United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JASON B. WALSH, Plaintiff,
JUDGE ROCHELLE GIZINSKI, et at., Defendants.
G. Sheridan, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on a civil rights Complaint
filed by Plaintiff Jason B. Walsh, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights had been
violated by Defendants. The Court previously granted
Plaintiff in forma pauperis status. ECF No. 2. At
this time, the Court must review the Complaint to determine
whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or
because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B) (in forma pauperis actions). It appearing:
claims asserted in the Complaint appears to arise out of a
criminal prosecution against Plaintiff in state court.
However, the Complaint provides absolutely no details of this
criminal prosecution-indeed, Plaintiff does not even provide
this Court with what crime Plaintiff was prosecuted for, or
when the prosecution occurred. However, after the Complaint
was filed, Plaintiff submits a 55-page exhibit, from which
the Court deduces that Plaintiffs claims arose out of a
prosecution against him for endangering the welfare of a
child that occurred in December of 2014. See, e.g.,
ECF No. 3 at 37, ECF No. 1 at 4. Because Plaintiff asserts
that he was sentenced, ECF No. 1 at 4, the Court presumes
that he was convicted of the crime.
plaintiff can pursue a cause of action under § 1983 for
certain violations of his constitutional rights. Section 1983
provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ...
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof
to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the
party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress ....
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to state a claim for relief
under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish, first, the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of
the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation
was committed or caused by a person acting under color of
state law. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526
U.S. 40, 50-1 (1999); Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d
160, 166- 67(3dCir. 2013).
Plaintiff s claims against Defendants Ocean County
Prosecutor's Office and Ocean County Justice System are
dismissed. Prosecutor's offices are not
"persons" amendable to suit under § 1983.
See Mikhaeil v. Santos, 646 F.App'x 158, 161 (3d
Cir. 2016). As for Defendant "Ocean County Justice
System, " the Court cannot even determine who that is,
since there is no such entity. To the extent Plaintiff is
suing the Superior Court of New Jersey in Ocean County, which
very likely presided over his criminal prosecution, courts
are not "persons" subject to suit under §
1983. Travaline v. Travaline, 639 F.App'x 73, 74
(3d Cir. 2016); Lynch v. City of Philadelphia, 440
F.App'x 117, 119 (3d Cir. 2011) (finding that neither
state courts nor local courts are "persons" under
§ 1983). As such, claims against these two defendants
are dismissed with prejudice.
Plaintiffs claims against Judge Rochelle Gizinski, the
presiding judge of his criminal matter, are dismissed. Judges
are absolutely immune from suit for actions taken in their
judicial capacity. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11
(1991); Kaplan v. Miller, 653 F.App'x 87, 89 (3d
Cir. 2016) ("[J]udges are immune from suit under section
1983 for monetary damages arising from their judicial
acts.") (quoting Gallas v. Supreme Ct. of Pa.,
211 F.3d 760, 768 (3d Cir. 2000)). "[J]udicial immunity
is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice, the
existence of which ordinarily cannot be resolved without
engaging in discovery and eventual trial."
Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11. Thus, Plaintiffs claims
against Judge Gizinski are dismissed with prejudice.
Plaintiffs claims against Defendant Ocean County Public
Defenders Office, as well as Defendants Ernest A. Ryberg,
Dawn M. Nee, and Todd S. Wilson, who appear to be attorneys
from said office, see ECF No. 1 at 5-6, are
dismissed. Public defenders are not state actors liable under
§ 1983, because they are not persons acting under the
color of law. See Vermont v. Brillon, 556 U.S. 81,
91 (2009) ("[T]he relationship between a defendant and
the public defender representing him is identical to that
existing between any other lawyer and client. Unlike a
prosecutor or the court, assigned counsel ordinarily is not
considered a state actor.") (citation and quotation
omitted); Rieco v. Hebe, No. 15-2323, 2015 WL
9583987, at *2 (3d Cir. Dec. 31, 2015) ("Public
defenders are generally not considered state actors for
§ 1983 purposes when acting in their capacities as
attorneys.") (quoting Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454
U.S. 312, 325 (1981)). Additionally, a public defender's
office is not is a "person" liable under §
1983. Crisostomo v. State of N.J. Pub. Defender Office
Passaic Cnty., No. 14-4756, 2014 WL 4094793, at *2
(D.N.J. Aug. 18, 2014); Santos v. Smith, No.
08-3846, 2008 WL 4922207, at *3 (D.N.J. Nov. 12, 2008).
Therefore, all claims against these defendants are dismissed
Plaintiffs claims against Defendants Dawn M. Kingsley and
Amber M. Kingsley are dismissed. Although it is difficult for
the Court to deduce their involvement in the criminal matter,
as Plaintiff provides very little details in the Complaint,
the Court is able to comb through the exhibits and determine
that Dawn was Plaintiff's ex-wife, and Amber was
Plaintiffs step daughter, see ECF No. 3 at 49, who
were likely the victims of the criminal offense. Plaintiffs
§ 1983 claims against them fail simply because they are
not state actors. See Gage v. Township of Warren,
No. 09-0519, 2009 WL 1635602, at *3 (D.N.J. June 10, 2009)
(individuals availing themselves to the government apparatus
were not state actors); Boykin v. Bloomsburg Univ. of
Pa., 893 F.Supp. 409 (M.D. Pa. 1995) (reporting an
individual's criminal conduct to the state was the act of
a private individual). Accordingly, Plaintiffs claims against
them are dismissed with prejudice.
Finally, the lone remaining defendant, Terry Ann Linardakis,
appears to be a prosecutor at the Ocean County
Prosecutor's Office. See ECF No. 1 at 5.
Plaintiff alleges that Linardakis violated his constitutional
rights when she failed to transfer the case to a different
county due to alleged conflicts of interest, stemming from
the alleged facts that (1) Judge Gizinski was her ex-boss,
and (2) she handled another criminal matter against
Plaintiffs daughter in 2012. Id. Notwithstanding the
fact that those allegations do not amount to conflicts of
interest,  "[t]he arrest of a criminal defendant
and the filing of charges are at the core of the
prosecutorial function, and '[a] prosecutor is absolutely
immune when making [the decision to initiate a prosecution],
even where he acts without a good faith belief that any
wrongdoing has occurred.'" Munchinski v.
Solomon, 618 F.App'x 150, 154 (3d Cir. 2015)
(quoting Kulwicki v. Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1464 (3d
Cir. 1992)). As such, the decision to initiate prosecution
against a defendant at a particular jurisdiction is not
challengeable under § 1983. Cf. Heimmann v.
Satterberg, 731 F.3d 914, 918 (9th Cir. 2013)
(Prosecutor was immune from liability even though he, as a
state prosecutor, lacked jurisdiction to bring a charge
against a defendant for a federal offense). Hence, the claims
against Linardakis are dismissed with prejudice.
 By Plaintiffs logic, individual
members of a family who have extensive criminal histories can
disqualify prosecutors assigned to their place of residence
simply because there is a high likelihood the same
prosecutors would have prosecuted cases ...