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Alfred v. State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 9, 2015

MICHELLE E. ALFRED, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se with an amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On June 6, 2014, plaintiff's amended complaint was screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Plaintiff's false arrest claims against Sergeant Brennum and Rebeca Seabrook were permitted to proceed. Presently pending before the Court are two separate requests by plaintiff to amend her amended complaint. For the following reasons, the applications to amend the complaint will be denied.

II. BACKGROUND

In plaintiff's amended complaint, she alleges that she went to the Atlantic City Police Station on September 1, 2012 to file a complaint against a woman who had filed a false report against her. After filing the report, Sergeant Brennum and Rebeca Seabrook, both police officers, told plaintiff that she had an outstanding warrant against her and that she had to pay $500 so that she could be released on her own recognizance. Plaintiff alleges that she did not have an outstanding warrant against her. Nevertheless, she states that she had to spend eight days in the county jail.

This Court proceeded only plaintiff's false arrest claims against Brennum and Seabrook (the other claims and defendants dismissed are not relevant to this Opinion). As noted in the screening Opinion, the amended complaint stated that plaintiff was arrested based on a warrant that never existed. ( See Dkt. No. 8 at p. 5.) Thus, the Court found that the amended complaint properly alleged a lack of probable cause to arrest plaintiff in the first place on September 1, 2012. ( See id. ) Service of process was subsequently executed against Seabrook, but not against Brennum. ( See Dkt. Nos. 13 & 14.)

Plaintiff has filed two separate requests to amend her amended complaint. In her first application to amend, plaintiff states that she was at her friend Tasha Williams' house on December 4, 2013 when she heard gunshots. Police officers then came to the house and held rifles to the face of Williams and her daughters. They were then ordered out of the house in twenty degree below zero temperatures. Plaintiff was then held at gunpoint and was told to put her hands up. Plaintiff alleges that her First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated and that she suffered emotional distress. She requests to sue the Atlantic City SWAT department and seeks monetary damages against them. ( See Dkt. No. 12.)

Subsequently, plaintiff filed a second application to amend her complaint. In this second application, plaintiff states that on February 14, 2014, Mr. David Castellani, filed a false tort claim with the Atlantic City clerk's office on her behalf with respect to the December, 2013 incident. She claims that Mr. Castellani signed her name on the false tort claim notice without her permission. She seeks monetary damages in this second proposed amendment.

III. DISCUSSION

In general, leave to amend a complaint is freely given under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). However:

A district court may deny leave to amend a complaint if a plaintiff's delay in seeking amendment is undue, motivated by bad faith, or prejudicial to the opposing party. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962). Moreover, the court may deny a request if the movant fails to provide a draft amended complaint, see Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d 360, 374 (3d Cir.2000), or may refuse to allow an amendment that fails to state a cause of action. Adams, 739 F.2d at 864, citing Massarsky v. General Motors Corp., 706 F.2d 111, 125 (3d Cir.1983).

Cureton v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 272-73 (3d Cir. 2001). In this case, the Court will deny the applications to amend because plaintiff's proposed amendments are not properly joined to her claims against Brennum and Seabrook as stated in the amended complaint.

A district court may raise the issue of improper joinder sua sponte. See Chen v. Shan Qiao Zhang, No. 10-6255, 2011 WL 612727, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 10, 2011) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 21; Schulman v. J.P. Morgan Inv. Mgmt., Inc., 35 F.3d 799, 804 (3d Cir. 1994); Braverman Kaskey, P.C. v. Toidze, No. 09-3470, 2010 WL 4452390, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 4, 2010)). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) states that "[a] party asserting a claim... may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." In a multi-defendant case, ...


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