United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MR. JOSEPH J. BROWN, Plaintiff,
ANTHONY J. MELLACI, JR., et al., Defendants.
L. Wolfson, United States District Judge.
matter has been opened to the Court by Plaintiff's filing
of a civil action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983. The
Court previously granted Plaintiff's application to
proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). (ECF
No. 3.) In the instant Complaint, Plaintiff has sued a state
court judge, a prosecutor, and several defense attorneys who
were involved in his criminal case. 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.
Complaint is dated February 25, 2016. (ECF No. 1, Complaint
at 12.) In his Complaint, he alleges that on February 26,
2009, Prosecutor Melanie Falco and Public Defender Jeffrey W.
Coghlan informed him that he had been indicted on a charge of
second degree eluding. At the time of his arraignment on May
4, 2009, Plaintiff was represented by Public Defender
Coghlan. On March 15, 2010, Plaintiff was represented by
Ralph E. Stubbs, who is described in the Complaint as a
“pool attorney.” According to the Complaint,
Stubbs, Falco, and Coghlan committed “illegal
Representation and Malicious Prosecution.” On October
22, 2010, Plaintiff allegedly informed the Honorable Anthony
J. Mellaci in open court that the plea agreement was
“based on a Lie and Fabrication” by Stubbs and
Falco. On January 14, 2011, Plaintiff appeared before Judge
Mellaci with a new pool attorney, Anthony Fazioli. At this
appearance, Plaintiff requested “leave to appeal a
motion, ” and Judge Mellaci allegedly “Made
terroristic threats, Slanderous bias remarks, verbal bias
intimidation remarks, and committed official Judicial felony
misconduct.” (Id.) The Complaint alleges that
on November 29, 2012 Plaintiff filed a petition for
post-conviction relief (“PCR”). Plaintiff
alleges, however, that he was “deprived of his civil
rights to appeal his conviction by the assigned designated
counsel, ” who is not named in the Complaint.
(Id.) On March 3, 2015, Plaintiff refiled his PCR
“to no avail.” (Id.) On June 15, 2015,
Plaintiff alleges that he “learned that the indictment
and case had all been a lie fabricated in retaliation by the
Public Defender, Jeffrey W. Coghlan, and the State Prosecutor
Melanie Falco.” (Id.)
has attached to his Complaint a letter he wrote to Public
Defender Joseph E. Krakora, which is dated February 10, 2016.
(Id. at 13-14.) That letter repeats his allegation
that he was never properly indicted on the eluding charge,
and further alleges that “there or [sic] no grand jury
minutes transcripts from April 1st, 2009 on the
second-degree Eluding charge.” (Id. at page
13.) The letter also states that the Public Defender's
and Prosecutor's Offices fabricated the indictment
“in Retaliation for another criminal case that [he] was
framed and rail-road [sic] for in 2001.” (Id.)
He further states in the letter that he was rushed and misled
into pleading guilty to the eluding charge by Defendants
Coghlan and Stubbs. (Id. at 14.) Plaintiff explains
that he “requested that a motion be filed on [his]
behalf to dismiss the sentence and charge, base [sic] on the
fact that I had not been indicted on the second-degree
Eluding charge. However, [he was] informed by the Public
defender's office for Post-conviction relief unit that
this case should be handled as a PCR.” (Id. at
relief section of his Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to have his
sentence vacated and receive monetary compensation for his
other losses. He also seeks “a full federal
investigation and review of the full record in regard to this
illedge [sic] criminal case.” (Id. at 12.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the PLRA, district courts must review complaints in those
civil actions in which a person is proceeding in forma
pauperis, See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte
dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. Id. “The legal standard for dismissing
a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for
dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6).” Schreane v. Seana, 506 F.
App'x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v.
Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000));
Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App'x 230, 232 (3d
Cir. 2012) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1));
Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App'x 159, 162
(3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
Plaintiff's Complaint is subject to screening under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). When reviewing a motion to
dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), courts first separate
the factual and legal elements of the claims, and accept all
of the well-pleaded facts as true. See Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). All
reasonable inferences must be made in the plaintiff's
favor. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig.,
618 F.3d 300, 314
Cir. 2010). The Complaint must also allege “sufficient
factual matter” to show that the claim is facially
plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203,
210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “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.”
Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303,
308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
are required to liberally construe pleadings drafted by
pro se parties. Tucker v. Hewlett Packard,
Inc., No. 14-4699 (RBK/KMW), 2015 WL 6560645, at *2
(D.N.J. Oct. 29, 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Such pleadings are “held to less
strict standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Id. Nevertheless, pro se litigants
must still allege facts, which if taken as true, will suggest
the required elements of any claim that is asserted.
Id. (citing Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc.,
704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)). To do so, [a plaintiff]
must plead enough facts, accepted as true, to plausibly
suggest entitlement to relief.” Gibney v.
Fitzgibbon, 547 F.App'x 111, 113 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citing Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir.
2012)). Furthermore, “[l]iberal construction does not,
however, require the Court to credit a pro se plaintiff's
‘bald assertions' or ‘legal conclusions.'
Id. (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch.
Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)). That is,
“[e]ven a pro se complaint may be dismissed
for failure to state a claim if the allegations set forth by
the plaintiff cannot be construed as supplying facts to
support a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.
Id. (citing Milhouse v. Carlson, 652 F.2d
371, 373 (3d Cir. 1981)).
the facts alleged in the Complaint, Plaintiff has sued the
Defendants named in the Complaint for their alleged
participation in a conspiracy to maliciously prosecute him
for an offense for which he was never indicted. He
additionally appears to allege that the defense attorneys
identified in the Complaint provided ineffective assistance
of counsel. He seeks the ...