United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendants Gil Velasquez and Dawn McCargo-Williams, pursuant
to Fed, R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (6). The Court has considered the
written submissions of the parties, and, pursuant to L. Civ.
R. 78 (b), grants the motion because: (a) Defendants enjoy
quasi- immunity from suit, (b) Plaintiff fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, and (c) Defendants
are cloaked in qualified immunity.
Gil Velasquez (“Velasquez”) and Dawn
McCargo-Williams (“McCargo-Williams”) are both
New Jersey State employees in the Camden County Probation
Office; Velasquez is the Division Chief. Plaintiff Gwendolyn
Torres (“Torres”) brings this action individually
and as Guardian/Personal Representative of Anya Wilson and as
Administrator of the Estates of both Scarlett Wilson and
Seven Wilson. The underlying facts of this case are tragic.
Wilson is the daughter of the deceased Scarlett Wilson, the
sister of the deceased Seven Wilson, and the granddaughter of
Torres. Am. Comp. ¶ 2. Defendant McCargo-Williams was
responsible for the supervision of Leon Wilson during his
term of probation beginning January 18, 2013. Id.
¶ 10. Leon Wilson is Scarlett Wilson's son and the
brother of Anya and Seven Wilson. Id. ¶ 12.
According to the Amended Complaint, on or before April 2014,
Leon Wilson communicated to Defendant McCargo-Williams his
intent to kill his mother, Scarlett Wilson. Id.
Plaintiff claims that Leon Wilson has a documented history of
making threats to harm his mother. Id.
April 13, 2014, Leon Wilson murdered his mother by stabbing
her repeatedly. Id. ¶ 15. Scarlett Wilson was
pregnant with Seven Wilson at the time of the stabbing and,
although he was born alive, Seven eventually died from his
injuries on May 1, 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 17.
Anya Wilson witnessed the murder of her mother. Id.
¶ 16. The Amended Complaint alleges claims under 42
U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, for violations of the
5th, 8th, and 14th
Amendments, on the theory that Defendants are liable for
failing to communicate Leon Wilson's threats to Scarlett
preliminary matter, Plaintiff agrees that the claims against
Defendants are alleged in their individual capacity and not
in their official capacity. In addition, because the Amended
Complaint does not allege that Plaintiff or Plaintiff's
decedent and/ or granddaughter were incarcerated at the time
of the underlying incident, the Amended Complaint fails to
state a claim under the 8th Amendment and the
motion to dismiss is granted as to this claim. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). In addition,
“[a] defendant in a civil rights action must have
personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot
be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat
superior.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). The claims against Velasquez are
solely premised upon a theory of respondeat superior and are
reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is
granted because, as probation officers, Defendants are
cloaked with quasi-judicial immunity with respect to the
allegations set forth in the Amended Complaint.
Alternatively, Defendants are cloaked with qualified immunity
because Plaintiffs' state created danger claim fails as a
matter of law.
Standard of Review
Rule 12 (b) (6), a complaint may be dismissed for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b) (6). When reviewing a
motion to dismiss on the pleadings, courts “accept all
factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether,
under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff
may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotations
omitted). Under such a standard, the factual allegations set
forth in a complaint “must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
Indeed, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all
of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[A] complaint must do more than
allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint
has to ‘show' such an entitlement with its
facts.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d
203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009).
judges, “quasi-judicial officials acting within the
scope of their official duties are absolutely immune.”
Delbridge v. Schaeffer, 238 N.J.Super. 323, 340, 569
A.2d 872 (Law Div. 1989). “When judicial immunity is
extended to officials other than judges, it is because their
judgments are ‘functionally comparable' to those of
judges-that is because they, too, ‘exercise a
discretionary judgment' as part of their function.”
Antoine v. Byers & Anderson, Inc., 508 U.S. 429,
436, 113 S.Ct. 2167, 124 L.Ed.2d 391 (1993). As
quasi-judicial officers, probation officers are cloaked with
judicial immunity when they act pursuant to a court
directive. Stankowski v. Farley, 251 Fed.Appx. 743,
746 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Robinson v. McCorkle, 462
F.2d 111, 113 (3d Cir. 1972)); see also Price El v.
Superior Court of New Jersey, No. CIV.A. 11-2213 NLH,
2012 WL 95210, at *4 (D.N.J. Jan. 12, 2012).
“Quasi-judicial absolute immunity attaches when a
public official's role is functionally comparable to that
of a judge.” Dotzel v. Ashbridge, 438 F.3d
320, 325 (3d Cir. 2006). This immunity does not attach to
actions taken in the probation officers' executive or
administrative capacity, but only where the probation officer
is acting in an adjudicatory capacity. Wilson v.
Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 775 (3d Cir. 1989); Harper
v. Jeffries, 808 F.2d 281, 284 (3d Cir. 1986);
Thompson v. Burke, 556 F.2d 231, 236 (3d Cir. 1977).
Quasi-judicial immunity is overcome where the alleged actions
are not taken in their capacities as probation officers or
where their actions are taken in the absence of all
jurisdiction. See Mireless v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9,
11-12 (1991); Williams v. Consovoy, 333 F.Supp.2d
297, 299-300 (D.N.J. 2004), aff'd, 453 F.3d 173 (3d Cir.
Defendants are employed by the Probation Division of the
Camden County Vicinage of the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Pursuant to N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2B:10-3(d) and 4(b)
(2006), both Velasquez and McCargo-Williams are considered
judicial employees of the State of New Jersey. The Amended
Complaint does not allege any facts to suggest that
Defendants' interactions with Scarlett Wilson occurred
outside of their duties as probation officers. Rather,
inaction is alleged: Plaintiff argues that Defendants should
have acted when they learned that Leon Wilson had made
threats against his mother and that Defendants should have
acted when Leon Wilson failed to comply with the terms of his
probation by failing to appear at his mandatory appointed
probation meeting before April, 2014. Am. Compl. ...