FELTON v. ATLANTIC CITY TASK FORCE OFFICERS et al, No. 1:2017cv01471 - Document 2 (D.N.J. 2017)

Court Description: OPINION. Signed by Judge Renee Marie Bumb on 4/10/17. (jbk, )
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FELTON v. ATLANTIC CITY TASK FORCE OFFICERS et al Doc. 2 NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY CAMDEN VICINAGE JAMES FELTON, : : Plaintiff, : : v. : : ATLANTIC CITY TASK FORCE : OFFICERS in their official, : private and individual : capacities; JAMES HERBERT, : DARRIN LORADY, WILLIAM WARNER,: and GARY STOWE, : : Defendants. : Civ. Action No. 17-1471 (RMB) OPINION BUMB, District Judge: Plaintiff James Felton, a pretrial detainee confined in Atlantic County Justice Facility (“ACJF”), in Atlantic City, New Jersey, filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 3, 2017. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff seeks to proceed without prepayment of fees (“in forma pauperis” or “IFP”) under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). 4.) (IFP App., ECF No. 1-1, and ECF No. 1 at Plaintiff has filed a properly completed IFP application, establishing his financial eligibility to proceed in forma pauperis, and his application will be granted. The Court must review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B); 1915A(b) to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a 1 Dockets.Justia.com claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. I. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Fed. R. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a Ashcroft claim v. to relief Iqbal, 556 that U.S. is plausible 662, 678 on (2009) its (quoting Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). has facial plausibility when the plaintiff face.’” pleads Bell “A claim factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.) “[A] court must accept contained in a complaint.” conclusions as true. as Id. Id. true all of the allegations A court need not accept legal Legal conclusions, together with threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, do not suffice to state a claim. Id. Thus, “a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. are not “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” 2 Id. If a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002). A court must liberally construe a pro se complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). II. DISCUSSION A. The Complaint Plaintiff alleges the following in his Complaint. Deprivation of my Due Process and Equal Protection rights guaranteed to me under the Fifth Amendment of the Federal Constitution through racist threats, intimidation and coercion by these officers named in the above complaint while acting under color of state law and outside the bounds of their authority in a malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 3, ¶IV.) custody and money damages. B. Plaintiff seeks release from (Id., ¶V.) Section 1983 claims A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional Section 1983 provides in relevant 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 3 rights. laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255–56 (3d Cir. 1994). 1. Municipal officers in their official capacities Plaintiff sued the defendants, city task force officers, under § 1983 in their official and individual capacities. Local government officials sued in their official capacities can be sued under § 1983 unconstitutional ordinance, where “the implements regulation, or action or that executes decision a is alleged policy officially to be statement, adopted and promulgated by that body's officers” or if the constitutional deprivations were the result of a governmental “custom even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the body's official decisionmaking channels.” Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 and n. 55 (1978). Plaintiff has not alleged that the actions of the defendants were pursuant to a police or custom of Atlantic City 4 or its government officials. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to a state a Monell claim against Defendants in their official capacities. The claim will be dismissed without prejudice. 2. To state Malicious Prosecution a § 1983 claim for malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment against defendants in their individual capacities, a plaintiff must allege facts showing: (1) the defendants proceeding; initiated (2) the criminal proceeding plaintiff's favor; (3) the proceeding probable cause; was a ended initiated criminal in the without (4) the defendants acted maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding. DiBella v. Borough of Beachwood, 407 F.3d 599, 601 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 318 F.3d 497, 521 (3d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff failed to allege that the defendants initiated a criminal proceeding against him without probable cause or that the criminal Plaintiff did proceeding not ended allege in how his each favor. individual Additionally, defendant personally involved in the malicious prosecution. 5 was See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (“a plaintiff must plead that each Governmentofficial defendant, through the official's actions, has violated the Constitution.”) own individual Therefore, the Court will dismiss the malicious prosecution claim without prejudice. 3. Equal Protection Claim Because his Complaint arises out of his arrest, the Court construes Plaintiff’s equal protection claim as one of selective enforcement. To establish a selective-enforcement claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate (1) that he was treated differently from other similarly situated individuals, and (2) “that this selective treatment was based on an ‘unjustifiable standard, such as race, or religion, or some other arbitrary factor, ... or to prevent the exercise of a fundamental right.’” Hill v. City of Scranton, 411 F.3d 118, 125 (3d Cir.2005) (quoting Holder v. City of Allentown, 987 F.2d 188, 197 (3d Cir.1993)). Dique v. New Jersey State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 184 n.5 (3d Cir. 2010). Here, Plaintiff has not described any similarly situated individuals from whom he was treated differently on the basis of race. Therefore, the Court will dismiss the selective enforcement claim without prejudice. 4. Due Process Claim “The Supreme Court has noted that, ‘[w]here a particular Amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional 6 protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that Amendment, not the more generalized notion of ‘substantive due process,’ must be the guide for analyzing these claims.’” Wheeler v. Wheeler, 639 F. App’x 147, 151 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 273 (1994) (internal quotations omitted)). Therefore, “redress for alleged false arrest or malicious prosecution ‘cannot be based on substantive due process considerations, but instead must be based on a provision of the Bill of Rights’ such as the Fourth Amendment” Id. (quoting Merkle v. Upper Dublin School Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 792 (3d Cir. 2000)). Insofar as the Complaint might be construed to raise a substantive due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court dismisses the claim because it is more properly brought as a false arrest or malicious prosecution claim under the Fourth Amendment. 5. NJCRA claim Plaintiff constitutional coercion. alleged rights These federal claim. Defendants by racist allegations are violated threats, his federal intimidation insufficient to a and state a Plaintiff, however, may have been trying to assert a claim under the New Jersey Constitution. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:6–2(c) states that “a person may bring a civil action under the [NJCRA] in two circumstances: (1) when he's deprived 7 of a right, or (2) when his rights are threats, intimidation, coercion or force.” interfered with by See Felicioni v. Admin. Office of Courts, 404 N.J.Super. 382, 400 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2008). Although Plaintiff uses the language of the New Jersey statute, his claim is conclusory because he does not allege which of his rights was interfered with and what threats, intimidation or coercion was used against him or by whom. Therefore, this claim will be dismissed without prejudice. III. CONCLUSION For the reasons discussed above, the Court grants Plaintiff’s IFP application but dismisses the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); 1915A(b)(1). An appropriate order follows. s/Renée Marie Bumb RENÉE MARIE BUMB United States District Judge Dated: April 10, 2017 8