United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Bullock brings this action asserting violations of the
federal and state civil rights statutes, as well as state law
tort claims, in connection with police officers' alleged
excessive use of force and pursuit of false charges against
him. Two of the defendants, the Borough of Roselle and its
Police Chief, Gerard Orlando, have filed a motion to dismiss
the Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF no. 5) The remaining three named
defendants, Delmonte Pryor, Jr., James Houston, and John
Leshko, all Roselle police officers, separately move to
dismiss and join with Roselle's motion. (ECF no. 6) For
the reasons stated herein, the motions to dismiss will be
granted in part and denied in part. The upshot, as counsel
for the parties seem to recognize, is that this case will go
forward primarily on a malicious prosecution theory.
allegations of the complaint ("Cplt.", ECF no. 1)
are taken as true for purposes of this motion. See Section
II, infra. They are as follows:
plaintiff, Brian Bullock, is a resident of the Borough of
Roselle, New Jersey. Defendant Gerard Orlando is the Roselle
Police Chief; defendants Dilmonte Pryor, Jr., James Houston,
and John Leshko are Roselle police officers. (Cplt.
¶¶ 1-7) Their departmental rank is not specified.
Bullock alleges that on August 17, 2014, at 9:53 p.m., he was
driving on Spruce Street in Roselle. A friend, Jerae Prather,
was in the car. Near the intersection of 9th
Avenue, Bullock saw a person shine a flashlight at his car,
but nothing about the person's appearance seemed to
identify him as a police officer. (Cplt. ¶ 13) Bullock
turned right and continued to his destination, an address on
9th Avenue. (Cplt. ¶ 14)
a police car, with Officers Pryor and Houston inside, pulled
up beside Mr. Bullock's parked car. They ordered Bullock
to get out of his car. (Cplt. ¶ 15) Pryor opened
Bullock's car door and threatened to remove him forcibly.
(Cplt. ¶ 16)
Pryor and Houston handcuffed Mr. Bullock and then pepper
sprayed him before placing him in their police car. (Cplt.
¶¶ 17-18) They ignored his obvious medical
distress. (Cplt. ¶¶ 19, 48) Officer Lesko at some
point arrived on the scene. (Cplt. ¶ 20)
Bullock was charged with "careless driving, failure to
observe the direction of a police officer, tinted windows,
driving under the influence, refusal, resisting arrest,
harassment and disorderly conduct." (Cplt. ¶ 33)
These charges, he alleges, were false and fabricated.
August 21, 2014, Mr. Bullock was again arrested on a
complaint warrant charging him with harassment. The
underlying allegation was that Bullock had verbally
threatened Officer Pryor and his family at headquarters on
the night of the initial arrest. (Cplt. ¶ 21)
of all the charges occurred in municipal court on March 1,
2016. I take judicial notice of the municipal court
judge's findings and verdict, submitted as an exhibit.
(ECF no. 9-1) The court found Mr. Bullock not guilty of
careless driving, failure to observe the direction of a
police officer, tinted glass, driving under the influence,
refusal, and harassment. The court found Mr. Bullock guilty
of the disorderly persons offense of resisting arrest and the
petty disorderly persons offense of disorderly
conduct. The court's conclusions of law and
disposition of the charges (ECF no. 9-1 at 14-24) may be
summarized briefly as follows:
connection with acquitting Mr. Bullock of the tinted windows
and reckless driving charges, the court found that there had
been an insufficient basis to issue the tickets. The court
found that Pryor lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Bullock,
suppressed all after-acquired evidence of intoxication, and
acquitted Bullock of the DWI charge. Although Bullock had
admitted refusing to submit to an alcohol breath test, this
charge, too, was found to be tainted by the invalid stop. The
court commented more generally that the State should have
introduced testimony of the other officer, Houston; that it
had difficulty extracting a "linear interpretation"
of the events from Pryor's testimony; and that
inconsistencies emerged from a comparison of Pryor's
testimony with the dashboard video.
charge of resisting arrest, on the other hand, was found to
be sufficiently untainted by the unlawful stop. The court
found that Mr. Bullock struggled, resisted being handcuffed
by Officer Prior, and was subdued only with the aid of
Officer Houston. The same conduct was found to support the
disorderly conduct conviction.
the final charge of harassment, based on alleged threatening
comments by Bullock at the police station, the court found
credible conflicting testimony, sufficient to create a
civil Complaint in this matter was filed on December 18,
2017. (ECF no. 1) It asserts ten Counts or causes of action:
Count I Pattern and practice Allegations (Municipal and
Count II 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Unreasonable and Excessive
Count III Common Law Assault and Battery
Count IV 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Malicious Prosecution
Count V 42 U.S.C. § 1985 - Conspiracy
Count VI 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Supervisor Liability
Count VII Negligent Hiring/Training/Retention/ Supervision
Count IX Violation of the New Jersey Civil
Rights Act - N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 to 2
Count VIII Negligent and Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Count X Punitive Damages
Standard on a Motion to Dismiss
Civ. P. 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint,
in whole or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of
showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United
States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a
motion to dismiss, a court must take all allegations in the
complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490,
501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v.
Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998);
see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) ("reasonable inferences"
principle not undermined by later Supreme Court
Twombly case, infra).
Civ. P. 8(a) does not require that a complaint contain
detailed factual allegations. Nevertheless, "a
plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his
'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual
allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiffs right to
relief above a speculative level, such that it is
"plausible on its face." See Id. at 570;
see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d
59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). 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." Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "(t]he
plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability
requirement'... it asks for more than a sheer
possibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009).
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
explicated Twombly/Iqbal and provided a three-step
process for evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion:
To determine whether a complaint meets the pleading standard,
our analysis unfolds in three steps. First, we outline the
elements a plaintiff must plead to a state a claim for
relief. See [Iqbal, 556 U.S.] at 675;
Argueta, 643 F.3d at 73. Next, we peel away those
allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not
entitled to the assumption of truth. See Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679; Argueta, 643 F.3d at 73. Finally, we
look for well-pled factual allegations, assume their
veracity, and then "determine whether they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679; Argueta, 643 F.3d at 73. This last
step is "a context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012).
Consideration of Municipal Court Decision
motion to dismiss, I have considered a post-trial written
decision of the municipal court, dated March 1, 2016, which
disposed of the criminal charges against the plaintiff, Mr.
Bullock. (ECF no. 9-1; see pp. 3-4, supra.) I do so
because that decision is integral to the allegations of the
Complaint, and because another court's decision is
subject to judicial notice.
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is generally confined to
the allegations of the complaint, with a few exceptions:
Although phrased in relatively strict terms, we have declined
to interpret this rule narrowly. In deciding motions under
Rule 12(b)(6), courts may consider "documents] integral
to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint," In
re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410,
1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (emphasis in original), or any
"undisputedly authentic document that a defendant
attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the
plaintiffs claims are based on the document," PBGC
v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.
In re Asbestos Products Liability Litigation (No.
VI), 822 F.3d 125, 134 n.7 (3d Cir. 2016). See also
Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014)
("However, an exception to the general rule is that a
'document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the
complaint' may be considered 'without converting the
motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment."')
(quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory, 114
F.3d at 1426); Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White
Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.
addition, another court's opinion may be considered
without converting a motion to dismiss ...