United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Susan D. Wigenton, United States District Judge
or about April 8, 2019, Plaintiff, Giles Brown, a convicted
state prisoner confined in South Woods State Prison, filed a
civil complaint in which he seeks to raise claims against
several police officers and the Elmwood Park Police
Department based on alleged violations of his constitutional
rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1).
Court dismissed that complaint without prejudice in its
entirety on April 18, 2019. (ECF Nos. 3-4).
Plaintiff thereafter filed an amended complaint on or about
May 10, 2019. (ECF No. 5). In his amended complaint,
Plaintiff seeks to raise claims against Defendants Kochis and
Woods for an alleged illegal search of his vehicle, for
planting evidence against him, for malicious prosecution,
filing a false report, and for racial profiling. Plaintiff
also seeks to hold the Municipality of Elmwood Park liable
for the illegal search because he believes that the
Municipality has a policy which the arresting officers did
not follow in arresting and searching him.
Because Plaintiff has been granted in forma pauperis
status, and because Plaintiff is a state prisoner, this Court
is required to screen his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Pursuant to these
statutes, this Court must sua sponte dismiss any
claim that is frivolous, 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. Id.
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for
failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) [or § 1915A] is the same as that for
dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6).” Schreane v. Seana, 506
Fed.Appx. 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v.
Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)).
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), a district court is “required to accept as
true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all
inferences in the facts alleged in the light most favorable
to the [Plaintiff].” Phillips v. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008). “[A]
complaint attacked by a . . . motion to dismiss does not need
detailed factual allegations.” Bell Atlantic v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, the
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.” Id. (citing Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A court is “not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286.
Instead, assuming the factual allegations in the complaint
are true, those “[f]actual allegations must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded
factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for misconduct
alleged.” Id. “Determining whether the
allegations in a complaint are plausible is a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Id. at 679. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do
not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility
of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). 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
Turning first to Plaintiff's official capacity claims and
claim against the Municipality of Elmwood Park, this Court
has previously explained that an official capacity claim is
no different from a claim against the officer's employer
- Elmwood Park. See, e.g., Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55 (1978); Grohs v.
Yatauro, 984 F.Supp.2d 273, 280-81 (D.N.J. 2013).
Regardless of whether pled as a direct claim or as a
stand-alone claim against the municipality, a plaintiff may
make out such a claim by showing that the constitutional
violations alleged were caused by a policy, practice, or
custom put into place by the municipality. Monell,
436 U.S. at 694. Here, Plaintiff identifies a policy, but
directly alleges that the officers ignored and violated that
policy in searching and arresting him. As the policy was thus
not responsible for the alleged violation, Plaintiff has
failed to plead a proper claim against Elmwood Park, and both
Plaintiff's direct claim and official capacity claims
must again be dismissed without prejudice. Id.
Plaintiff also once again seeks to bring malicious
prosecution claims against the arresting officers, Kochis and
Woods. As this Court previously explained to Plaintiff, to
plead a viable malicious prosecution claim, he must allege
that the criminal proceedings terminated in his favor.
See Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 296-97 (3d
Cir. 2014). Plaintiff directly admits that he pled guilty to
the charges pursuant to a plea agreement, and that the
ensuing prosecution therefore did not terminate in his favor.
(ECF No. 5 at 3). Plaintiff thus has failed to state a valid
claim for malicious prosecution, and that claim must again be
Plaintiff also seeks to raise a stand-alone claim for the use
of fabricated evidence in his amended complaint. As
previously explained to Plaintiff, “To plead such a
claim, however, a plaintiff must plead that evidence was
fabricated, that the evidence was used against him at a trial
resulting in his conviction, and that the alleged fabricated
evidence was of such import that ‘it could have
affected the outcome of the criminal case.'
[Halsey, 750 F.3d] at 295.” (ECF No. 5 n. 1).
Here, Plaintiff, despite his alleged belief that he had
proven that the evidence against him was fabricated, did not
proceed to trial, but instead chose to plead guilty. As
Plaintiff pled guilty, and the alleged fabricated evidence
against him was not used at trial, Plaintiff has failed to
plead a viable stand-alone fabricated evidence claim under
Halsey. Plaintiff's fabricated evidence claim is
Plaintiff's amended complaint next re-asserts his claim
that the officers filed a false police report against him.
The filing of a false report, however, “is not itself a
constitutional violation.” Washington v. Essex
Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, No. 14-7453, 2017 WL
4858120, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 25, 2017) (quoting Ellis v.
Vergara, No. 09-2839, 2009 WL 4891762, at *5 (D.N.J.
Dec. 15, 2009). Plaintiff's “false report”
claim therefore once again fails to state a claim for which
relief may be granted, and is dismissed as such.
his final two claims, Plaintiff asserts that he was racially
profiled and that his car was illegally searched,
both of which allegedly occurred at the time of his arrest in
January 2015. As Plaintiff was present at the time of the
search and was aware of the alleged basis for his racial
profiling claim at the time of his arrest, Plaintiff's
claims, to the extent they have merit, accrued at the time
they occurred. Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d
Cir. 2009). The two-year statute of limitations applicable to
such claims in New Jersey under § 1983, see Patyrak
v. Apgar, 511 Fed.Appx. 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2013),
therefore began to run on the day of his arrest in January
2015. Kach, 589 F.3d at 634. Absent some basis for
equitable tolling Plaintiff's two-year limitations period
expired in January 2017. As Plaintiff has failed to provide
any basis for equitable tolling in his amended complaint, and
as this Court finds no such basis in the presented
allegations, Plaintiff's final two claims are dismissed
without prejudice as time barred.
conclusion, Plaintiff's amended complaint (ECF No. 5) is
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE in its ...