United States District Court, D. New Jersey
GOLDA D. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.
Michael A. Shipp United States District Judge
matter has come before the Court on a civil rights Complaint
filed by pro se Plaintiff Golda D. Harris. Because
Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking redress from a governmental
entity, the Court must screen the Complaint to determine
whether the case should be dismissed because it is frivolous
or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Having
completed this screening, and for the reasons stated below,
the Complaint is dismissed.
case was initially filed in state court, and removed to this
Court on December 15, 2016 by three of the named defendants:
the State of New jersey, the Office of the Attorney General,
and the Department of Corrections ("State
Defendants"). The Complaint also asserts claims against
the United States. Accordingly, these are the only named
defendants in the instant matter, although the Complaint
filed in state court lists dozens of defendants. Following
removal, Plaintiff moved to remand. (ECF No. 2.) The Court
denied the motion and offered Plaintiff the opportunity to
withdraw her federal claims, including her claims against the
United States, if she still desired remand (Order, Jan. 26,
2017, ECF No. 3). Plaintiff refused to withdraw her federal
claims and filed a second motion to remand. (ECF No. 4.) The
Court summarily denied that motion. (Order, Feb. 23, 2017,
ECF No. 5.) Recognizing that Plaintiff may not have properly
served the United States, the Court issued a show-cause
order, directing Plaintiff to provide proof that the United
States was properly served. (Order, Jan. 19, 2018, ECF No.
11.) Plaintiff filed a response to the show-cause order. (ECF
Court dismisses the United States as a defendant. When the
United States is a defendant, Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure requires a plaintiff to:
(A)(i) deliver a copy of the summons and of the complaint to
the United States attorney for the district where the action
is brought- or to an assistant United States attorney or
clerical employee whom the United States attorney designates
in a writing filed with the court clerk-or
(ii) send a copy of each by registered or certified mail to
the civil-process clerk at the United States attorney's
(B) send a copy of each by registered or certified mail to
the Attorney General of the United States at Washington,
(C) if the action challenges an order of a nonparty agency or
officer of the United States, send a copy of each by
registered or certified mail to the agency or officer.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(i)(1) (emphasis added). In her response to
the show-cause order, Plaintiff submitted proof that she
effectuated service via certified mail on the Department of
Justice in Washington, D.C., which the Court construes as
service upon the Attorney General. Plaintiff, however, failed
to demonstrate that she effectuated service on the United
States attorney of this District, the District of New Jersey.
When a plaintiff fails to serve either the United States
attorney of the district where the suit is filed or the
Attorney General of the United States, service is improper
upon the United States. See Felicetty-Stamm v. Sec'y
Dep't of Homeland Sec, 558 Fed.Appx.l89, 190 (3d
the Complaint asserts claims against all defendants,
including the United States, for violation of Plaintiff s
constitutional rights through false imprisonment. (Compl. 1,
ECF No. 1 -1 at 7.) Although the Supreme Court has created a
federal right of action against federal officers for certain
constitutional elations, see Bivens v. Six Unknown Named
Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971),
the United States and its agencies remain immune
under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. See Corr.
Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 72 (2001) (finding
that a plaintiff s only remedy in a Bivens action
"lies against [an] individual"); Jaffee v.
United States, 592 F.2d 712, 717 (3d Cir. 1979) (finding
that Bivens does not authorize suits against the
government itself); Dippolito v. United States, No.
13-0175, 2015 WL 9308238, at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 21, 2015)
(finding that federal agencies are not amenable to suit under
Bivens). Accordingly, all federal claims against the
United States are dismissed with prejudice due to sovereign
immunity, and to the extent any other claims are raised
against the United States, they are dismissed without
prejudice for failure to effectuate proper service, and the
United States, s dismissed from this case. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 4(m).
federal claims against the State Defendants are also
dismissed with prejudice. The Eleventh Amendment to the
United States Constitution provides that, "[t]he
Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to
extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted
against one of the United States by citizens of another
State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State."
U.S. Const, amend. XI. As such, the Eleventh Amendment
protects states and their agencies and departments from suit
in federal court regardless of the type of relief sought.
Pennhurst State Sch. and Hosp. v. Halderman, 465
U.S. 89, 100 (1984); see P.R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth.
v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993)
(holding that the Ex parte Young exception to
Eleventh Amendment immunity is inapplicable to "the
States or their agencies, which retain their immunity against
all suits in federal court"). Civil rights claims under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 do not override a state's Eleventh
Amendment immunity. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332,
338 (1979). All federal claims against the State Defendants,
therefore, are dismissed with prejudice based upon Eleventh
extent the Complaint asserts any other claims against the
State Defendants or any other defendants, they are dismissed
without prejudice. As stated above, although the Complaint
raises claims of false imprisonment, it does not contain a
single factual allegation to support Plaintiffs claims-in
fact, Plaintiff does not even allege what crime she has been
imprisoned for, let alone the circumstances that led to her
While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the
"grounds" of [her] "entitlement] to relief
requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do
... . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level....
Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(citations omitted). Indeed, if Plaintiff is imprisoned due
to a valid conviction, she would be barred from asserting any
evil rights claims for false imprisonment unless and until
that conviction has been reversed, expunged, or made invalid.
See Heck v. Humphrey,512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994).
Without any factual allegations to support her claims,
Plaintiff has not raised a plausible claim against any
defendant. Thus, to the extent that the Complaint raises any
claims other than the ones addressed above, they are
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. Within 30 days of the
accompanying Order, ...