United States District Court, D. New Jersey
KEVIN MCNULTY, J.
Ibn Sharif brings this action against the City of Hackensack,
the City of Hackensack Police Department, Captain Francesca
Aquila, Detective Rocco Duardo, Detective Joseph Gonzales,
and Detective Lieutenant Scott Sybel (collectively,
"Defendants"), based on Sharifs allegedly unlawful
arrest. According to the Complaint,  Sharif was arrested and
charged with selling cocaine to undercover police officers.
Those officers were subsequently reprimanded following a
separate incident in which they allegedly entered a house
without a warrant. Sharif attempts to draw a connection
between that incident and his own arrest, implying a common
denominator of relaxed constitutional standards. He asserts
claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution,
Monell violations, and violations of the New Jersey
State Constitution, seeking damages. Defendants moved to
dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons
explained in this opinion, I will dismiss the Complaint for
failure to meet the minimal pleading standards of Rule 8.
SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS
s Complaint alleges the following facts. For purposes of this
motion to dismiss only, I must assume their truth, although
of course they have not yet been tested by any fact finder.
See pp. 4-5, infra.
Ibn Sharif is a resident of New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 7).
The City of Hackensack ("the City") is a New Jersey
municipality; one of its departments is the Hackensack Police
Department ("Hackensack PD"). [Id.
¶ 9). During the relevant conduct in issue, Hackensack
PD employed the four individual defendants, Captain Francesca
Aquila ("Aquila"), Detective Rocco Duardo
("Duardo"), Detective Joseph Gonzales
("Gonzales"), and Detective Lieutenant Scott Sybel
("Sybel"). (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10).
March 15, 2016, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Sharif was
arrested by Duardo and Sybel pursuant to three outstanding
warrants. (Id. ¶ 18). The charges and the
arrest warrant were based on Sharif s alleged participation
in sales transactions for cocaine with Gonzalez and Duardo
(in an undercover capacity) on March 15, April 12, and May
11, 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22). Sharif was
charged with selling cocaine to an undercover officer in
violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(a)(1) and N.J.S.A.
2C:35-5(b)(3), as well as knowingly possessing a controlled
dangerous substance in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1).
(Id. ¶ 23).
Sharifs arrest, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office
dismissed the charges against him based on "serious
concerns about the credibility" of Gonzalez, Duardo, and
Sybel. (Id. ¶ 24). Those concerns emanated from
a separate incident in which those detectives were accused of
"engaging in misconduct as police officers" when
they allegedly "broke into an apartment without a
warrant." (Id. ¶ 25). As a result of the
suspected misconduct, Gonzalez and Duardo were placed on
administrative leave. (Id. ¶ 26). Sybel retired
from the police force. (Id. ¶ 26).
claims that the allegations which caused him to be arrested
were false and that he was wrongfully arrested. (Id.
¶¶ 19, 27). Defendants allegedly arrested Sharif
"without probable cause or [a] reasonable belief that
[he] was committing a crime." (Id. ¶ 26).
These actions supposedly stemmed from a broader municipal
practice of "failing to investigate crimes
adequately" and "fabricating evidence in
investigations." (Id. ¶ 33). That pattern
or practice led the individual officers "to believe that
misconduct would be tolerated and that allegations of abuse
of constitutional rights would not be investigated."
(Id. ¶ 35).
brought the following claims against Defendants: (1) false
arrest and false imprisonment under 42 U.S.C. §
1983; (2) malicious prosecution under §
1983; (3) a Monell claim based on a municipal
practice of failing to investigate crimes adequately and
fabricating evidence during investigations; (4) a
Monell claim based on failure to properly
discipline, supervise, and train police officers; and (5)
violations of Article 1, Paragraphs 1 and 5, of the New
Jersey State Constitution.
Sharif has brought civil rights claims for damages arising
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Court has subject-matter
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and
1343(a). Diversity of citizenship is not alleged, and does
not appear to be present. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Thus,
the Court may hear the remaining state law claims, if at all,
solely on the basis of supplemental jurisdiction. See 28
U.S.C. § 1367.
before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the
Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (See Def. Mot.) For the reasons stated
below, I will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice.
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 defendant, as the moving party, bears the
burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Animal
Science Products, Inc. v. China Minmetals Corp., 654
F.3d 462, 469 n. 9 (3d Cir. 2011). For the purposes of a
motion to dismiss, the facts alleged in the complaint are
accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in
favor of the plaintiff. New Jersey Carpenters & the
Trustees Thereof v. Tishman Const Corp. of New Jersey,
760 F.3d 297, 302 (3d Cir. 2014).
Rule of Civil Procedure 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 a 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 complaint's factual allegations must be
sufficient to raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a
speculative level, so that a claim is "plausible on its
face." Id. at 570; see also West Run
Student Housing Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat Bank, 712
F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013). That facial-plausibility
standard is met "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.
False Arrest and False Imprisonment (Count
state a claim under Section 1983, Sharif must allege facts
sufficient to show that (1) he was deprived of a
constitutional right or a federal statutory right, and (2)
the conduct at issue occurred under color of law. Groman
v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995).
Sharif alleges his arrest constituted a violation of his
rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the
United States Constitution "to be free from unreasonable
seizure of his person." (AC ¶ 28).
false arrest claim must be analyzed as an unlawful seizure
under the Fourth Amendment, and not under the more general
due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. See
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271-73 (1994)
("Where a particular Amendment provides an explicit
textual source of constitutional protection against a
particular sort of government behavior, that Amendment, not
the more generalized notion of substantive due process, must
be the guide for analyzing these claims." (internal
quotations omitted)); Manuel v. City of Joliet, III,
137 S.Ct. 911, 918-20 (2017). It is well established in the
Third Circuit that an arrest without probable cause is
actionable under Section 1983 as a violation of rights
secured by the Fourth Amendment. See Hill v. Algor,
85 F.Supp.2d 391, 397 (3d Cir. 2000).
elements of a false-arrest claim are "(a) that an arrest
occurred; and (b) that the arrest was made without probable
cause." Brown v. Makqfka,644 Fed.Appx. 139,
143 (3d Cir. 2016). "The proper inquiry in a claim for
false arrest under § 1983 is 'not whether the person
arrested in fact committed the offense, but whether the
arresting officers had probable cause to believe the person
arrested had committed the offense.'' Shelley v.
Wilson,152 Fed.Appx. 126, 129 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting
Dowling v. City of Philadelphia,855 F.2d 136, 141
(3d Cir. 1988)). Probable cause for an arrest exists when
"the facts and circumstances within the arresting
officer's knowledge are sufficient in themselves to
warrant a reasonable person to believe that an offense has
been or is being committed by the person to be
arrested." Merkle v. Upper Dublin School Dist,211 F.3d 782, 788 (3d Cir.2000) (quoting Orsatti v. New
Jersey State Police,71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir. 1995)).
"[P]robable cause requires only 'a probability or