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Fields v. City of Salem Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 4, 2015

ALBERT J. FIELDS, JR. Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SALEM POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

Albert J. Fields, Jr. Salem, New Jersey, Plaintiff Pro Se.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff pro se, Albert Fields, filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a violation of his civil rights under federal and state law. As Plaintiff sought to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis but dismissed the complaint without prejudice. (Mem. Op. and Order. [Doc. No. 2], Apr. 14, 2014.) Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended complaint, which Plaintiff subsequently filed. The Court has now reviewed the allegations in the amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims in the amended complaint fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, the amended complaint will be dismissed, and Plaintiff will be provided one additional opportunity to state a claim against Defendant Officers Daniels and Hogate. The claim against the City of Salem Police Department, however, will be dismissed with prejudice.

I. JURISDICTION

In the amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights. The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's claims arise from events that occurred in his home on May 16, 2012. Plaintiff alleges that on that date, he invited his ex-girlfriend, Teresa Y. Parsons, to his home. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 11.) While Ms. Parsons was at Plaintiff's home, Plaintiff received a phone call from his then-girlfriend, Terrye Allen. (Id. ¶¶ 12-15.) Ms. Parsons was allegedly upset upon learning that Plaintiff had a new girlfriend and began throwing items at Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff contends that he attempted to restrain Ms. Parsons, at which time both parties allegedly fell to the floor. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 18.) The police then arrived at Plaintiff's home. (Id. ¶¶ 18-20.) Plaintiff ran down the stairs to answer the door, and Police Officers Douglas Hogate and Sergeant Leon Daniels allegedly ran upstairs upon entering the home. (Id.) Plaintiff remained at the bottom of the stairs with Police Officer Robert Brown. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22.) After a few minutes, Officer Daniels allegedly directed Officer Brown to arrest Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 22.)

Plaintiff alleges that upon his arrest, he was taken to the Salem City Police Department and handcuffed to a bench. (Id. ¶ 23.) He alleges that he was fingerprinted, photographed, issued a "Complaint Summons" for Simple Assault and a "Complaint Warrant" for Criminal Restraint. (Id. ¶ 24.) Bail was set at that time at "$5, 000.00/$500.00." (Id.) Plaintiff was then brought to the Salem County Correctional Facility. (Id. ¶ 25.) A bail hearing was purportedly held on May 24, 2012, and bail was increased to "$10, 000/$1, 000." (Id. ¶ 26.) An indictment was then issued on July 17, 2012, charging Plaintiff with criminal restraint, and Plaintiff was arraigned on August 13, 2012. (Id. ¶ 29.) On October 15, 2012, Plaintiff pled guilty to simple assault. (Id. ¶ 34.) While Plaintiff was incarcerated, he was terminated from his employment and, given his inability to pay rent, was evicted from his home. (Id. ¶¶ 28-31.)

Plaintiff now brings this civil action alleging a deprivation of his constitutional rights. In Count One of the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that a "Complaint Warrant" was issued when, under the New Jersey Court Rules, a "Complaint Summons" should have been issued instead. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 41-42.) The failure to follow the proper procedure purportedly deprived Plaintiff of due process. (Id. ¶ 42.) Plaintiff brings Count One against Defendants City of Salem Police Department and Defendant Daniels. In Count Two of the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hogate "with malice and forethought" prepared a Complaint Warrant and arrested Plaintiff and held him to bail for 154 days when the Court Rules did not permit the issuance of an arrest warrant. (Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff brings Count Two against Defendant Hogate only.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). In considering whether a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005); see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008) ("[I]n deciding a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), [a district court is]... required to accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable to" the plaintiff). A pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

A district court must ask "not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims[.]'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for all civil actions[.]'") (citation omitted). First, under the Twombly/Iqbal standard, a district court "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937). Second, a district court "must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.'" Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937). "[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211; see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 ("The Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: stating... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element.") (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Claims Against the City of Salem ...


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