United States District Court, D. New Jersey
KEVIN MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the
Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted (ECF no. 8). The plaintiff, Steven Meleika,
pro se, sues the Jersey City Police Department, the
City of Jersey City, and the State of New Jersey for
constitutional torts in connection with his arrest and
prosecution. I hold that, whatever their surface merits, the
majority of these causes of action are barred by the
applicable two-year statutes of limitations. What remains is
a Section 1983 malicious prosecution claim against the City
of Jersey City only. This partial dismissal, however, is
without prejudice to the submission, within 30 days, of a
proposed amended complaint that remedies the defects of the
The Allegations of the Complaint
Complaint is brief, consisting of filled-in blanks on a
standard pro se complaint form. The underlying
factual allegations, in their entirety, are as follows:
On 5-1-2014 I was arrested by Jersey City Police in Jersey
City. I was criminally charged with multiple
serious charges (felonies). After going to court once every
month for two years, the charges were dismissed during trial.
All charges were dismissed without pleading guilty.
(Cplt. § III.C) Attached to the complaint are medical
records of a cat scan, showing no serious injury, plus a
prescription for thirty 500 mg tablets of Naproxen, a pain
reliever. All are dated May 2, 2014. The Complaint states
that the date of dismissal of the criminal case was
10-7-2015. (Id. § III.B)
complaint cites "false arrest, false imprisonment,
malic[ious] prosecution, excessive force, civil rights
violations 14 Amendment 8b 4 Amendment." (Cplt., ECF no.
1, § 5) I interpret these as claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for violations of Mr. Meleika's Fourth
Amendment rights in connection with his arrest and
prosecution. The Complaint seeks $1 million in damages.
The Applicable Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 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 defendant, as the
moving party, bears the burden of showing that no claim has
been stated. Animal Science Products, Inc. v. China
Minmetals Corp., 654 F.3d 462, 469 n. 9 (3d Cir. 2011).
For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the facts alleged in
the complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable
inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. New
Jersey Carpenters & the Trustees Thereof v.
Tishman Const. Corp. of New Jersey, 760 F.3d 297, 302
(3d Cir. 2014).
Rule of Procedure 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 a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do." BellAtl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the
complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient to
raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a speculative level,
so that a claim is "plausible on its face."
Id. at 570; see also West Run Student Housing
Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat. Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169
(3d Cir. 2013). That facial-plausibility standard is met
"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.
the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the complaint is
"to be liberally construed, " and, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). Nevertheless,
"pro se litigants still must allege sufficient
facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala
v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.
2013). "While a litigant's pro se status requires a
court to construe the allegations in the complaint liberally,
a litigant is not absolved from complying with
Twombly and the federal pleading requirements merely
because s/he proceeds pro se." Thakar v. Tan,
372 Fed.Appx. 325, 328 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
the Complaint must be dismissed against the State of New
Jersey. The Complaint alleges no factual basis for an
inference that the State had any involvement in the acts of
which Mr. Meleika complains. More fundamentally, however, it
would not matter if it did, because the Eleventh Amendment
bars the Court from asserting jurisdiction over such a
Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is of
jurisdictional stature, renders the states immune from
certain claims: "The Judicial power of the United States
shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or
equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United
States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or
Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const. Amend. XI.
For more than a century, the Eleventh Amendment has been held
to incorporate a more general principle of sovereign
immunity. In general, it bars citizens from bringing suits
for damages against any state in federal court. Pennhurst
State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89,
100-01 (1984); Kelley v. Edison Twp., No. 03-4817,
2006 WL 1084217, at *6 (D.N.J. Apr. 25, 2006) (citing
Bennett v. City of Atl. City, 288 F.Supp.2d 675, 679
(D.N.J. 2003)); see also Seminole Tribe of Florida v.
Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996); Edelman v.
Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974); Hans v.
Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890). Although Congress may,
under some circumstances, abrogate the States' Eleventh
Amendment immunity, it did not do so when it enacted Section
1983. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342
§ 1983 claims for damages, then, cannot be maintained
against the State.
The Jersey City Police Department
Complaint must also be dismissed as against the Jersey City
Jersey City Police Department, as such, is not a proper
defendant. A New Jersey police department is not a separate
legal entity, but a department of the municipality. N.J.
Stat. Ann. § 40A:14-118 (municipal police department is
"an executive and enforcement function of municipal
government"). See Mitchell v. City of Jersey
City, No. 15-CV-6907 (KM), 2016 WL 1381379, at *1 n.1
(D.N.J. Apr. 7, 2016); Adams v. City of Camden, 461
F.Supp.2d 263, 266 (D.N.J. 2006); McGovem v. Jersey
City, No. 98-CV-5186 2006 WL 42236, at *7 n.4 (D.N.J.
Jan. 6, 2006) (police departments cannot be sued in
conjunction with municipalities because police ...