United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MATTHEW D. PERKINS, Plaintiff,
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.
John Michael Vazquez, United States District Judge.
before the Court is the complaint (ECF No. 1) of Plaintiff
Matthew D. Perkins. Because Plaintiff has previously been
granted in forma pauperis status in this matter,
this Court is required to screen his complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Pursuant to the statute, this
Court must dismiss Plaintiff's claims if they are
frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or
seek damages from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons
set forth below, this Court will dismiss the State of New
Jersey from this matter with prejudice; will dismiss without
prejudice Plaintiff's official capacity claims and claims
against the Borough of South Hackensack, Captain Kaiser, and
the Bergen County Prosecutor Office; and will permit
Plaintiff's illegal search and excessive force claims to
proceed against Defendants McAllister and the John Doe
Defendants in their individual capacities only.
complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was stopped on April 26,
2017, while driving along Route 46 West in New Jersey by
Defendant McAllister, a South Hackensack police officer. (ECF
No. 1 at 3-4). At some point during this stop, three other
officers, identified as John Doe Defendants arrived.
(Id.). Plaintiff was arrested and placed in
handcuffs. (Id.). While handcuffed, Plaintiff
alleges these four officers assaulted him by pulling and
pushing on Plaintiff's arms and shoving him into a
vehicle, which Plaintiff alleges caused Plaintiff to break
his right hip. (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges that
these four officers “illegally searched” his
vehicle, including the glove box, without a warrant or
Plaintiff's consent. (Id. at 3). The officers
apparently recovered a weapon from the glove box.
(Id. at 3-4). Plaintiff was thereafter charged by a
police captain and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office
by way of a criminal complaint with possession of an unlawful
weapon. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff does not explain to
the Court what became of those charges after they were filed.
Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26,
1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review
complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is
proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B), or seeks damages from a state employee,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The PLRA directs
district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that
is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is
subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff has been
granted in forma pauperis status.
to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'” 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua
sponte screening for failure to state a
claim, the complaint must allege
“sufficient factual matter” to show that the
claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation
omitted). “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.” Fair Wind Sailing,
Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while
pro se pleadings are liberally construed,
“pro se litigants still must allege sufficient
facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala
v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.
2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).
seeks to bring a claims against several police officers and
Bergen County officials for violations of his constitutional
rights, which are raised pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
“To establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must demonstrate a violation of a right protected
by the Constitution or laws of the United States that was
committed by a person acting under the color of state
law.” Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d
Cir. 2000); see also Woodyard v. Cnty. of Essex, 514
Fed.Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013) (section 1983 provides
“private citizens with a means to redress violations of
federal law committed by state [actors]”). “The
first step in evaluating a section 1983 claim is to
‘identify the exact contours of the underlying right
said to have been violated' and to determine
‘whether the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a
constitutional right at all.'” Nicini, 212
F.3d at 806 (quoting County of Sacramento v. Lewis,
523 U.S. 833, 841 n. 5 (1998)). Here Plaintiff appears to be
claims for an illegal search and excessive force against
Defendants McAllister and the John Doe Defendants, and a
claim against Defendant Kaiser and the Bergen County
Prosecutor's Office for malicious prosecution arising out
of his being charged and prosecuted for unlawful possession
of a weapon. Plaintiff also names as Defendants in this
matter the State of New Jersey and the Borough of South
Hackensack, but alleges no actions taken by these entities
which violated his rights.
event, the State of New Jersey is not a proper Defendant in a
§ 1983 matter. This is because a state is “not a
‘person' who may be sued under Section 1983”
and because a state is immune from suit in federal court
under the Eleventh Amendment. Grohs v. Yatauro, 984
F.Supp.2d 273, 280-81 (D.N.J. 2013); see also Wills v.
Michigan Dep't of State Pol., 491 U.S. 58, 65-66
(1989). As a result, the State of New Jersey is dismissed
from this action with prejudice.
also names as a Defendant the Borough of South Hackensack,
and raises claims against several of the Borough's police
officers in their official capacity. A suit against a police
officer in his official capacity “represent[s] only
another way of pleading an action against the entity of which
an officer is an agent, ” in this case the Borough of
South Hackensack which employs them. See, e.g., Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55
(1978); Grohs, 984 F.Supp.2d at 280-81. In order to
make out a claim against a municipality such as the Borough,
whether directly or through an official capacity claim, a
plaintiff must plead facts which would establish that the
municipality essentially caused the alleged constitutional
violation through a policy, practice, or custom that the
municipality put into place. Monell, 436 U.S. at
694. Plaintiff has identified no policy or practice put into
place by the Borough, nor has he alleged any other acts by
the Borough that would otherwise state a claim against it.
Plaintiff has thus failed to plead a viable claim against the
Borough or the officers in their official capacities, and
those claims are dismissed without prejudice as a result.
also seeks to raise a claim for malicious prosecution against
Captain Kaiser and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office
based on his allegation that they charged him with unlawful
possession of a weapon which he contends was licensed and
properly in his possession. To plead a viable claim for
malicious prosecution, a plaintiff must assert the following:
(1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the
criminal proceeding ended in [the plaintiff's] favor; (3)
the defendant initiated the proceeding without probable
cause; (4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose
other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the
plaintiff suffered [a] deprivation of liberty ...