Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Meleika v. City of Jersey City

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 2, 2017

CITY OF JERSEY CITY, et al., Defendants.



         This 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 original.

         I. The Allegations of the Complaint

         The 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.[1] 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)

         The 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.

         II. The Applicable Standard

         Federal 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).

         Federal 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.

         Where 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).

         III. Discussion

         A. The State

         Initially, 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 claim.[2]

         The 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 (1979).[3]

         These § 1983 claims for damages, then, cannot be maintained against the State.

         B. The Jersey City Police Department

         The Complaint must also be dismissed as against the Jersey City Police Department.

         The 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.