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Taylor v. State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 11, 2018

EMMETT F. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, THE OFFICE OF THE CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR, and THE OFFICE OF THE CAMDEN COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER, Defendants.

          EMMETT F. TAYLOR Appearing pro se

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff, Emmett F. Taylor, appearing pro se, has filed a complaint against Defendants, the State of New Jersey, the Office of the Camden County Prosecutor, and the Office of the Camden County Public Defender; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff claims that on January 10, 2015, he was arrested in Camden, New Jersey for sexual assault based on a false charge by his niece, an excessive bail was set, and he was improperly held in jail for over three years while enduring pressure by Defendants to accept a plea deal for a crime he did not commit; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff claims that he has suffered significant hardships as a result and seeks $77 million in damages; and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed without prepayment of fees (“in forma pauperis” or “IFP” application), and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), a court may allow a litigant to proceed without prepayment of fees if she submits a proper IFP application; and

         WHEREAS, although § 1915 refers to “prisoners, ” federal courts apply § 1915 to non-prisoner IFP applications, Hickson v. Mauro, 2011 WL 6001088, *1 (D.N.J.2011) (citing Lister v. Dept. of Treasury, 408 F.3d 1309, 1312 (10th Cir. 2005) (“Section 1915(a) applies to all persons applying for IFP status, and not just to prisoners.”) (other citations omitted); and

         WHEREAS, the screening provisions of the IFP statute require a federal court to dismiss an action sua sponte if, among other things, the action is frivolous or malicious, or if it fails to comply with the proper pleading standards, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); Martin v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2017 WL 3783702, at *1 (D.N.J. August 30, 2017) (“Federal law requires this Court to screen Plaintiff's Complaint for sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to dismiss any claim if that claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and/or to dismiss any defendant who is immune from suit.”); and

         WHEREAS, pro se complaints must be construed liberally, and all reasonable latitude must be afforded the pro se litigant, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976), but pro se litigants “must still plead the essential elements of [their] claim and [are] not excused from conforming to the standard rules of civil procedure, ” McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”); Sykes v. Blockbuster Video, 205 Fed.Appx. 961, 963 (3d Cir. 2006) (finding that pro se plaintiffs are expected to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure); and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff alleges various constitutional violations, and the Court therefore construes his claims against Defendants to be brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1] and to invoke subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331[2]; but

         WHEREAS, to state valid § 1983 claims, a plaintiff must allege (1) the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law, West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994); and

         WHEREAS, Plaintiff's claims, as they are currently pleaded, fail as a matter of law because the State of New Jersey, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, and the Camden County Public Defender's Officer are not “persons” who can act under color of state law, see Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (holding that neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are “persons” under § 1983); Henry v. Essex County Prosecutor's Office, 2017 WL 1243146, at *3 (D.N.J. 2017) (citing Grohs v. Yatauro, 984 F.Supp.2d 273, 280 (D.N.J. 2013) (dismissing constitutional violation claims against the county prosecutor's office because it is not a person under § 1983); Nugent v. County of Hunterdon, 2010 WL 1949359, at *1 (D.N.J. 2010) (“[U]nder New Jersey law, a county prosecutor's office does not have a separate legal existence apart from the individual prosecutors or the governmental entity that the prosecutors serve. Therefore, New Jersey courts have consistently held that a county prosecutor's office is not a suable entity under § 1983.”); Johnson v. Bilotta, 2018 WL 534157, at *3 (D.N.J. 2018) (“It is well established that the Office of the Public Defender is not amenable to a § 1983 action as it is not a person within the meaning of § 1983.” (internal quotations and citations omitted)); and

         WHEREAS, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to plead claims other than for constitutional violations, such as “gross negligence, ” Plaintiff has failed to state a specific legal basis for his claims, which is necessary to establish subject matter jurisdiction, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must ...


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