United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MR. RENÉ D. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
JAMES R. GAHM, et al., Defendants.
RENÉ D. EDWARDS SUMMIT PLACE APARTMENTS, Appearing pro
ARNAUTOVIC, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NJ, On behalf
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case concerns claims by Plaintiff regarding his arrest and
conviction for violating the Sex Offender's Monitoring
Act, a conviction which was vacated four years later after
the New Jersey Supreme Court deemed the retroactive
application of the Act to be unconstitutional. Presently
before the Court are the motions of Defendants, a New Jersey
state court prosecutor and two parole officers, to dismiss
Plaintiff's claims against them. (Docket No. 25, 37.)
Also pending are Plaintiff's “motion for jury
trial, ” motion for default and default judgment,
“motion for a hearing, ” and motion to appoint
pro bono counsel. (Docket No. 38, 39, 41, 47.) For the
reasons expressed below, Defendants' motions will be
granted, and Plaintiff's motions will be denied.
his complaint, Plaintiff, Mr. René D. Edwards, was
convicted in 1986 in New Jersey state court of an offense
that subjected him to Megan's Law. (Compl. [Doc. No.
1] “Decision, ” 9.) Based on that conviction,
Plaintiff was later subjected to the GPS monitoring
requirements set forth in the Sex Offender Monitoring Act
(“SOMA”), see N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.89
et seq. On March 4, 2008, Plaintiff was arrested and
charged for his failure to comply with the SOMA GPS
monitoring requirements. (Id.) Plaintiff entered a plea
of guilty to that charge in May 2010 and was sentenced on
July 9, 2010. (Id.)
2014, approximately four years after he was sentenced (and
six years after he was initially arrested for the SOMA
charge), the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Riley v.
New Jersey State Parole Board, 219 N.J. 270, 291-298
(2014) that the GPS monitoring requirements under SOMA were
not applicable to defendants who committed a SOMA-implicating
offense prior to the effective date of the Act. (Id.
at 10.) Based on the holding in Riley, in 2015
Plaintiff filed a petition for Post-Conviction Relief,
essentially arguing that he fell within the category of
individuals described in Riley to whom SOMA's
GPS monitoring requirements should not have applied.
(Id.) By Decision and Order dated July 13, 2016, the
New Jersey Superior Court granted Plaintiff's PCR
petition, concluded that Plaintiff “should have never
been subjected to the GPS monitoring requirements” of
SOMA, and vacated Plaintiff's SOMA conviction.
(Id. at 8, 10-11.)
alleges that Defendants - Senior Parole Officer James R.
Gahm, First Assistant Prosecutor Dana Petrone, and Parole
Officer Andrew LaRue - committed false arrest, false
imprisonment, and malicious prosecution in violation of his
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights at the time they
arrested and prosecuted him in 2008 for failing to comply
with the GPS monitoring requirements of SOMA because he never
should have been subjected to those requirements.
(Id. At 2-5.)
Petrone, and LaRue have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's
claims, arguing that they are entitled to absolute immunity
or, alternatively, qualified immunity, and because
Plaintiff's complaint otherwise fails to state any
cognizable claims against them. Plaintiff has not directly
opposed Defendants' motions, but he has submitted
numerous filings and four motions of his own, all of which
the Court has considered.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Plaintiff has brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights,
this Court has jurisdiction of this matter pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343.
Standard for Motion to Dismiss
Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims
based on various immunities is a challenge to this
Court's subject matter jurisdiction, and is therefore
decided under Federal Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Cope v.
Kohler, 2015 WL 3952714, at *3 (D.N.J. 2015) (citing
Constitution Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347,
357-58 (3d Cir. 2014)). Because Defendants mount a facial
attack on jurisdiction as opposed to a factual attack, the
Court accepts the allegations in the complaint as true and
utilizes the standard for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6),
which also governs Defendants' motions to dismiss.
Id. (citing Constitution Party, 757 F.3d at
considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must accept
all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and
view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005).
It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it
contains “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
does not need detailed factual allegations, 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 . . . .” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration
in original) (citations omitted) (first citing Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957); Sanjuan v. Am. Bd.
of Psychiatry & Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251
(7th Cir. 1994); and then citing Papasan v. Allain,
478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
To determine the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must
take three steps. First, the court must “tak[e] note of
the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.”
Second, the court should identify allegations that,
“because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.” Third,
“whe[n] there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”
Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011)
(alterations in original) (citations omitted) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664, 675, 679
district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks
“not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but
whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support
the claim.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8
(quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236
(1974)); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684 (“Our
decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard
for ‘all civil actions' . . . .”); Fowler
v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)
(“Iqbal . . . provides the final nail in the
coffin for the ‘no set of facts' standard that
applied to federal complaints before
Twombly.”). “A motion to dismiss should
be granted if the plaintiff is unable to plead ‘enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Malleus, 641 F.3d at 563 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. At 570).
has brought his constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, which provides in pertinent part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory,
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof
to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the
party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress.
its terms, of course, the statute creates no substantive
rights; it merely provides remedies for deprivations of
rights established elsewhere.” City of Oklahoma
City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985). Thus,
“[t]o establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [a
plaintiff] must demonstrate a violation of a right secured by
the Constitution and the laws of the United States [and] that
the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting
under color of state law.” Moore v.
Tartler, 986 F.2d 682, 685 (3d Cir. 1993). In order to
properly plead a claim against an individual government
defendant in a civil rights action, the complaint must
indicate how that defendant had personal involvement in the
alleged wrongdoing, which can be shown through allegations of
personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence.
Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005).
Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Gahm, ...