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Clark v. Cox

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 2, 2018

RAMON ANDREW CLARK, et al., Plaintiff,
DONALD COX, et al.,, Defendants.


          Freda L. Wolfson United States District Court


         Before the Court is the proposed Amended Complaint of Plaintiff, Ramon Andrew Clark. (ECF Nos. 12-14). Plaintiff has previously been granted in forma pauperis status in this matter. This Court is required to screen Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Under this statute, this Court must dismiss Plaintiff's claims if they are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons explained below, this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in its entirety, for failure to state a claim, and grant Plaintiff 30 days to submit a final amended complaint.


         Plaintiff filed his initial complaint in this matter in August 2015, attempting to raise claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, libel, slander and “false claims.” (ECF No. 1). Following a grant of in forma pauperis status, this Court screened Plaintiff's Complaint and dismissed it in its entirety, as Plaintiff's federal and state law claims failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (ECF Nos. 9-10). This Court then granted Plaintiff 45 days within which to file an amended complaint. (ECF No. 22). On December 8, 2016 and December 9, 2016, the Clerk's Office received certain pages from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. On December 23, 2016, after a complete Second Amended Complaint was received, the Clerk's Office docketed it. (See ECF Nos. 12-14). Because courts are required to liberally construe pleadings drafted by pro se parties, see Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993)), this Court will construe the allegations of Plaintiff's two filings together. However, Plaintiff is cautioned that in the future he must submit one all-inclusive pleading.

         As in his original Complaint, the Plaintiff provides scant facts in his Amended Complaint.[1] He provides his date of arrest on February 14, 2012, the charges brought against him, and the date of his acquittal on October 30, 2013. (ECF No. 14 at 6-7). He states that he remained in prison during this entire period. Id. Plaintiff also states that he is bringing claims for “false claims - false imprisonment, harassment, defamation of character because with no evidence, no photo line-up[, ] no fingerprints, no weapons, and deined[sic] moitions[sic] my lawyer put in for suppress evidence and dismisses[sic].” (ECF No. 13 at 1). Plaintiff provides no other facts in support of his claims. Plaintiff requests monetary damages as relief.


         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts are required to review civil actions in which a prisoner proceeds in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B). When reviewing such actions, the PLRA instructs courts to dismiss cases that are at any time frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune. Id. “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 Fed.Appx. 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000).

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the applicable provisions of the PLRA apply to the screening of his Amended Complaint. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id. In to survive a dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially plausible.” Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, they “still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala, 704 F.3d at 245.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Title 42, section 1983 of the United States Code provides a cause of action for the violation of constitutional rights by a person acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To recover under this provision, two elements must be shown. First, a plaintiff “must establish that the defendant acted under color of state law, ” and second, that the plaintiff has been deprived of “a right secured by the Constitution.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)). Here, the Court construes the Complaint as raising § 1983 claims for false imprisonment against the Philipsburg Police Department and Defendant Cox, and for malicious prosecution against Defendant Cox. The Court also construes the Complaint as raising state law claims for harassment and defamation against Defendant Cox. The Court will first address the federal claims.

         a. Claims Against Defendants Not Amenable to Suit under § 1983

         The Court has previously dismissed with prejudice Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the Phillipsburg Police Department because “a municipal police department is not an entity separate from the municipality” and noted that the Plaintiff did not “sue the municipality under a Monell theory of liability.” (ECF No. 9 at 5). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not provide any facts to suggest that the municipality is liable under Monell. Therefore, this Court will again dismiss with prejudice the § 1983 claim against the Philipsburg Police Department.

         b. Claims for False Imprisonment and Malicious Prosecution ...

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