United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ALAN MURPHY, as Administrator of the Estate of Arthur J. Murphy, Deceased, Plaintiff,
MIDDLESEX COUNTY et al., Defendants.
L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Alan Murphy ("Plaintiff), is the administrator of the
estate of decedent, Arthur J. Murphy ("Decedent"),
who died after an altercation with staff at the Middlesex
County Adult Correctional Center on November 26,
2013.Presently before the Court is a motion by
defendants Andrew C. Carey ("Carey"), Michael
Daniewicz ("Daniewicz"), George Trillhaase
("Trillhaase"), and Paul Miller
("Miller"), each employees of the Middlesex County
Prosecutor's Office ("MCPO"), (collectively,
"the MCPO Defendants"), to dismiss the claims
asserted against them in Plaintiffs Third Amended Complaint.
(ECF No. 99.) Plaintiff has opposed the motion, (ECF No.
105), and the MCPO Defendants have filed a reply brief, (ECF
No. 108). Additionally, defendant Sheree Pitchford
("Pitchford"),  who was at all relevant times also an
MCPO employee, has requested to join the MCPO Defendants'
motion on the same bases asserted by them. (ECF No. 112.)
Having considered the parties' submissions, and for the
following reasons, Pitchford is permitted to join in the
arguments advanced by the MCPO Defendants' motion and the
motions to dismiss are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
November 2013, Decedent was homeless and sought shelter in an
abandoned building in Edison, New Jersey. (3d Am. Compl., ECF
No. 80 ¶¶ 26-29.) Officers from the Edison Township
Police Department removed Decedent from the building and
located a shelter for him to spend the night. (Id.
¶¶ 26-29, 38.) When Decedent declined transport to
the shelter, the officers charged him with criminal trespass
under New Jersey Statutes Annotated §
("N.J.S.A.") 2C:18-3(a) and took him to the
Middlesex County Adult Correction Center ("MCACC").
(Id. ¶¶ 38 & 40.)
arriving at MCACC, Decedent answered general intake questions
but refused to be fingerprinted. (Id. ¶ 42.) In
response to Decedent's refusal, he was taken to a small
"change-out room," where there were no cameras or
video surveillance, to undergo a strip search. (Id.
¶¶ 43-44.) Seven corrections officers congregated
in the room to observe Decedent's strip search.
(Id. ¶ 45.) An altercation ensued when Decedent
"clenched his fists," and up to nine corrections
officers used force to subdue him. (Id. ¶¶
46-48.) Following the altercation, Decedent was unresponsive,
with blood flowing from his mouth, and he subsequently died.
(Id. ¶¶ 48-52.)
MCPO subsequently undertook an internal-affairs investigation
of Decedent's death. (Id. ¶¶ 57-61.)
Defendant Daniewicz, a sergeant in the MCPO, was the
investigator assigned to the case. (Id. ¶¶
21, 64.) Plaintiff alleges that Daniewicz recommended that
the investigation be closed and "did not recommend or
require any other disposition, including 'Refer to Grand
Jury.'" (Id.) Defendants Trillhaase and
Miller were also sergeants with the MCPO and were
Daniewicz's immediate and second-level supervisors,
respectively. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23, 65-66.)
Plaintiff alleges that they concurred with Daniewicz's
recommendation to close the investigation and did not
recommend any other disposition. (Id.) Defendant
Pitchford was then an MCPO assistant prosecutor and acted as
the "AP Supervisor" for the investigation into
Decedent's death. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 67.)
Plaintiff alleges that she also concurred with the decision
to close the investigation and also did not recommend any
other disposition. (Id.) Defendant Carey was then
the Middlesex County Prosecutor, and Plaintiff alleges that
he had final policy and oversight authority for
internal-affairs investigations generally and for the
investigation of Decedent's death specifically.
(Id. ¶¶ 16-18, 62-63.)
commenced this action on September 25, 2015, filing a
complaint against Middlesex County, the warden of MCACC, and
the corrections and police officers involved in the incident,
all in both their individual and official capacities.
(Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Complaint alleged claims against the
police officers for false arrest and malicious prosecution
(Counts I & II), against the corrections officers for due
process violations, excessive force, conspiracy, and assault
and battery (Counts III, IV, V, and VI), against Middlesex
County and Warden Edmund Cicchi for supervisory and municipal
liability (Count VII), and against all defendants for
wrongful death (Count VIII). (See ECF No. 1.)
September 2016, Plaintiff moved for leave to file an amended
complaint, which would add the MCPO as a defendant to the
claims for conspiracy (Count V), supervisory liability (Count
VII), and wrongful death (Count VIII). (ECF No. 33.)
Middlesex County opposed the amendment on the basis that it
would be futile, arguing that the proposed amended complaint
failed to adequately plead a claim against the MCPO and that
the MCPO was shielded by prosecutorial immunity. (ECF No.
34.) On April 13, 2017, Magistrate Judge Tonianne J.
Bongiovonni issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order considering
these arguments and granting Plaintiffs motion to amend. (ECF
Nos. 37 & 38.)
MCPO then filed a motion to dismiss the First Amended
Complaint for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a
claim. (ECF No. 48.) It argued, among other points, that it
was shielded by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity and
that it could not be considered a person subject to suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Br. in Supp., ECF No. 48-1.)
This Court rejected the MCPO's sovereign-immunity
argument but dismissed the claims against it upon finding
that it was not acting as a person for § 1983 purposes.
(Op. (Dec. 12, 2017), ECF No. 61, at 6-16.) The Court granted
Plaintiff leave to again amend the complaint "to assert
claims against the MCPO for injunctive relief and/or against
the MCPO prosecutor(s) in his or her personal capacity."
(Id. at 16; Order, ECF No. 62.)
filed a Second Amended Complaint, which added Carey,
Daniewicz, and John Doe MCPO supervisors, all in their
individual capacities,  as defendants to the conspiracy claim
(Count V), alleging that they "conspired to cover-up,
not fully investigate and/or violated mandatory investigatory
protocol to ensure those involved would not be
disciplined." (2d Am. Compl., ECF No. 65-1 ¶ 97.)
Plaintiff urged that New Jersey Attorney General Law
Enforcement Directive No. 2006-5 ("Directive
2006-5") required the issue to be presented to a grand
jury unless the Division of Criminal Justice approved a
finding that the undisputed facts showed the use of force was
justifiable. (Id. ¶¶ 59-61.) Despite this,
Plaintiff alleged that Carey, Daniewicz, and the Doe MCPO
supervisors closed the file, without review by either a grand
jury or the Division of Criminal Justice, "for the
purpose of shielding the officers involved from exposure to
discipline and/or criminal liability" and as part of a
cover up to shield the officers directly involved.
(Id. ¶¶ 62-67, 109-112.)
Second Amended Complaint also added Carey as a defendant to
the supervisory-liability claim (Count VII), alleging that he
repeatedly violated, or permitted to be violated, required
investigative protocol, thereby creating an environment of
acquiescence to use of excessive force by law enforcement
officers and where officers "operated without fear of
discipline." (Id. ¶¶ 123-127.) The
Second Amended Complaint made clear that Carey, Daniewicz,
and the MCPO supervisor defendants were not defendants to the
wrongful-death claim (Count VIII). (Id., Count
VIII.) Plaintiff subsequently filed the Third Amended
Complaint, on consent of all parties, which primarily
identified the previously unidentified MCPO supervisor
defendants as Trillhaase, Miller, and Pitchford.
(See ECF Nos. 78 & 80.) Thus, the claims
presently asserted against the moving defendants are Count V,
for conspiracy, which is asserted against all the MCPO
Defendants, as well as the corrections-officer defendants,
and Count VII, for supervisory and municipal liability, which
is asserted against Carey, as well as Middlesex County and
Warden Cicchi. (See ECF No. 80.)
The Instant Motion
before the Court is a motion by the MCPO Defendants to
dismiss the Third Amended Complaint for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim,
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6). (ECF
No. 99.) They argue that Plaintiffs claims against them are
barred by prosecutorial, quasi-judicial, and qualified
immunity. (Br. in Supp., ECF No. 99-1, at 13-26.) They
further contend that Plaintiff lacks standing to assert
claims against them and that he has failed to adequately
plead constitutional claims. (Id. at 26-37.)
Plaintiff has opposed the motion, (ECF No. 105), and the MCPO
Defendants have replied, (ECF No. 108). Pitchford
subsequently filed a letter seeking to join in the pending
motion. (ECF No. 112). As the factual and legal issues seem
to be the same, the Court will treat all arguments as
applying equally to Pitchford.
Standard for Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(1)
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) permits the Court to dismiss
a proceeding for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). This includes cases
where Eleventh Amendment immunity bars the plaintiffs claims,
as the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted that
"the Eleventh Amendment is a jurisdictional bar which
deprives federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction."
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