United States District Court, D. New Jersey
L. TELLES LAW OFFICES OF ERIC A. SHORE, P.C. GRAHAM FAVILLE
BAIRD LAW OFFICES ERIC A. SHORE, P.C. TWO PENN CENTER On
behalf of Plaintiff
C. ROHR JOHN L. SLIMM MARSHALL, DENNEHEY, WARNER, COLEMAN
& GOGGIN, PC On behalf of Defendants Burlington Township,
Burlington Township Police Department, Burlington Township
Police Officer Steven Cosmo #99, Burlington Township Police
Officer Det. Marc Carnivale #60, Rebecca Concepcion
H.C. CROOK CAPEHART SCATCHARD LAURA DANKS CAPEHART &
SCATCHARD On behalf of Burlington County Detention Center and
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
matter concerns claims by Plaintiff, Deanna Jones, that she
was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted for credit
card fraud, which resulted in unconstitutional strip searches
at two county correctional facilities. Presently before the
Court are the motions of the Burlington Township Defendants
and Burlington County Defendants to dismiss some or all of
Plaintiff's claims. (Docket No. 11, 15.) For the reasons
expressed below, the Burlington Township Defendants'
motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and the
Burlington County Defendants' motion will be granted.
to Plaintiff's amended complaint, on March 23, 2016, she
rented a storage unit at IStorage in Burlington, New Jersey.
For the period of March 23, 2016 through March 31, 2016, she
paid $41.64 in cash. On April 1, 2016, Plaintiff used her
Wells Fargo debit card, which ended in numbers 6309, online
to pay $78.48 for the next month's rent.
April 7, 2016, Defendant Burlington Township police officer
Steven Cosmo called Plaintiff at work and asked her if she
had rented a storage unit at IStorage using her credit card.
Plaintiff alleges that she told Cosmo she used her Wells
Fargo debit card, and Cosmo asked her to read her debit card
numbers to him, which she did. Plaintiff claims that Cosmo
told her to not use her debit card, and asked her to come to
the police station to speak with him further. Plaintiff
claims that she told Cosmo that she did not have access to a
car and that if she had to come she could not arrive until
Friday, April 15, 2016 because of her work schedule. She also
advised him that she had not done anything wrong and asked if
she was required to come to the police station, to which
Cosmo replied it was her decision.
claims that she was so taken aback by Cosmo's questions
that she believed the call might have been a prank or someone
trying to steal her debit card information. Plaintiff called
the Burlington Township police department to inquire about
the call and asked to speak with a supervisor. Plaintiff
claims that Cosmo believed that Plaintiff was aggressive when
she called, and was angry that she called and asked for a
same day, an arrest warrant was issued for Plaintiff's
arrest for credit card fraud in violation of N.J.S.A.
2C:21-6h. The probable cause statement was issued by
Defendant Rebecca Concepcion, Deputy Court Administrator.
Plaintiff claims that Cosmo and Concepcion willfully and
maliciously ignored exculpatory information in issuing a
warrant for her arrest. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that
when Cosmo called Plaintiff, he never informed her that he
was investigating a complaint of credit card fraud by Aida A.
Gonzalez-Brown, whose Wells Fargo credit card - not debit
card -ended in numbers 6390 - not 6309 - and that
Gonzalez-Brown had already cancelled her credit card and was
unable to use it again.
Plaintiff was arrested, she was transported to Defendant
Burlington County Detention Center (BCDC). Plaintiff was
subjected to a pat-down search by a female corrections
officer, during which no weapons or contraband were found.
Plaintiff was then subjected to a strip search, where
Plaintiff removed all of her clothing leaving her completely
naked and exposed. Plaintiff was instructed to bend over and
cough in front of and while being observed by a female
officer. Plaintiff claims that she never entered the general
population at BCDC,  and was transported to Defendant Atlantic
County Correctional Facility (ACCF) the next day. At ACCF,
Plaintiff claims she was placed in a cell with three or four
other women, and was again subjected to the same strip search
procedure performed at BCDC.
Plaintiff was released from ACCF, Plaintiff claims that she
was advised to appear in court on May 10, 2016. When
Plaintiff went to Burlington Township Municipal Court,
Plaintiff was informed that she was not scheduled to be
there. Plaintiff claims that no one informed her that the
charges against her had been dropped on May 3, 2016.
claims that in addition to her false arrest and malicious
prosecution by Burlington Township, Cosmo, and Concepcion,
the resulting strip searches were unconstitutional because
they were performed without probable cause and were
conscious-shocking, especially because her alleged crime was
minor and she was cooperative throughout the entire ordeal.
has asserted claims against Burlington Township and its
police department,  Cosmo, and Concepcion for violations of
the Fourth Amendment and New Jersey state law for false
arrest and malicious prosecution, and conspiracy to commit
those violations, along with a claim for equitable relief.
Plaintiff also asserts a claim for municipal liability
against the Burlington Township Defendants for its policies
and procedures including failing to check or verify facts,
failing to cooperate with other police officers to verify
facts, and failing to properly investigate incidents of
alleged criminal offenses. Plaintiff further claims that the
Burlington Township Defendants are liable for the allegedly
unconstitutional strip searches.
Plaintiff's claims against Burlington County and Atlantic
County, Plaintiff alleges Fourth Amendment violations for
unconstitutional strip searches, and having policies that
permit unconstitutional strip searches. Plaintiff has also
asserted a claim for equitable relief against Burlington
County and Atlantic County.
Burlington Township Defendants have moved to dismiss the
claims in Plaintiff's complaint against them that arise
out of the strip searches. The Burlington Township Defendants
argue that they cannot be held liable for the allegedly
unconstitutional strip searches because it was BCDC and ACCF
that performed those strip searches and maintained the
policies and procedures governing them. The Burlington
Township Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's
conspiracy claim and her count for equitable relief must be
dismissed for deficient pleading. The Burlington County
Defendants have moved to dismiss all of Plaintiff's
claims against them, arguing that the strip search performed
on Plaintiff was constitutional under the U.S. Supreme
Court's decision in Florence v. Bd. of Chosen
Freeholders of the County of Burlington, 566 U.S.
318 (2012). Plaintiff has filed oppositions to both
Subject matter jurisdiction
civil action is brought for the redress of alleged
deprivations of constitutional rights as protected by 42
U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, and the Fourth
Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as
violations of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. Jurisdiction
is founded on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343 and 1367.
Standard for Motion to Dismiss
considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept
all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and
view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005).
It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it
contains “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading
rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not
necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for
the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434,
446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, “[a]lthough the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set
forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted
basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give
defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.” Baldwin Cnty.
Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984)
(quotation and citation omitted).
district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks
“‘not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail
but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to
support the claim.'” Bell Atlantic v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007) (quoting
Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974));
see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009)
(“Our decision in Twombly expounded the
pleading standard for ‘all civil actions' . . .
.”); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203,
210 (3d Cir. 2009) (“Iqbal . . . provides the
final nail-in-the-coffin for the ‘no set of facts'
standard that applied to federal complaints before
the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has
instructed a two-part analysis in reviewing a complaint under
Rule 12(b)(6). First, the factual and legal elements of a
claim should be separated; a district court must accept all
of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may
disregard any legal conclusions. Fowler, 578 F.3d at
210 (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). Second, a
district court must then determine whether the facts alleged
in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff
has a “‘plausible claim for relief.'”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). A
complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's
entitlement to relief. Id.; see also Phillips v.
Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)
(stating that the “Supreme Court's Twombly
formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus:
‘stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough
factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required
element. This ‘does not impose a probability
requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead
‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the
necessary element”). A court need not credit either
“bald assertions” or “legal
conclusions” in a complaint when deciding a motion to
dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig.,
114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears
the burden of showing that no claim has been presented.
Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005)
(citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926
F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).
in reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion must only consider the
facts alleged in the pleadings, the documents attached
thereto as exhibits, and matters of judicial notice. S.
Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Kwong Shipping Grp.
Ltd.,181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999). A court may
consider, however, “an undisputedly authentic document
that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to
dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the
document.” Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White
Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.
1993). If any other matters outside the pleadings are