufficient factual allegations to state a plausible claim, as required by Rule 8(a) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1948 (2009) and due to the immunity of certain parties from claims for monetary relief. Upon appeal, the Third Circuit vacated the district court's order of dismissal, holding that while the dismissal of the Complaint was proper for failure to meet the pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), the district court erred in failing to permit Plaintiff to file an amended complaint to allege additional facts which might meet the pleading standard.
It is Green's Amended Complaint, filed on remand of the action from the Third Circuit, which is challenged by Defendants in the motions before the Court. The Amended Complaint alleges the facts summarized above, and based thereon, Green requests that this Court "acquit me of any wrong doing for the crimes I am being accused of from the night July 21, 2008" and expunge his arrest and conviction. He makes various other requests, including replacement of items lost in the arrest, damages to compensate him for debt he claims to have incurred as a result of the incident and appointment of pro bono counsel.
A. Legal Standard
The State of New Jersey moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The two other motions before the Court seek dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
Motions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time. Iwanowa v. Ford Motor Co. , 67 F.Supp.2d 424, 437-38 (D.N.J.1999). Rule 12(b)(1) challenges may be either facial or factual attacks. Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n , 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977). "A motion to dismiss on the basis of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction made prior to the filing of the defendant's answer is a facial challenge to the complaint." Bennett v. Atlantic City , 288 F.Supp.2d 675, 678 (D.N.J.2003) (citing Mortensen , 549 F.2d at 891). A facial challenge asserts that the complaint does not allege sufficient grounds to establish subject matter jurisdiction or that there is a legal bar to the court hearing the case, such as sovereign immunity. Bennett , 288 F.Supp.2d at 679-680; Iwanowa , 67 F.Supp.2d at 438. Upon review of a facial challenge, the Court views the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Bennett , 288 F.Supp.2d at 678; Mortensen , 549 F.2d at 891.
A complaint will survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) only if it states "sufficient factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "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." Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556.) Following Iqbal and Twombly, the Third Circuit has held that, to prevent dismissal of a claim, the complaint must show, through the facts alleged, that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). While the Court must accept all factual allegations as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it need not accept a "legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Baraka v. McGreevey , 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007); Fowler , 578 F.3d at 210-11; see also Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679 ("While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations."). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, will not suffice." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678.
In this case, where Plaintiff proceeds pro se, the Court must construe the Amended Complaint liberally and to a less stringent standard than those pleadings filed by lawyers. See Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). The Supreme Court has held that, nevertheless, a pro se litigant's complaint is subject to the same pleading requirements set by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) as other complaints filed in federal court. Id . at 93-94.
B. Motion by the State of New Jersey
To the extent the Complaint seeks relief from the State of New Jersey, this Court lacks jurisdiction over such claims due to the sovereign immunity conferred by the 11th Amendment on the State of New Jersey. "[T]he principle of sovereign immunity is a constitutional limitation on the federal judicial power established in Art. III." Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman , 465 U.S. 89, 98 (1984). It derives from the 11th Amendment, which provides that "[t]he judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to ...