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Brittingham v. Fiore

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 23, 2018

ANDRE BRITTINGHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES FIORE and NICHOLAS LACAVARA, Defendants.

          Andre Brittingham, Plaintiff Pro se.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Andre Brittingham, a prisoner presently incarcerated at the Cumberland County Jail, in Bridgeton, New Jersey, seeks to bring a civil rights complaint against Prosecutor Charles Fiore and Judge Nicholas Lacavara for actions arising out of his prosecution and conviction for driving with a suspended license. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff fails to identify the legal basis for his Complaint other than stating “racial discrimination, ” “defamation, ” and “maliciousness.” Id. at 4, 6. Because Plaintiff is a state prisoner bringing a claim against state officials, the Court will construe the Complaint as arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         At this time, the Court must review the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 8, 2018, which was docketed on March 12, 2018. See ECF No. 1, Compl. at 7. In it, Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested in 2014 for driving with a suspended license, a charge on which he proceeded to trial because he alleges that he was not operating the vehicle. See id. at 6. Plaintiff alleges that he was charged with that offense on October 17, 2017. Id. Plaintiff states that he was sentenced to ninety (90) days in jail for the offense but received no credit for time already served.[1] Id.

         As to Defendant Judge Lacavara, Plaintiff states that the judge served him “an injustice by sentencing [him] to a driving while suspended while not being in control of [the] vehicle” after the judge said that he would dismiss the charge if the officer came to court and testified that the Plaintiff was not in control of the vehicle. Id. at 4. Plaintiff does not allege that the officer did in fact testify that the Plaintiff was not in control of the vehicle. As to Defendant Prosecutor Fiore, Plaintiff alleges that the prosecutor called his wife a prostitute and that the prosecutor also agreed to drop the charge if the officer came to court and testified that Plaintiff was not in control of the vehicle. Id. at 6.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Sections 1915(e)(2) and 1915A requires a court to review complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. The Court must sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis and is incarcerated. See ECF No. 7 (granting in forma pauperis application).

         To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). “‘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.'” Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Claims Against Defendant Lacavara

         Plaintiff does not specify the sort of legal claim he wishes to assert against Defendant Judge Lacavara. He alleges only that the judge stated that he would dismiss the charges if the officer who arrested the Plaintiff testified that Plaintiff was not in control of the vehicle and that the judge sentenced him to ninety (90) days in jail with no credit for time served. With respect to any claim asserted against Judge Lacavara, judicial immunity would bar Plaintiff's suit for money damages against him. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 10 (1991) (per curiam) (a judge “shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself”) (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 347, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1872)). A plaintiff can overcome judicial immunity only when the judge takes an action outside of the judge's judicial capacity or in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11-12. In deciding whether an act is entitled to judicial immunity, the relevant inquiry is whether the nature and function of the act was judicial. Id. at 13. Here, Plaintiff's allegations against the judge are soundly judicial in nature and Plaintiff makes no allegation that the judge acted beyond his judicial capacity or in absence of jurisdiction. As such, the claim against Judge Lacavara must be dismissed as he is immune from suit.

         B. Claims ...


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