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Riley v. N.J. State Parole Board

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 14, 2017

GEORGE RILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
N.J. STATE PAROLE BOARD, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Freda L. Wolfson United States District Judge.

         This matter has been opened to the Court by pro se Plaintiff George Riley's filing of a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court previously granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). (ECF No. 2.)

         1. Federal law requires this Court to screen Plaintiff's Complaint for sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to dismiss any claim if that claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and/or to dismiss any defendant who is immune from suit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         2. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants New Jersey State Parole Board, Deputy Attorney General Christopher C. Josephson, counsel to the New Jersey State Parole Board, Lt. Edward Jackson, a member of the Sex Offender Electronic Monitoring Unit, and Senior Parole Officer Freer, Electronic Monitoring Unit, violated his rights under the federal and state constitutions, and under state law, when they unlawfully subjected him to GPS monitoring and supervision under the Sex Offender Monitoring Act (“SOMA”), beginning in August 2009. (ECF No. 1, Compl. at ¶16.) Plaintiff allegedly challenged the Parole Board decision subjecting him to SOMA, but was forced to wear the GPS monitoring device and comply with other conditions of SOMA during the pendency of his appeals, as his failure to comply would constitute a third- degree crime. (Id. at ¶¶ 18, 34.) Plaintiff ultimately prevailed in the Appellate Division and the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which both found the application of SOMA to Plaintiff to be a violation of the Ex Post Facto clauses of the United States and New Jersey Constitutions. Plaintiff now sues for damages and unspecified equitable relief under § 1983.[1]

         3. This Court has screened the Complaint in this action for dismissal and finds that the § 1983 claims should not be dismissed at this time[2] as to Defendants James Plousis, Lt. Edward Jackson, and Senior Parole Officer Freer in their personal capacities.[3]

         4. The Court, however, will dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the New Jersey State Parole Board. “As a general proposition, a suit by private parties seeking to impose a liability which must be paid from public funds in a state treasury is barred from federal court by the Eleventh Amendment, unless Eleventh Amendment immunity is waived by the state itself or by federal statute.” Randolph v. New Jersey State Parole Office, No. CIV.A. 07-376 (RMB), 2007 WL 1521189, at *2-3 (D.N.J. May 21, 2007) (citing Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974)). The Eleventh Amendment protects states and their agencies and departments from suit in federal court regardless of the type of relief sought. Id. (citing Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984)). Section 1983 does not override a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity. Id. (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979)). In addition, the New Jersey State Parole Board is not a “person” subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 68-70 (1989) (holding that States and governmental entities considered “arms of the State” for Eleventh Amendment purposes are not “persons” within the meaning of § 1983). Therefore, the Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice as to the New Jersey State Parole Board.

         5. It also appears from his Complaint that Plaintiff has sued the individual Defendants in their official and personal capacities. As such, the Court will also dismiss with prejudice the official capacity claims for damages against the individual Defendants because a suit against a state official named in his official capacity is a suit against the entity he represents. See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 27 (1991).

         6. Finally, in Count VII, Plaintiff alleges a “Monell policy claim under 1986” against the New Jersey State Parole Board, DAG Josephson, and Plouis. (Id. at ¶¶ 43-44.) In Count VII, Plaintiff alleges that these Defendants,

did have in effect at all times material to this complaint, unconstitutional policies, practices, like not promulgating the rules and policies for the Sex Offender Program, including those related to the hiring, training, direction, and supervision of the aforementioned Defendant employees of the Defendant New Jersey State Parole Board, which directly and proximately caused the injuries, pain, suffering, mental anguish, and constitutional violations to Plaintiff, alleged in paragraphs 13-26 above, may fairly be said to represent policy and therefore those acts are directly chargeable to said Defendant State Parole Board under 42 U.S.C. [§] 1983, Monell liability.

Under § 1983, a municipality may be held liable when it causes a constitutional violation through the implementation of a policy, custom, or practice. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (emphasis added); see also Adamo v. Jones, No. CV 15-1073 (MCA), 2016 WL 356031, at *11 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2016) (explaining same and dismissing Monell claim against New Jersey State Parole Board). Here, as explained above, the Court has already dismissed the § 1983 claims against the New Jersey State Parole Board, because (1) it is an arm of the State that has Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit and (2) is not a person for purposes of § 1983. For these reasons, and because it is not a municipality, the New Jersey State Parole Board is not subject to Monell liability under §1983, and the Court will dismiss Count VII with prejudice as to this Defendant. The Court will dismiss Count VII without prejudice as to DAG Josephson and/or James Plouis as it is possible that Plaintiff may be able to provide facts stating a § 1983 claim against these state Defendants in their individual supervisory capacities.[4]

         IT IS therefore on this 14th day of July, 2017, ORDERED that the § 1983 claims, including the Monell claim, against the New Jersey State Parole Board are dismissed WITH PREJUDICE; and it is further

         ORDERED that § 1983 claims for damages against the individual Defendants in their official capacities are dismissed WITH PREJUDICE; and it is further

         ORDERED that Count VII is dismissed WITHOUT PREJUDICE as to Defendants Josephson and Plousis; and it is further

         ORDERED that Plaintiff may submit an Amended Complaint within 30 days with respect to the claims that the Court has ...


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