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Liberty Bell Temple III v. Trenton City Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 30, 2019

Liberty Bell Temple III, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
Trenton City Police Department, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on two motions to dismiss filed by all Defendants in this action. (ECF Nos. 125, 130). Defendants are seeking dismissal of the Third Consolidated Amended Complaint ("TCAC") filed by Plaintiffs Liberty Bell Temple III and Edward Forchion, wherein Plaintiffs raised several claims: unlawful seizure (counts 1 and 2); substantive due process violations (counts 3-6); procedural due process violations (counts 7, 13, 14, 17 and 18), violation of the equal protection clause (counts 8-9); first amendment retaliation (counts 10-11); failure to train under Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (count 12); negligence (counts 15, 16, 19-23, 25-27); conversion (counts 24, 28); respondeat superior liability (count 29); and malicious prosecution (count 30). Plaintiffs also seek "special damages in an amount of at least $80, 000" (count 31); punitive damages (count 32); and attorney fees (count 33). The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         Background

         Parties

         Plaintiff Edward Forchion ("Plaintiff or "Forchion") is a well-known marijuana activist in New Jersey known to many as "NJ Weedman." (TCAC ¶ 26, ECF No. 119). In 2015, Forchion opened a restaurant called The Joint, and The Temple (together, "The Joint"), in Trenton, New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 27). Throughout its operations, The Joint "displayed colorful signs encouraging the legalization of marijuana." (Id. ¶ 28). The Joint is in a zoning district designated for business purposes. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 34). The Joint is located across the street from Trenton City Hall (Id. ¶ 29), and in close proximity to a federal courthouse.

         The TCAC names the following Defendants[1]: the City of Trenton; Earnest Parrey, the Police Director of the Trenton Police Department (TPD) and policymaker with regard to officer training; Edelmiro Gonzalez, Jr., a TPD captain; Yolanda Ward, a TPD detective; Herbert Flowers, a TPD police officer; Richard Kachmar, the Clerk for the City of Trenton; Sheehan Miles, a TPD police officer; Brian Suschke, a TPD sergeant; William "Bill" Haumann, an assistant prosecutor and the Chief of Forfeiture at the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office ("MCPO"); Brian Hawkins, owner and operator of Hawk's Recovery and Towing, Inc. ("Hawk's Towing"); Hawk's Towing; Angelo Onofri, the prosecutor at MCPO; John Boyle, an assistant prosecutor at MCPO; Stephanie Katz, an assistant prosecutor at the MCPO; and Kimberly Wilson, the Chief Municipal Prosecutor at the Trenton Department of Law. (Id. ¶¶ 7-25).

         Allegations[2]

         i. The February 28.2016 Incident

         On February 28, 2016, TPD officers arrived at The Joint to enforce a Trenton noise ordinance and forced everyone to leave the premises. (Id. ¶ 40). Plaintiffs allege that the TPD officers arrived at The Joint "after 11 p.m. but before 2 a.m." (Id. ¶ 40). Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that Defendant Gonzalez and other Defendant TPD officers had no reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed when they ordered everyone to vacate The Joint. (Id. ¶ 41). Plaintiffs further allege, upon information and belief, that Defendant Gonzalez made "false statements in an affidavit by stating that he and the other Defendant Officers were dispatched to Forchion's business [on February 28, 2016] in response to reports of disorderly conduct involving a street fight." (Id. ¶ 42). Plaintiffs also allege that "Defendant Officers filed false police reports on Forchion regarding, inter alia, Forchion operating his business after 11 p.m. (but before 2 a.m.)." (Id. ¶ 43).

         Defendants-relying on a police report (City Defendants' Moving Brief, Ex. 5, February 28, 2016 Trenton Police and Fire Event Report)-dispute Plaintiffs' account of what occurred on the evening of February 28, 2016. Defendants contend that: the TPD officers were responding to a call reporting a street fight at approximately 2:30 a.m.; the customers in The Joint had exited the restaurant prior to the officers' arrival; and officers at the scene observed several men fighting and a crowd of about thirty people in front of the restaurant. (See id).

         ii. Defendants "Wage a Campaign Against" Plaintiffs

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants "waged a campaign against" Forchion and The Joint. (Id. at ¶ 46). TPD officers allegedly targeted and stopped The Joint's customers and instructed them not to patronize the business. (Id.). In addition, TPD officers contacted neighboring businesses to prohibit The Joint's customers from using their parking lots, and the police began to routinely park police vehicles near the business. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48). Plaintiffs contend that these actions resulted in significant financial losses. (Id. ¶ 49).

         TPD officers also "routinely" issued citations to The Joint for violating Trenton Ordinance § 146-22(A) (the "Ordinance"), which governs the operating hours of businesses:

A. No. establishment on a premises whose building or grounds are closer than 100 feet to the closest point of the building or grounds of a residential property situated within any residential zone of the City shall not be open for business or conduct business or invite or permit access by the general public for any purposes between the hours of 11:00 p.m. of any day and 6:00 a.m. of the following day, prevailing time.
B. During the hours of closing prescribed herein the property shall be securely closed against access by the public to the building and to the parking areas by the use of appropriately sized and placed fencing, posts or chains and by posting "No Trespassing" signs.
C. Locations that operate primarily as a licensed alcoholic beverage premises shall not be open for business or conduct business or allow the service, consumption, or delivery of any alcoholic beverage directly or indirectly during the hours as set by § 10-5 of the City of Trenton Code.
D. At no time shall any business, operation or establishment other than a licensed alcoholic beverage premises be allowed to operate between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.

(Trenton, N.J. Code § 146-22; TCAC ¶ 30). Plaintiffs claim that based on The Joint's proximity to a residential property, the Ordinance only restricts him from operating the business from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. (TCAC ¶¶ 32-39). Plaintiffs further allege that TPD officer filed several false reports regarding The Joint's operation after 11 p.m (but before 2 a.m.). (Id. ¶¶ 43, 44).

         iii. Forchion is Retaliated Against for Filing the Instant Action

         In response to Forchion initiating this action alleging, inter alia, the allegations set forth above, he alleges that "even more police harassment was perpetuated on Mr. Forchion and his business patrons." (Id. ¶ 51). TPD officers continued issuing citations and continued parking police vehicles outside of The Joint. (Id.).

         iv. TPD Obtains and Executes a Search Warrant and Seizes Plaintiffs' Property

         On April 18, 2016, law enforcement obtained a warrant authorizing a search of The Joint. (City Defendants' Moving Br., Ex. 9, April 18, 2016 Search Warrant). On April 27, 2016, TPD officers conducted a raid on the business, arresting Forchion for marijuana offenses and seizing his two vehicles. (TCAC ¶ 52). The TPD officers also seized the surveillance video from February 28, 2016, and "two silver portable hard drives containing computer files, including business records and hours of video and valuable intellectual property." (Id. ¶¶ 53, 55). "[N]o steps were taken ... to initiate forfeiture proceedings against the DVR surveillance video" or the hard drives. (Id. ¶¶ 54, 56).

         v. Forchion's Vehicles are Seized

         The two vehicles seized by the TPD during the April 27, 2016 search were: (1) Forchion's "iconic" N.J. WEEDMAN Van, a multicolored 1986 Ford Econoline el50; and (2) his delivery car, a blue Toyota Matrix. (Id. ¶ 52).

         TPD officers allegedly informed him that forfeiture proceedings would commence against the vehicles within sixty to ninety days, but no such proceedings ever took place. (Id. ¶¶ 59-61). Instead, officers obtained a search warrant for the van and the title was transferred to Defendant Hawk's Towing as the van was deemed abandoned. Then Hawk's Towing, after obtaining the title to the van, crushed and destroyed the van. (Id. ¶¶ 59, 63-65).

         Forchion was not notified of the status of any forfeiture proceeding and was not notified that the van was considered abandoned and would be crushed. (Id. ¶ 68). In fact, when Forchion noticed that forfeiture proceedings had commenced against a sum of money and not the van, he contacted TPD. Defendant Suschke advised him that the prosecutor was not seeking forfeiture of the van, and that is was located at Hawk's Towing. When Forchion contacted Hawk's Towing, Defendant Brian Hawkins, the owner of Hawk's Towing, told him that the property had been deemed abandoned, and was stripped for scrap and crushed. (Id. ¶ 63).

         Plaintiff contends Defendant Haumann, as chief of the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office forfeiture unit, failed to notify Forchion that the vehicles were not subject to forfeiture proceedings. (Id. ¶¶ 71-72), and that Defendants Hawkins and Hawk's Towing failed to notify Forchion that his van was deemed abandoned. (Id. ¶ 75).

         The Mercer County Prosecutor's Office held the delivery car for two years and only returned it to Forchion after his lawyers made "multiple calls." (Id. ¶ 79).

         vi. Forchion Protests and Later Gets Arrested for Cyber Bullying

         On May 10, 2016, a strange incident took place, which commenced with Forchion standing outside of The Joint holding a sign that stated, "We R Open Fuck the Police" and shouting "Fuck the police" as TPD officers parked nearby. (Id. ¶ 80). Forchion and Defendants Flowers then engaged in a verbal altercation, during which Forchion accused Flowers of being a pedophile. (Id. ¶¶ 81-83). A third party recorded the verbal exchange and posted it on social media. (Id. ¶ 84). As a result, Forchion was later arrested and charged with cyber bullying. (Id. ¶ 86). Forchion alleges the arrest was because of his civil action, his anti-police sign, and his anti-police rhetoric. (Id. ¶ 87). Forchion also alleges that thereafter, the police increased surveillance of his business and issued even more citations for allegedly violating the Ordinance. (Id. ¶¶ 88-89).

         Defendants dispute the circumstances surrounding this incident, contending that Forchion "used foul language directed at Flowers" and Forchion had "posted information online [about] his interaction with Flowers relating to his assertions that Flowers allegedly being a pedophile." (City Defendants' Moving Br. at 26; see also id., Ex. 12, May 10, 2016 Trenton Police and Fire Event Report). Defendants also note that a criminal complaint was filed against Plaintiff for cyber harassment, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C33-4.1(a)(2). On September 15, 2016, a grand jury returned an indictment against Forchion. (See id., Ex.14, Mercer County Indictment No. 16-09-0720).

         vii. The Joint's Business License is Revoked

         Thereafter, Defendants allegedly decided to revoke the The Joint's business license based on "sham" violations of the Ordinance. (Id. ¶¶ 90-91). Plaintiff claims that those Defendants sent notice of the revocation hearing to Forchion's former residential address, rather than the address of The Joint, so that Forchion would not have "a chance to fight back." (Id. ¶¶ 95-99). However, the notice was sent to the same address that Plaintiffs provided in their business license application when The Joint opened in 2015. (See City Defendants' Moving Br., Ex. 2, Business/Peddler's License Application for N.J. Weedman's Joint; see also id., Ex. 18, September 19, 2016 Letter from Trenton City Clerk to Edward Forchion).

         By letter dated September 19, 2016, The Joint's business license was revoked effective September 21, 2016. (Id. ¶ 100). Plaintiff appealed the license revocation, and at least one notice relating to the appeal was mailed to 322 E. State Street-the location of The Joint. (See City Defendants' Moving Br., Ex. 19, September 26, 2019 Letter from Trenton City Clerk to Edward Forchion).

         On September 23, 2016, Defendant Miles entered the business, announced that it was closed, and ordered the staff and customers to exit or be arrested. (Id. ¶ 101). This was the first time Forchion learned of the license revocation. (Id.). Three days later, Forchion spoke to Defendant Kachmar (the Trenton City Clerk) who admitted that "he made a mistake" and reinstated the license. (Id. ¶ 103). Plaintiffs contend that this incident caused significant financial losses because customers stopped patronizing the business. (Id. ¶ 104).

         viii. Forchion Secures Dismissal of Several TPD Issued Citations

         In total, Defendants issued thirteen citations against Forchion for violating the Ordinance, as well as issued ten additional citations. (Id. ¶¶ 106, 109). Defendant Wilson oversaw the prosecutions of the Ordinance violations. (Id. ¶ 25).

         On February 6, 2018, the Trenton Municipal Court dismissed all thirteen citations against Forchion relating to violations of the Ordinance. (Id. ¶ 105). On June 20, 2018, the remaining ten municipal violations against Forchion were summarily dismissed. (Id. ¶ 108). Plaintiff contends that the officers had no probable cause to issue any of the citations against him and that they knew they lacked probable cause. (Id. ¶¶ 106-107, 109-110). He contends the citations were issued "to intimidate, harass, exact revenge, silence Mr. Forchion's voice, revoke his business license, and shut down his business." (Id.111).

         ix. Forchion Files Another Suit and is Arrested for Witness Tampering

         Forchion initiated another civil action, alleging a conspiracy to entrap him in connection with the April 27, 2016 search of his property. Forchion named a confidential police informant as a defendant in that action. (Id. ¶ 113). Because he named and contacted the informant's household, Forchion was arrested and charged with two counts of witness tampering. (Id. ¶ 114). Forchion was denied bail and detained for over four hundred days. (Id. ¶ 115). A jury ultimately acquitted him of the witness tampering charges. (Id. ¶ 116). Forchion claims there was no probable cause to support the witness tampering charges and that the purpose of the charges were to intimidate and harass him, exact revenge for filing a lawsuit, shut down his business, and silence him. (Id. ¶¶ 117, 121).

         Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court is required to accept as true all allegations in the TCAC and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and to view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Reed v. Cameron, 380 Fed.Appx. 160, 162 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While a court will accept well-pleaded allegations as true for the purposes of these motions, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Morse v. Lower Merion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). A complaint should be dismissed only if the well-pleaded alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a claim. See In re Warfarin Sodium, 214 F.3d 395, 397-98 (3d Cir. 2000).

         "[A] court may consider certain narrowly defined types of material without converting the motion to dismiss" into a motion for summary judgment, In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 184 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 1999), including documents "integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (emphasis in original) (quoting Shaw v. Digital Equip. Corp., 82 F.3d 1194, 1220 (1st Cir. 1996)). Such material includes "the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256 260 (3d Cir. 2006). The Court rendered a decision with respect to which documents it would consider in two memoranda, which were filed on the docket in this action on January 23, 2019, and February 7, 2019. (ECF Nos. 140, 147).

         Legal Analysis

         In this action, Plaintiffs assert that a variety of state actors infringed upon their constitutional rights. As such, Plaintiffs bring several causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "Section 1983 imposes civil liability upon any person who, acting under the color of state law, deprives another individual of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Shuman v. Penn Manor Sch. Dist, 422 F.3d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 2005). Separately, Plaintiffs also bring several tort claims against state actors, as well as private parties. The Court will first discuss the claims brought under § 1983, which will logically begin with an analysis of which, if any, Defendants are entitled to immunity from suit, and thereafter examine Plaintiffs' negligence claims.

         i. Immunity Analysis

         Prosecutorial Immunity

         Defendants contend that Defendants Onofri, Wilson, Haumann, Boyle, and Katz are entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity. "Most public officials are entitled only to qualified immunity" in 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions. Yarns v. Cnty. of Delaware, 465 F.3d 129, 135 (3d Cir. 2006). State prosecutors, however, "are absolutely immune from liability under § 1983 for actions performed in a quasi-judicial role." Light v. Haws, 472 F.3d 74, 77 (3d Cir. 2007); see also Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 427, 431 (1976). This immunity applies to "activity taken while in court, such as the presentation of evidence or legal argument, as well as selected out-of-court behavior 'intimately associated with the judicial phases' of litigation." Kulwicki v. Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1463 (3d Cir. 1992). The immunity does not extend to administrative or investigatory duties or to duties that "do not relate to an advocate's preparation for the initiation of a prosecution or for judicial proceedings." Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993). To illustrate these principles, the Third Circuit has held that "a prosecutor seeking a . . . warrant is performing 'the preparation necessary to present a case' and such preparation is encompassed within the prosecutor's advocacy function," and thus such actions are entitled to absolute immunity. See Schrob v. Castterson, 948 F.2d 1402 (3d Cir. 1991). It is the prosecutor's burden to prove "she was functioning as the state's 'advocate' while engaging in the alleged conduct that gives rise to the constitutional violation." Yarns, 465 F.3d at 136.

         A. Defendant Wilson

         Defendant Wilson was the Chief Municipal Prosecutor at the City of Trenton Department of Law. (TCAC § 25). Plaintiffs allege that on two separate occasions, she "ensured and oversaw" thirteen and ten municipal cases, respectively, against Forchion despite lacking probable cause to do so. (Id. §§ 107, 110, 111, 144, 148, 190). Plaintiffs' claims against Defendant Wilson purportedly stem from Plaintiffs' contention that there was not probable cause to prosecute the cases in municipal court, and the purpose of initiating those proceedings was to "harass and intimidate Mr. Forchion, silence his voice in the community, strip him of his business license, shut down his business," inter alia. (See Id. § 190). The Court finds, however, that under the facts and circumstances alleged in the TCAC, Defendant Wilson is immune from suit because it appears that she was acting in a prosecutorial function in a overseeing the prosecutions alleged. See Duffy v. Freed, 452 Fed.Appx. 200, 202 (3d Cir. 2011). Thus, all claims, or counts ten, eleven, and thirty, are dismissed as interposed against Defendant Wilson.

         B. Defendants Onofri, Boyle, and Katz

         According to the TCAC, Defendant Onofri was the lead prosecutor who prosecuted the 2017 witness tampering charges against Forchion. (TCAC § 22, 115). Defendant Onofri allegedly supervised Defendants Boyle and Katz in connection with the witness tampering case. (Id. § 22). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Onofri, Boyle, and Katz knew there was no legitimate probable cause for the presentment of the witness tampering charges to the grand jury, nor the prosecution of those charges, and were bought "out of a retaliatory animus." (See Id. §§ 119, 120, 144, 148, 191). Absolute immunity extends to "any hearing before a tribunal which performed a judicial function." Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 490 (1991); see also Allen v. Thompson, 815 F.2d 1433 (11th Cir. 1987). Here, the allegations in the TCAC relate solely to these Defendants' conduct in prosecuting the 2017 witness tampering case against Forchion. Under these circumstances, the Court is satisfied that absolute prosecutorial immunity extends to the allegations in the TCAC with respect to Defendants Onofri, Boyle, and Katz. Thus, all claims, or counts ten, eleven, and thirty, are dismissed as interposed against Defendants Onofri, Boyle, and Katz.

         C. Defendant Haumann

         Defendant Haumann was an assistant prosecutor and the Chief of Forfeiture at the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office. (TCAC §§ 19, 69). Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Haumann failed to notify Forchion that forfeiture proceedings would not be take taken against Forchion's van, which, as discussed above, was seized by the police. (See Id. § 155). Plaintiffs also allege that Defendant Haumann allegedly failed to send notification to Forchion that his van was deemed abandoned. (Id.). As a result, the van was later destroyed. (Id.). Because Defendant Haumann allegedly failed to provide Forchion notice or an opportunity to be heard, Forchion asserts that he was permanently deprived of his property interest in the van. (Id.). Similarly, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Haumann failed to notify Forchion that forfeiture proceedings would not be taken against Forchion's delivery car, which was also seized by the TPD. (Id. § 163). As a result, the delivery car remained in Mercer County custody for approximately two years, which allegedly deprived Forchion of his property interest in the vehicle. (Id.).

         The decision whether to initiate forfeiture proceedings, is covered by absolute prosecutorial immunity. Schrob, 948 F.2d at 1419. However, a prosecutor's management of seized property after forfeiture proceedings or once the decision has been made not to initiate forfeiture is entitled only to qualified immunity. Id. at 1419. That is, management of seized property is only covered by qualified immunity because it is "not directly related to the judicial process" but involves "acting in an administrative role." Id.; see also Coleman v. Turpen, 697 F.2d 1341, 1346 (10th Cir. 1982). The Third Circuit has consistently afforded prosecutors who managed seized assets only qualified immunity. See, e.g., Wrench Transp. Sys. v. Bradley, 212 Fed.Appx. 92, 99-100 (3d Cir. 2006) (prosecutors who delayed return of seized truck until plaintiff released them from liability entitled to at best qualified immunity); Reitz v. County of Bucks, 125 F.3d 139, 147 (3d Cir. 1997). Therefore, Plaintiffs' allegations, which are taken as true for purposes of these motions, including that Defendant Haumann intentionally failed to mail Forchion notice, relates to an administrative duty that is not entitled to absolute immunity.

         For the reasons stated in this section, all claims against Defendants Onofri, Wilson, Boyle, and Katz are dismissed on the basis of absolute immunity. However, the Court will not dismiss all claims against Haumann on absolute immunity grounds; the claims interposed against him are analyzed below.

         Qualified Immunity

         "The procedural difference between absolute and qualified immunity is significant. Absolute immunity defeats a lawsuit at the outset, while an official with qualified immunity must establish that 'their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Schrob, 948 F.2d at 1407 n.5. "Qualified immunity shields federal and state officials from money damages unless a plaintiff pleads facts showing (1) violated a statutory or constitutional right, and (2) that the right was 'clearly established' at the time of the challenged conduct.'"[3] Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735 (2011). "[A]ll but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law" are protected by qualified immunity. Borrell v. Bloomsburg Univ., 870 F.3d 154, 162 (3d Cir. 2017). Qualified immunity may apply to prosecutors who are not otherwise entitled to absolute immunity. See Hof v. Janci, No. CV 17-295, 2018 WL 6318381, at *5 (D.N.J. Dec. 3, 2018)

         Whether each remaining Defendant, who is state actor, is entitled to qualified immunity requires an analysis unique to each individual count. The Court will therefore address each Defendants' entitlement to qualified immunity with respect to each claim, where applicable, below.

         ii. "Failure to Train" Monell Claim Against the City of Trenton (Count 12)

         In count 12, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Parrey failed to "properly train, supervise, or discipline police officers in various areas." (TCAC ¶ 151). As a result of Defendant Parrey's alleged failure to train, Plaintiffs contend that Defendant City of Trenton "violated Mr. Forchion's rights with deliberate indifference." (Id.).

         It is well established that "a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents." Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. "Plaintiffs who seek to impose liability on local governments under § 1983 must prove that 'action pursuant to official municipal policy' caused their injury." Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011) (citation omitted). "In limited circumstances, a local government's decision not to train certain employees about their legal duty to avoid violating citizens' rights may rise to the level of an official government policy for purposes of § 1983." Id. But, to satisfy § 1983, a municipality can only be held liable where it fails to train such employees with "deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the police come into contact." City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989). "Only then 'can such a shortcoming be properly thought of as a city 'policy or custom' that is actionable under § 1983." Connick, 563 U.S. at 61. "A plaintiff may show deliberate indifference in a failure-to-train case in one of two ways: (1) through a pattern of similar constitutional violations providing a municipal actor with notice of the need for training; and (2) demonstrating 'single incident' liability for circumstances in which training is obviously necessary to avoid constitutional violations." Khalil v. City of Paters on, No. 18-3241 (JLL), 2018 WL 6168191, at *4 (D.N.J. Nov. 26, 2018).

         Here, Plaintiffs fail to adequately allege the City of Trenton's "deliberate indifference" with respect to its purported "failure-to-train." Specifically, Plaintiffs fail to plausibly allege: (1) that the City of Trenton had any relevant policies or customs specifically regarding any of the practices at issue; (2) that the City was on notice of a pattern of similar constitutional violations; or (3) that the City's need to train officers was '"so obvious,' that failure to do so could properly be characterized as 'deliberate indifference' to constitutional rights,' even without a pattern of previous violations." Khalil, 2018 WL 6168191, at *6. In short, the Court finds Plaintiffs' allegation that the "City of Trenton has violated Mr. Forchion's rights with deliberate indifference, and it is liable to Mr. Forchion for all permissible damages" ...


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