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Richardson v. Kimbrough

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 12, 2017

KIMBERLY ANN RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
GRACE KIMBROUGH, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Kimberly Ann Richardson filed this complaint against her probation officers Grace Kimbrough and Caroline Parsons-Kane, and Detectives Stephen Cittadini and Thomas LaRosa. Currently pending before this Court are Ms. Kimbrough's and Ms. Parson-Kane's motion to dismiss and motion to seal. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted. The motion to seal Exhibit B is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Court recites the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. On August 27, 2015, Ms. Richardson reported to Ms. Kimbrough's office. A GPS device was installed on Ms. Richardson's vehicle while Ms. Richardson was in with Ms. Kimbrough. Ms. Parsons-Kane was aware of the installation and called Detective LaRosa when Ms. Richardson left the Probation Office. Neither Ms. Parsons-Kane nor Ms. Kimbrough informed Ms. Richardson there was a warrant for her arrest.

         Ms. Richardson was arrested on September 1, 2015 by Detectives Cittadini and LaRosa. She states they did not show her the warrant for her arrest or for the search of her car they conducted. They did not permit her to retrieve her identification, eyeglasses, cellphone, or keys from inside her motel room. A little over a year later, Ms. Richardson filed the complaint asking the Court to get her compensation for the value of her car and the items inside.

         Defendants now move for dismissal of the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and to seal Exhibit B to their motion. Ms. Richardson did not file any opposition to the motions.

         III.LEGAL STANDARD

         When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. A motion to dismiss may be granted only if the plaintiff has failed to set forth fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests that make such a claim plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Although Rule 8 does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” it requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must “tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim. Second, it should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, [w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (alterations in original) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Ms. Richardson alleges Ms. Kimbrough and Ms. Parsons-Kane violated her civil rights by participating in the installation of a GPS device on her vehicle. She further alleges defendants failed to inform her there was a warrant for her arrest.

         Ms. Kimbrough and Ms. Parsons-Kane argue the complaint should be dismissed against them in their official capacities as probation officers because they are immune from suit. “Sovereign immunity extends to state agencies and state officers, ‘as long as the state is the real party in interest.'” Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cnty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 857 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Fitchik v. N.J. Transit Rail Operations, 873 F.2d 655, 659 (3d Cir. 1989)). To determine whether the state is the real party in interest, this Court considers three factors: (1) whether the money to pay for the judgment would come from the state; (2) the status of the agency under state law; and (3) what degree of autonomy the agency has. Fitchik, 873 F.2d at 659. As probation officers. Kimbrough and Ms. Parsons-Kane are considered employees of the judicial branch under New Jersey state law. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2B:10-3(d) (“‘Judicial employee' means . . . any person employed by a county probation office”). See also N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2B:10-4(b) (“All judicial employees shall be employees of the State.”). Other courts in this district have held that “the New Jersey Superior Court is an ‘arm' of the state entitled to share in the state's sovereign immunity. The Court finds that judicial branch is an integral part of the State of New Jersey.” Johnson v. State of N.J., 869 F.Supp. 289, 296-97 (D.N.J. 1994). Ms. ...


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