United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JAMES C. CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF NEW BRUNSWICK, et al, Defendants.
MICHAEL A. SHIPP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter conies before the Court on three motions to dismiss by
Defendants: (i) The City of New Brunswick ("New
Brunswick"), the New Brunswick Police Department
("NBPD"), Officer Sean Freeman, Officer James
Hayes, Officer Samuel Hillyer, and Karlo Sarmiento
(collectively, "NB Defendants") (ECF No. 11); (ii)
the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office
("MCPO") (ECF No. 17); and (ii) Officers Nicholas
DeFalco and Ryan DeGraw (ECF No. 12). Plaintiff James C.
Campbell ("Plaintiff) filed opposition (ECF
No. 19), and Defendants replied (ECF Nos. 20, 21, 22). The
Court has carefully considered the parties' submissions
and decides the matter without oral argument pursuant to
Local Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted, without
action arises out of Plaintiff s arrest on or about December
1, 2012. (Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff is a
self-employed auto mechanic, and was working on a vehicle in
a parking lot where he frequently performed his services.
(Id. ¶¶ 3, 5-6.) An unmarked sedan sped
into the parking lot and immediately thereafter, two
Caucasian males exited the sedan and approached the Plaintiff
with their guns drawn. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) The
two men stated that they were police officers, but did not
present any form of identification. (Id. ¶ 8.)
The officers subsequently handcuffed Plaintiff, and forced
other unnamed individuals to kneel and cross their legs.
(Id. ¶ 9.) The unidentified officers claimed
they saw an African American man holding a beer and walking
down the street, believed he came through the parking lot,
and wanted to charge him. (Id. ¶ 11.) At this
point, one of the officers walked towards the front of the
vehicle that Plaintiff had been working on and
"'claimed' he found a gun." (Id.
¶ 12.) Plaintiff explained to the officers that "he
had never seen the gun before and had no knowledge where
[sic] it came from." (Id.)
consented to a search of his vehicle, but the officers did
not perform the search. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)
Plaintiff was arrested on charges of unlawful possession of a
handgun, possession of weapons for unlawful purposes,
receiving stolen property, and as a person unauthorized to
have a weapon. (Id. ¶ 16.)
Plaintiff was indicted on all charges. (See
Indictment, ECF No. 1-1.) Plaintiff spent eighteen days in
jail before being released on bail of $35, 000 at a cost of
$3, 500 to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 17.) After three
jury trials, two of which resulted in a mistrial, Plaintiff
was ultimately found not guilty of all charges stemming from
the incident. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff alleges
that the extended litigation resulted in several missed days
of work and financial loss. (Id.)
September 26, 2016, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se,
filed a complaint pursuant to the New Jersey Tort Claims Act,
N.J. Stat. § 59:1-1, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Section 1983") seeking "punitive and actual
damages in excess of $500, 000." (Id. ¶
21.) Plaintiff claims that he was restrained without probable
cause, that the officers' actions were racially
motivated, and that he was questioned without being read his
Miranda rights and without an attorney present.
(Id. ¶¶ 10, 14.) He asserts that
Defendants "fabricated evidence, changed their
testimony, and threatened Plaintiff during the trials.
(Id. ¶ 20.)
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only 'a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief' in order to 'give the defendant
fair notice of what the, . . claim is and the grounds upon
which it rests.'" Bell Ail. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In addressing a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must "accept
all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine
whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the
plaintiff may be entitled to relief" Phillips v.
Cly. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008).
While a complaint does not need to contain detailed factual
allegations to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a
pleader must "provide the 'grounds' of his
'entitle[ment] to relief [which] requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545; see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
as here, a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the complaint is
'to be liberally construed, ' and, 'however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."'
Walsh v. Household Fin. Corp. Ill. No. 15-4112, 2016
WL 6826161, at *2 (D.N.J. Nov. 17, 2016) (quoting
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007)).
"While a litigant's pro se status requires a court
to construe the allegations in the complaint liberally, a
litigant is not absolved from complying with Twombly
and the federal pleading requirements merely because s/he
proceeds pro se." Id. (quoting Thakar v
Tan, 372 Fed.Appx. 325, 328 (3d Cir. 2010)).
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the
"defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has
been presented." Hedges v. United States, 404
F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). A district court is to conduct
a three-part analysis when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss. See Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563
(3d Cir. 2011). "First, the court must 'tak[e] note
of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a
claim.''' Id. (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Second, the court must
"review the complaint to strike conclusory
allegations." Id. The court must accept as true
all of the plaintiffs well-pleaded factual allegations and
"construe the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578
F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). In doing so,
the court is free to ignore legal conclusions or factually
unsupported accusations that merely state
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). Finally, the court must determine whether
"the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to
show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for
relief" Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). A facially plausible claim
"allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. at 210 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
Defendants argue that: (i) the NBPD is an improper party
because the NBPD is an administrative arm of New Brunswick,
not a separate entity (NB Defs.' Moving Br. 6, ECF No.
11-1); (ii) the claims against New Brunswick must be
dismissed because respondeat superior liability is
unavailable for constitutional violations and Plaintiff has
not identified any municipal policy, practice, or custom that
caused a constitutional violation (id. at 6-8);
(iii) any claim for false arrest accrued at the time of the
arrest in December 2012 and is time-barred because it was not
filed within the two-year limitations period (id. at
9-10); and (iv) claims against the individual officers are
not sufficiently pled to put the officers on notice of the
claims against them, and, in any event, the officers are
entitled to absolute immunity for their testimony at trial
(id. at 11-12). Officers Nicholas DeFalco and Ryan
DeGraw joined in the arguments set forth by the NB Defendants
and did not submit their own brief. (ECF No. 12.)
MCPO argues that: (i) the claim against it is actually a
claim against the state and, thus, subject to 11th
Amendment immunity (MCPO's Moving Br. 7-11, ECF No.
17-3); (ii) the MCPO is not a "person" amenable to
suit under either Section 1983 or the NJCRA (id. at
12-14); (iii) vicarious liability claims are not available
under Section 1983 and, to the extent that Plaintiff attempts
to hold the MCPO vicariously liable under the New Jersey Tort
Claims Act, it is entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity
(id. at 14-15); and (iv) the false arrest claim is
time barred (id. at 15-17).
opposition, Plaintiff submitted a one-page item of
correspondence that asked the Court not to dismiss the
Complaint as Plaintiff has been wronged, and attached
exhibits related to the underlying charges and trials. (ECF
No. 19.) On reply, Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed to
address any of the legal arguments raised by Defendants and
ask the Court to dismiss the Complaint, (NB Defs.' Reply
2, ECF No. 20; MCPO's Reply I, ECF No. 22; DeFalco and
DeGraw's Reply I, ECF No. 21.) ...