United States District Court, D. New Jersey
BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is opened by the Court, sua sponte,
upon screening the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 15) of pro
se Plaintiff Calvin Taylor Stevens
(“Plaitniff”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). The Court, having reviewed Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint, for the reasons expressed below, and for
good cause shown, finds Plaintiff's false arrest and
false imprisonment claims shall continue to
PROCEED against defendant Anthony Jones
(“Jones”) only; Plaintiff's claim that
defendants Detective Brandt Greggus (“Greggus”)
and Assistant Prosecutor Vincent J. Vitale
(“Vitale”) conspired to falsely arrest and
imprison him shall be DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE, and Plaintiff's malicious prosecution
claims shall be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE
against all Defendants.
Court previously explained to Plaintiff, because he is
proceeding in forma pauperis in this matter, his
Amended Complaint is subject to screening pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Pursuant to the statute, the
Court is required to dismiss any claims which are frivolous,
malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek damages
from a defendant who is immune. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). “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)).
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a district court is “required
to accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint
and draw all inferences in the facts alleged in the light
most favorable to the [Plaintiff].” Phillips v.
Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008).
“[A] complaint attacked by a . . . motion to dismiss
does not need detailed factual allegations.” Bell
Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, the
Plaintiff's “obligation to provide the
‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to
relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. (citing Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A court is “not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286.
Instead, assuming the factual allegations in the complaint
are true, those “[f]actual allegations must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for misconduct alleged.” Id. This
“plausibility standard” required the complaint
allege “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully, ” but it “is not akin to a
‘probability requirement.'” Id.
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Detailed
factual allegations” are not required, but “more
than ‘an unadorned, the defendant-harmed-me
accusation” must be pled; it must include
“factual enhancements” and not just conclusory
statements or a recitation of the elements of a cause of
action. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555, 557). “Determining whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit
the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are
liberally construed, “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) (citation omitted) (emphasis
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff reasserts his false arrest and
false imprisonment claims against defendant Jones which this
Court has already permitted to proceed. (ECF Nos. 10,
11.) While the Court need not readdress those two claims,
Plaintiff also asserts claims against two additional
defendants named for the first time in the Amended Complaint
- Defendants Greggus and Vitale. Plaintiff's claims
against Greggus arise out of Plaintiff's contention that
Greggus lied under oath in order to secure Plaintiff's
indictment, and that Vitale used this false testimony to
secure that indictment. Plaintiff thus essentially alleges
that Greggus and Vitale maliciously prosecuted him based on
the false testimony used to initiate criminal proceedings
against Plaintiff in violation of Plaintiff's rights, and
are thus liable to him pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff also contends these two defendants conspired with
Jones to have Plaintiff falsely arrested and imprisoned in
contravention of his constitutional rights.
first to malicious prosecution, as this Court already
explained to Plaintiff, a plaintiff attempting to raise a
§ 1983 claim for malicious prosecution must plead:
(1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the
criminal proceeding ended in [the plaintiff's] favor; (3)
the defendant initiated the proceeding without probable
cause; (4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose
other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the
plaintiff suffered [a] deprivation of liberty consistent with
the concept of seizure as a consequence of a legal
Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 296-97 (3d Cir.
2014). A plaintiff cannot make out a claim for malicious
prosecution unless he specifically alleges the criminal
prosecution was terminated in his favor. Id. While
Plaintiff has pled Greggus and Vitale initiated a proceeding
against him by working together to secure a grand jury
indictment and that they secured the indictment through the
use of perjury, Plaintiff has once again failed to plead that
his criminal prosecution terminated in his favor. Therefore,
Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims against all
Defendants are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE
for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted.
also pleads a new claim-that defendants Greggus and Vitale
conspired with Jones to have Plaintiff falsely arrested and
imprisoned in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment
rights. (See ECF No. 15 at 44-45, 49.) In
order to plead a claim for false arrest, a § 1983
plaintiff must plead facts which indicate “there was an
arrest” or seizure of the plaintiff and the arrest or
seizure “was made without probable cause.”
James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 680 (3d
Cir. 2012). A § 1983 false imprisonment claim is
derivative of a false arrest claim, and will stand where the
alleged facts indicate that the allegedly improper arrest
resulted in pre-arraignment detention of the plaintiff.
See Adams v. Officer Eric Selhorst, 449 F. App'x
198, 201 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Groman v. Twp. of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 636 (3d Cir. 1995)); see
also Stevens v. Way, Civ. No. 15-7261, 2016 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 67863, at *9 (D.N.J. 2016).
order to plead a conspiracy claim under § 1983, however,
a plaintiff must make additional factual allegations. The
basic element of a § 1983 conspiracy is a “meeting
of the minds” of the alleged members of the conspiracy.
Startzell v. City of Phila., 533 F.3d 183, 205 (3d
Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). A plaintiff seeking to raise a
claim that the defendants conspired to deprive him of his
rights must therefore “provide some factual basis to
support the existence of the elements of a conspiracy:
agreement and concerted action.” Capogrosso v. The
Supreme Court of N.J., 588 F.3d 180, 185 (3d Cir. 2009)
(quoting Crabtree v. Muchmore, 904 F.2d 1475, 1481
(10th Cir. 1990)). Because a plaintiff must plead facts
showing his claim to be plausible rather than merely
possible, see Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, “the
bare allegation of an agreement is insufficient to sustain a
conspiracy claim.” Brown v. Deparlos, 492 F.
App'x 211, 215 (3d Cir. 2012). Likewise, “[i]t is
insufficient to allege that ‘the end result of the
parties' independent conduct caused plaintiff harm or
even that alleged perpetrators of the harm acted in conscious
parallelism.'” Desposito v. New Jersey,
No. 14-1641, 2015 WL 2131073, at *14 (D.N.J. May 5, 2015)
(quoting Novellino v. N.J. Dep't of Corr. Mountanview
Youth, No. 10-4542, 2011 WL 3418201, at *15 (D.N.J. Aug.
matter, Plaintiff merely asserts defendants Greggus and
Vitale conspired to falsely arrest or imprison him. He does
not plead any facts which, if true, would establish agreement
and concerted action, instead providing only conclusory
allegations of a conspiracy. Indeed, Plaintiff does not
allege any facts which would suggest Greggus or Vitale were
involved in his initial arrest and imprisonment by defendant
Jones, and instead provides allegations indicative only of
their involvement in the grand jury phase of his
prosecution. At best, Plaintiff has pled facts showing
Greggus and Vitale's actions resulted in his continued
imprisonment, which is insufficient to state a claim for
conspiracy under § 1983. Desposito, 2015 WL
2131073 at *14. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to plead a
claim for conspiracy, and his false arrest and false
imprisonment conspiracy claims against defendants Greggus and
Vitale are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
IS THEREFORE on this 2nd day of October 2017,
ORDERED that Plaintiff's malicious
prosecution claims are DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE as to all Defendants; and it is further
that Plaintiff's claim that defendants Vitale and Greggus
conspired with defendant Jones to falsely arrest and imprison
him is DIS ...