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Shabazz v. New Brunswick Police Dept.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 27, 2014

NEW BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPT., et al., Defendants.


JAMES B. CLARK, III, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court is a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint by pro se Plaintiff, Noble Aaron Shabazz. See Docket Entry No. 24. Plaintiff seeks to add 14 new parties, claims based on the state law corollary of his federal claims, and claims for additional injunctive relief. Id. Defendants oppose the motion and argue that Plaintiff's amendments are futile and prejudicial. See Defendants' Opposition to the Motion at Docket Entry No. 29 ("Defs.' Opp."). The Court considered Plaintiff's motion without oral argument pursuant to L. Civ. R. 78.1. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to file a Second Amended Complaint is denied.

I. Background and Procedural History

a. First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff instituted this action on March 28, 2013, and filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC") as of right on April 19, 2013. See Docket Entry Nos. 1 & 5. Plaintiff alleges Defendants City of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Police Department, Officer Daniel Mazan, Officer Brandt J. Gregus, Officer Brad Berdel, Officer Rodney Chiang, and eight John Doe police officers violated his civil rights during two traffic stops, his arrest, and subsequent trial before the municipal court. See FAC, at Docket Entry No. 5.[1]

The first stop occurred on or about May 4, 2010 with the second stop taking place a few months later on or about July 9, 2010. See SAC ¶¶17 & 124. Plaintiff asserts that on or about May 4, 2010, he was pulled over by Defendants Mazan and Gregus for allegedly talking on his cell phone while driving. SAC ¶¶17 & 39. Mazan directed Plaintiff to hand over his license, registration, and proof of insurance. Id. ¶19. Plaintiff states that he and the two Defendants engaged in several heated exchanges about Plaintiff's compliance with directions, his assertion of his rights, the officers' search of Plaintiff's car, and finally Plaintiff's denials regarding the officers' questions about a person named Lamont Sterling. Id. ¶¶20-54. Plaintiff states that Gregus threatened to arrest and then arrested Plaintiff for obstruction of justice. Id. ¶¶55-68. Plaintiff further alleges that on the way to the police station, the officers antagonized him and made racially charged statements. Id. ¶¶70-105. Plaintiff claims he was held for a few hours, ticketed for talking on his cell phone, obstruction of justice, obstructed license plates, and careless driving. Id. ¶106. Plaintiff claims these tickets were unfounded and indicate vindictiveness and malice by the officers. Id.

The second incident occurred on July 9, 2010, when Plaintiff was stopped for blocking traffic. Id. ¶¶124 & 140. He states the police stopped him as he pulled into the parking area in front of a hotel to drop off his passenger. Id. ¶126. Defendant Officer Berdel approached his car and asked for Plaintiff's license, registration and proof of insurance. Id. ¶127. Plaintiff alleges the Defendant officers took a hostile approach and began questioning him. Id. ¶¶128-136. Defendant Officer Rodney Chiang asked for identification from Plaintiff's passenger and, as Plaintiff asserts, spoke back to Plaintiff's passenger in a hostile tone. Id. ¶¶137-138.

Plaintiff states that while Berdel radioed to dispatch to run Plaintiff's documents, at least three more patrol cars and several more officers arrived on the scene. Id. ¶¶142-43. Plaintiff claims that Berdel then opened the car door, ordered Plaintiff out, pulled Plaintiff out of the car, and searched his pockets. Id. ¶¶144-45. Plaintiff and his passenger were then ordered to sit on a concrete parking stop, surrounded by several other officers, while Berdel searched Plaintiff's car. Id. ¶¶145-46. Plaintiff alleges the other officers did nothing to stop Berdel or Chiang. Id. ¶145. Plaintiff was issued a citation for an expired inspection sticker and was released. Id. ¶149. Defendants Berdel and Chiang, however, arrested Plaintiff's passenger. Id. ¶150.

The only substantive new information added in the SAC in regard to the two traffic stops is the addition of proposed Defendant Officer Ganzer and the alleged involvement of the dispatchers. Plaintiff substituted and/or added Ganzer to the eight John Doe officers who responded to the July 9 stop and watched Plaintiff as Berdel searched Plaintiff's car. See id. ¶145. Plaintiff alleges that Ganzer, with the other officers, failed to intervene and in doing so, conspired with the other Defendants to violate his constitutional rights. Id. Plaintiff also names Jimmy Hickey and Mike Baird as the dispatchers during the July 9 stop. See id ¶293. Plaintiff alleges that both Hickey and Baird falsified the "computer aided dispatch record" by listing only Ganzer as having been dispatched to the scene when the report should have contained between one and eight officers. See id. Plaintiff argues that the dispatchers changed the record and in doing so "participated in the conspiracy to conceal police misconduct." Id.

b. Second Amended Complaint

The remaining allegations that Plaintiff seeks to add are additional facts and theories relating to the municipal trial, Plaintiff's Internal Affairs ("IA") complaints, and attendant difficulties he experienced in receiving a response to the IA investigations. See SAC, ¶¶17-297. While Plaintiff includes a substantial amount of detail, for purposes of brevity, the Court will summarize the basic claims and events and how they relate to the proposed new Defendants Borow, Adochio, Cintron, Baird, Hickey, Ganzer, Miller, Carroll, Goldeski, Caputo, Cahill, Gayden, Hoffman, and Delbagno.

i. Municipal Trial

Plaintiff states that he went to trial on both of his traffic stops and, as a preliminary matter, he challenged the jurisdiction of the municipal court. Id. ¶¶ 108-11 & 157.[2] Plaintiff alleges that proposed Defendant Philip Borow, the municipal court judge, directed proposed Defendant Adochio, the municipal prosecutor, to argue for jurisdiction. Id. ¶¶109-10. Plaintiff states Borow insulted Plaintiff for challenging the court's jurisdiction and then ruled against Plaintiff without addressing Plaintiff's contentions. Id.

Plaintiff states that his trials were consolidated and occurred on several dates over time. Id. ¶¶110-11 & 157. Plaintiff claims that under his cross-examination, Gregus, Mazan, and Berdel each made false statements under oath. Id. ¶¶111-120 & 157. Plaintiff asserts that proposed Defendant Mark Cintron, another municipal prosecutor, aided the officers in maliciously prosecuting Plaintiff by denying him discovery and proceeding with the trial despite knowing of the officers' perjury. See id. ¶¶158-159.

Plaintiff alleges Borow conspired with the prosecutors and officers to deprive Plaintiff of his rights. Id. ¶157. Plaintiff points to Borow's citation of an alias "Aaron Sterling, " which Plaintiff states was known only by the officers and did not appear on any of his court papers. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff states that Borow took a long time to render his decision, then dismissed only some of the traffic citations. Id. ¶¶177-79. Plaintiff further alleges Borow misused his office to issue a warrant for failure to appear, causing Plaintiff's license to be suspended. Id. ¶¶184-186. He also alleged Borow intimidated municipal administrators into denying him access to records. Id. ¶187.

ii. Internal Affairs Complaints

Following the two traffic incidents, Plaintiff states that he filed IA complaints against the known and unknown officers present. Id. ¶¶108 & 156. Plaintiff asserts that at different stages he received correspondence from proposed Defendants Carroll, Miller, Delbagno, and Goldeski about the progress, status and/or results of his IA investigations, but that any further attempts Plaintiff made to provide or get additional information were met with silence. See id. ¶¶176, 192, 195, 198, 205 & 207-08. Plaintiff also asserts that Miller obstructed Plaintiff's own investigation and trial preparation. Id. ¶¶212-228. Following the conclusion of his trial, Plaintiff states that Goldeski informed that the officers were exonerated of the IA complaints. Id. ¶208. Plaintiff argues that exoneration is contrary to the Attorney General's procedures and indicates a conspiracy among the IA unit to cover up the misconduct of other officers. Id. ¶209. Plaintiff cites other IA investigations involving non-related individuals as further evidence of the widespread conspiracy between the IA department and the police officers to conceal violations by officers and a policy to target or profile people by race. Id. ¶¶234-246.

Plaintiff filed a formal request with proposed Defendant Community Liaison Charly Gayden to have his IA investigation reviewed. Id. ¶249. As stated by Plaintiff, proposed Defendant Mayor James Cahill established the Community Liaison Office to review complaints that IA investigations were mishandled and appointed Gayden as the Liaison. Id. ¶248. Plaintiff asserts that he contacted Gayden and Cahill, and initially heard no response. Id. ¶¶249-51. Plaintiff asserts extreme delay by Defendants in scheduling and conducting the review as well as attempts by Gayden trying to persuade him from having a hearing. Id. ¶¶249-50 & 271-74. Eventually, Plaintiff states his hearing was held with proposed Defendant Hearing Officer Barnett Hoffman. Id. ¶263. Plaintiff alleges there were several irregularities in the handling and disposition of his hearing, that neither Gayden nor Hoffman adhered to policy, and that the Chief of Police, Anthony Caputo, never advised Plaintiff of the status as was required by hearing procedures. Id. ¶¶275-292. Plaintiff contests the results of Hoffman's report and points out various faults with Hoffman's methodology and report. Id. ¶¶284-292. Plaintiff cites these issues indications that Hoffman is part of the policy or custom established to hide police misconduct. Id.

Plaintiff alleges the policy to hide police misconduct is wide-spread, that the City of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Police Department are aware of it, and "[d]espite this knowledge, the Police Department, Community Liaison Office, Mayors [sic] Office and Municipal Magistrates [sic] responses were so inadequate as to show a deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the offensive conduct, policy and/or custom and said inaction as the direct and proximate cause of the plaintiffs' [sic] injuries." Id. at ¶247.

iii. Claims and Relief Requested

Plaintiff's SAC culminates with twelve federal claims, three "Pendant State Claims, " joint and several liability on Plaintiff's federal and state law claims, and a request for injunctive relief. See id. ¶¶298-386. The twelve federal claims, first state law claim, and claims for joint and several liability are substantially the same as those pled in the FAC. Plaintiff seeks to add three new claims: (1) Plaintiff's Second State Claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for violation of equal protection, see id. ¶¶ 374-377; (2) Plaintiff's Third State Claim under § 1983 for negligent hiring and supervising of discriminatory officers, see id. ¶¶378-82; and (3) Plaintiff's Fourth State Claim for injunctive relief, see id. ¶¶384a-m. As to the original claims, Plaintiff also seeks to amend to add some, if not all, of the new proposed Defendants.[3]

In Claim One, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants deprived him of his civil rights guaranteed under the "First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America and in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." SAC ¶300. Plaintiff asserts the violations arose out of the conduct of Defendant officers pursuant to a policy established by Defendants the City of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Police Department. Id. ¶¶300-01.

Claims Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six stem from the treatment of Plaintiff during the two traffic stops. Claim Two alleges that Defendants subjected Plaintiff to an illegal and unlawful seizure of Plaintiff's person, stating that "plaintiffs' [sic] liberty was restricted for an extended period of time and the plaintiff was put in fear for his safety was humiliated and subjected to handcuffing and other physical restraints, without probable cause." Id. ¶306. In Claim Three, Plaintiff asserts Mazan, Gregus, Berdel and Chiang used excessive force, stating they were "physically menacing, objectively unreasonable and in violation of the plaintiffs' [sic] constitutional rights." Id. ¶308. In Claim Four for false arrest, Plaintiff claims that he "was subjected to an illegal prolonged detention, illegal, improper and false arrest by the defendants and taken into custody and caused to be falsely imprisoned, detained, confined, and incarcerated by the defendants without any probable cause, privilege or consent." Id. ¶311. In Claim Five, Plaintiff asserts he and his companion "were subjected to an illegal, improper and unlawful search of their private automobile and personal property without any probable cause, privilege, or consent." Id. ¶315. In Claim Six, Plaintiff asserts Defendants subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment by "physically menacing, assaulting and accosting the plaintiff"; "deliberately placing the hand cuffs [sic] on very tight"; "[s]ubjecting plaintiff to verbal abuse, rude and insulting language, as well as antagonistic and racially inflammatory remarks and constant badgering designed to harass and intimidate"; and "conducting a prolonged detention, requiring the plaintiff to sit for approximately 32 minutes on cold hard asphalt while defendants conducted an illegal search." Id. ¶321.

Plaintiff asserts that the two traffic stops were racially motivated pursuant to a policy of racial profiling. Id. ¶328. Plaintiff alleges in Claim Seven that Defendants

implemented and enforced, encouraged and sanctioned a policy, practice and custom of unconstitutional stops, illegal detentions and illegal searches of New Jersey residents by the New Brunswick Police department and defendant police officers initiated the "pretextual" stops against the plaintiff, Noble Aaron Shabazz, without probable cause or reasonable suspicion required by the Constitution and used race and/or national origin as the determinative factors in deciding to stop, detain, and search the plaintiff in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

Id. ¶327.

Plaintiff's Claim Eight asserts Defendants are liable for malicious abuse of process because "Defendants issued legal process to detain the plaintiff and subject him to an unlawful seizure of his person, to an illegal and unlawful arrest, to excessive force, to simple assault, harassment and to unlawfully subject his private automobile and property to an illegal search and seizure" and that their actions "were designed to obtain a collateral objective outside the legitimate ends of the legal process." Id. ¶¶333-34.

In Claim Nine, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants participated in a conspiracy to violate his and others' civil rights. In whole, Plaintiff alleges:

All of the aforementioned Defendants, including JOHN DOE Officers 1-8 who failed to intervene, conspired to violate Plaintiff's civil rights by agreeing among themselves to engage in the conduct set forth above, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985, for which all the defendants are individually liable. And defendants including police dispatchers, Captain Miller, Lieutenant Carroll, Lieutenant Delbagno, Anthony Caputo, Philip Borow, Mark Cintron, Robert Adochio, Charly Gayden, and Barnett Hoffman conspired to conceal the police officers misconduct and obstruct justice.

Id. ¶338.

Plaintiff's Claim Ten asserts that "Plaintiff was subjected to a wrongful and malicious criminal prosecution unsupported by probable cause, and malicious prosecution was initiated by the defendant police officers vindictively for an ulterior motive, in retaliation for plaintiff exercising his rights guaranteed by the U.S. [C]onstitution and state constitution, including the [F]ifth [A]mendment, [F]ourth [A]mendment, [F]irst [A]mendment and [N]inth [A]mendment." Id. ¶340. Plaintiff specifically cites proposed Defendant prosecutor Mark Cintron for frustrating plaintiff's right to discovery and proceeding with trial despite knowing of the officers' perjury. Id. ¶342.

In conjunction with Plaintiff's claims for malicious prosecution and abuse of process, Plaintiff also asserts denial of right to a fair trial in Claim Eleven. Plaintiff asserts that "[t]he defendants violated the plaintiff's right to a fair trial by violating his right to due process when defendant Philip Borow did practice law from the bench by ignoring my special appearance and entering a plea on plaintiff's behalf as if he had power of attorney over plaintiff, against my strong objections claiming I was overruled, so as to falsely arraign and claim jurisdiction over the plaintiff." Id. ¶351. Plaintiff further asserts that the police officers "fabricated evidence through willfully and maliciously providing false ...

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