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Pirrone v. Middlesex County Jail

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 10, 2015

RACHEL PIRRONE, Plaintiff,
v.
MIDDLESEX COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TONIANNE J. BONGIOVANNI, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff Rachel Pirrone's ("Plaintiff") motion seeking leave to file an Amended Complaint [Docket Entry No. 30] to add as a defendant, Middlesex County Sheriff's Office ("Sheriff's Office"). Defendant, County of Middlesex (the "County"), opposes Plaintiff's motion. [Docket Entry No. 31]. The Court has fully reviewed the papers submitted in support of and in opposition to Plaintiff's motion. The Court considers Plaintiff's motion without oral argument pursuant to L.Civ.R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED.

I. Background and Procedural History

On May 5, 2014, Plaintiff Rachel Pirrone filed a Complaint for damages arising out of alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. §1983, 8th Amendment violations, and claims of sexual battery and assault during the time of her incarceration at Middlesex County Jail ("County Jail"). ( See Motion to Amend; Docket Entry No. 30). Plaintiff alleges that during her incarceration, she resided in the female unit of the County Jail and was given a job by Defendant, Correction Officer Wendi Pittius ("Pittius"), to serve as a Trustee in the Trustee Dorm. Plaintiff alleges that Pittius offered this position to her in an attempt to compel plaintiff to submit to Pittius' sexual demands. She further alleges that during her time at County Jail, Plaintiff was sexually abused by Pittius well over thirty times. Plaintiff claims that she has suffered and continues to suffer significant trauma.

On May 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint. ( Id. at 6). Plaintiff now, through this motion, seeks to add as a Defendant, the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office. ( Id. ).

II. ARGUMENTS

A. PLAINTIFF'S ARGUMENTS

Plaintiff alleges good cause exists to grant her motion. ( Id. at 5). Plaintiff states a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave, but "leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." ( Id. citing Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000)). Plaintiff further contends that none of grounds that could justify a denial of leave to amend, namely, (1) undue delay, (2) bad faith, (3) dilatory motive, (4) prejudice, and (5) futility. ( Id. ), exist in the present case. Plaintiff argues that the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Corrections are responsible for the employees of each particular county jail. Plaintiff relies on the plain language of, N.J.S.A. 30:8-17 which states in relevant part:

"Except as otherwise in this chapter provided the sheriff of every county shall have the care, custody and control of the county jails or jails and all prisoners therein, and shall be responsible for the conduct of any keeper appointed by him."

Moreover, Plaintiff relies upon MacNeil v. Klein, 141 N.J.Super. 394, 403 (App. Div. 1976), which held that "the care, operation and management of county jails are by law the responsibility of county sheriffs." Plaintiff asserts that Middlesex County Sheriff's Office should be a named defendant in the above-captioned matter because of its responsibility for the employees of each particular county jail.

B. DEFENDANT'S ARGUMENTS

The County opposes Plaintiff's motion on the grounds of futility. ( See Brief in Opposition; Docket Entry No. 31). The County notes that generally courts "treat a municipality and its police department as a single entity for purposes of section 1983 liability." Bonenberger v. Plymouth Township, 132 F.3d 20, 25 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997). The County relies on Hernandez v. Borough of Palisades Park Police Department to support its argument that "police departments cannot be sued alongside municipalities because a police department is merely an administrative arm of the municipality itself." 58 Fed.Appx. 909, 912 (3d Cir. 2003). The County also states, when a claim is made against a municipality and a police department pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, the police department must be dismissed from the action, as "it is to the municipality that any liability must flow." Millar v. Windsor Twp., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17433, 8-9 (M.D. Pa. 2005). Finally, Defendant cites several cases to extend the above rationale to county sheriff's departments. See R.M. v. Sainato, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65376, 8-9 (D.N.J. 2012); Franks v. Cape May County, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93226, 19-20 (D.N.J. 2010); Open Inns, Ltd. v. Chester County Sheriff's Dep't, 24 F.Supp.2d 410, 417, n.13 (E.D. Pa. 1998).

Based on the aforementioned case law, the County argues that the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department is not a legal entity possessing the legal capacity to be sued. Thus, the County contends that Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint to add the Middlesex County ...


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