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Itiowe v. Daniel

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

August 8, 2018

MAYOR TEEFY DANIEL, et al. Defendants.

          OPINION Dkt. No. 35


         This matter comes before the Court upon a motion to dismiss Plaintiff Christiana Itiowe's (the “Plaintiff”) Second Amended Complaint filed by defendants the City of Williamstown, New Jersey, Monroe Township Mayor Daniel Teefy (improperly pled as Teefy Daniel), Municipal Court Judge Nicholas Lacovara; Municipal Prosecutor Charles Fiore; John McKeown, Monroe Township Police Chief; the Monroe Township Police Department and its Internal Affairs Unit; and Officer Roy Pierson (collectively, the “Defendants”). [Dkt. No. 35]. Defendants seek to dismiss all counts of pro se plaintiff Christiana Itiowe's (the “Plaintiff”) Second Amended Complaint in which Plaintiff alleges (1) violations of the First, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, for which she seeks redress pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1983; (2) violation of 42 U.S.C. §2000a-2;[1] (3) violations of N.J. Stat. 10:5-1 and 10:1-2;[2] (4) and violations of several New Jersey criminal statutes.[3] For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED in part, and DENIED, in part.

         I. Factual Background

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must liberally construe her Complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (“[H]owever inartfully pleaded, ” the “allegations of a pro se complaint [are held] to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]”). As with Plaintiff's Complaint and Amended Complaint, even construing Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint liberally, it is difficult to comprehend.[4] The facts below are those that the Court could make out from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, and are accepted as true for the purposes of this review.

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 13, 2016, while in line at the Walmart store located at 1840 Black Horse Pike, Williamstown, New Jersey, a Walmart employee and another Walmart customer behaved inappropriately, in a “racist like” manner towards her, leading to a verbal altercation. (Second Am. Compl. at 11, ¶ 1). As a result of this altercation, a Walmart employee called the police. (Id. at 11, ¶ 2). Monroe Township Police Officer Roy Pierson was dispatched to the store and, ultimately, Plaintiff was asked to leave. (Id. at 11, ¶ 2-3).

         On her way out of the store, Plaintiff alleges, she realized she had forgotten the bag containing the items she purchased. (Id. at 11, ¶ 4-5). Plaintiff claims that upon realizing this, she turned back toward the registers, at which time Officer Pierson “made a hand gesture” and “acted like . . . [he] was going to grab” her. (Id.) Because of “psychological damage” and a fear of police, Plaintiff responded to this gesture by asking Officer Pierson - in profane language - not to touch her. (Id. at 12, ¶ 1). At that point, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Pierson “went crazy, ” and “started attacking” her and “threatening” to arrest her. (Id.) During this altercation, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Pierson picked her up and body-slammed her to the ground head first, which caused Plaintiff to lose two of her teeth. (Id. at 12, ¶ 2-3). Officer Pierson then arrested Plaintiff.

         After her arrest, Plaintiff alleges that several of the Defendants participated in a vague conspiracy against her by, among other things, failing to read her her Miranda rights and “chang[ing] the stories [sic]” and making false reports about what happened outside the Walmart. (Id. at 12, ¶ 3). She alleges, without any factual support, that the Monroe Township Police Department filed malicious and frivolous criminal complaints against her, (Id.); Municipal Prosecutor Fiore maliciously prosecuted her, (Id.); and that Municipal Court Judge Lacovara improperly denied motions she filed, refused to dismiss the criminal case against her, and threatened her with contempt of court (Id. at 12, ¶ 3; 13 ¶ 1-3). It is unclear what Mayor Daniel Teefy and Chief John McKeown are alleged to have done.

         II. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff commenced this action on October 24, 2016, alleging violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, along with several New Jersey statutory violations and false imprisonment and false arrest claims against the city of Williamstown, New Jersey; its Mayor Daniel Teefy; Monroe Township Municipal Court Judge Nicholas Lacovara; Municipal Prosecutor Charles Fiore; Marcella Carter, Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Police; the Monroe Township Police Department; and its Internal Affairs Unit. [Dkt. No. 1]. On December 19, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [Dkt. No. 7]. On December 30, 2016, Plaintiff sought leave to amend her Complaint [Dkt. No. 10], which this Court granted [Dkt. No. 12], and Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on February 15, 2017 [Dkt. No. 13]. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contained only one change, adding Chief John McKeown as a defendant in place of Marcella Carter.

         On March 1, 2017, Defendants again moved to dismiss each of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [Dkt. No. 15]. Plaintiff filed a letter in response to Defendants' Motion on March 13, 2017 [Dkt. No. 19]. Defendant also filed letters with the Court on March 20, 2017 [Dkt. No. 21, 22], April 12, 2017 [Dkt. No. 23], and May 3, 2017 [Dkt. No. 24] reiterating her incomprehensible arguments. On September 21, 2017, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, without prejudice, and provided Plaintiff thirty days to file another amended complaint. [Dkt. No. 28]. The Court ordered that Plaintiff's amended pleading should consist of no more than three pages and should state in numbered paragraphs “the claim(s) alleged with supporting facts specifically identifying which individual or entity is accused of which acts.” [Id.] To the extent Plaintiff needed additional pages to state her claim, the Court required that she provide a one-page statement with an explanation. [Id.]

         On October 10, 2017, Plaintiff moved for an extension of time to amend so that she could attempt to retain counsel. [Dkt. No. 29]. The Court granted Plaintiff's motion and extended her deadline for amendment by thirty days. [Dkt. No. 30]. On November 13, 2017, Plaintiff moved to stay the case until she could retain counsel. [Dkt. No. 31]. The Court declined to stay the case, but provided Plaintiff with another thirty-day extension to file her Second Amended Complaint, either pro se or with the assistance of counsel. [Dkt. No. 32]. On December 20, 2017, Plaintiff-still proceeding pro se-filed her Second Amended Complaint.[5] [Dkt. No. 34].

         The currently pending motion to dismiss was filed on January 10, 2018. [Dkt. No. 35].

         III. Legal Standards

         A. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)

         “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'” in order to withstand a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Claims are facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” and “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully harmed-me accusation” will not survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 663, 678. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' 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 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         The district court “must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations as well as all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff” when reviewing a plaintiff's allegations. Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 n. 1 (3d Cir. 2012). Only the allegations in the complaint, and “matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case” are taken into consideration. Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & ...

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