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Verano v. County of Essex

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 20, 2017

HAMILTON VERANO, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF ESSEX, ESSEX COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY, ESSEX COUNTY PROBATION DIVISION, ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS, JOHN DOES 1-20, ABC CORP. 1-20, Defendants.

          OPINION

          Kevin McNulty, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on separate motions of two groups of defendants to dismiss the complaint in this removed action for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ("Cplt.", ECF no. 1 at 5} For the reasons stated below, the motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 21, 2016, the Complaint was filed in Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County, as ESX-L-006250-16. On October 4, 2016, the County of Essex filed a notice of removal to this Court. (ECF no. 1) Removal was based upon the Complaint's allegations of a violation of federal law, 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the notice invoked the Court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. See also 28 U.S.C. § 1343. No other defendant objected, and no motion for remand has been made.

         The allegations of the Complaint, assumed to be true for purposes of these Rule 12(b)(6) motions, are as follows:

         The plaintiff, Hamilton Verano, is a resident of Newark who was under probation supervision at the time of the events related in the Complaint. On August 8, 2014, the Hon. Siobhan A. Teare, J.S.C., entered an order of violation of probation and issued a bench warrant (no. 14-4988) for the arrest of Verano. On September 8, 2014, Verano was arrested and taken to the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark. Aside from the bench warrant, there was no basis for his detention. On September 12, 2014, Verano appeared in court. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Teare ordered that probation be terminated and that all fines, fees, penalties, and assessments be turned over to collections. (Cplt. ¶¶ 10-14)

         The clear implication of the allegations is that Mr. Verano should have been released from custody at that time. On an unspecified date, the Superior Court of New Jersey "issued a status change notice to the plaintiffs jailers indicating that he was to be released." (Cplt. ¶ 15) "Nevertheless, and for no explicable reason, the plaintiff was held at the Essex County Correctional facility an extra nineteen (19) days and he was finally released on October 1, 2014." (Cplt. ¶ 17)

         The Complaint asserts four causes of action for damages:

Count 1 - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (false arrest and imprisonment without probable cause or due process/MoneH liability against government defendants)
Count 2 - N.J. Civil Rights Act ("NJCRA"), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:6-1, N.J. Const, art. I, ¶¶ 5 & 7 (false arrest and imprisonment without probable cause or due process/ Monell liability against government defendants)
Count 3 - New Jersey Tort Claims Act ("NJTCA"), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 59:2-2 (Negligence/respondeat superior)
Count 4 - Demand for punitive damages.

         The "State Defendants" (State of New Jersey, Administrative Office of the Courts, Superior Court of New Jersey, and Essex County Probation Division) have filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF no. 15) The County of Essex has likewise filed a motion to dismiss (incorrectly deemed a "cross-motion"), essentially joining in the State Defendants' motion and briefly supplementing the arguments. (ECF no. 17)

         II. APPLICABLE STANDARD

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss, a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) ("reasonable inferences" principle not undermined by later Supreme Court case of Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) does not require that a complaint contain detailed factual allegations. Nevertheless, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a speculative level, such that it is "plausible on its face." See Id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Seru., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). A claim has "facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement'... it asks for more than a sheer possibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009).

         III. ...


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