DAVIS v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Renee Marie Bumb on 4/14/2014. (bdk, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Eddie Volclane Davis,
State of New Jersey,
Prosecutor Office, and
Hon. Daniel A. Bernadin,
Civil Action No. 15-2180(RMB)
BUMB, District Judge
On March 27, 2015, the Clerk received Plaintiff’s civil
rights complaint, and a properly completed application to
proceed without prepayment of fees (“IFP application.”)
Plaintiff has established his inability to pay the
filing fee, and his IFP application will be granted, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915.
Prison officials will begin deducting partial
payments from Plaintiff’s prison trust account toward the
$350.00 filing fee, as described in § 1915(b)(1) and (2),
regardless of the outcome of this litigation.
When a prisoner proceeds under § 1915, the Court must
screen the Complaint and dismiss any claims that are frivolous
or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, and claims for monetary relief against any defendant
who has immunity.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b).
Plaintiff alleged the following in his Complaint. Plaintiff
is presently confined in Camden County Jail.
first defendant in the Complaint is the State of New Jersey, and
Plaintiff alleged that the State violated his Constitutional
rights by not providing him with a speedy trial, and by showing
prejudice in his case as of March 25, 2015.
(Id. at 4(b)).
Similarly, Plaintiff alleged the Camden County Prosecutor
Office violated his Constitutional rights by “going beyond my
grace period to have started trial.”
(Id. at ¶4(c)).
the third defendant is the Honorable Daniel A. Bernadin, whom
Plaintiff alleged violated his Constitutional right to a speedy
trial by allowing the prosecutor to postpone his trial beyond
180 working days.
(ECF No. 1 at 5.)
Plaintiff’s trial was to begin on January 20, 2015, but the
prosecutor was granted a postponement to obtain DNA testing from
On March 23, 2015, the prosecutor
asked for and was granted another postponement of trial because
they had not received the DNA results.
incarcerated since February 9, 2014.
(Id.) Plaintiff has been
Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
(Id. at ¶7.)
42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides, in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any
statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, of any State or Territory or the
District of Columbia, 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 laws, shall
be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress ...
The Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution provides that “[t]he
Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to
extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted
against one of the United States by Citizens of another State,
or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const.,
“Although the Eleventh Amendment is not literally
applicable . . . it is established that an unconsenting State is
immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens
as well as by citizens of another State.”
Employees of Dep’t of
Public Health and Welfare, Missouri v. Dep’t of Public Health
and Welfare, Missouri, 93 S.Ct. 1614, 1616 (1973).
The State of New Jersey is immune from Plaintiff’s § 1983
suit for money damages.
The Supreme Court has held that States are
not “persons” within the meaning of § 1983
and, therefore, cannot be among those held
liable for violations of the civil rights
statute. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66, 109 S.Ct. 2304,
2309, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989) (“Section 1983
provides a federal forum to remedy many
deprivations of civil liberties, but it does
not provide a federal forum for litigants
who seek a remedy against a State for
alleged deprivations of civil liberties.”).
Since Congress expressed no intention of
disturbing the states' sovereign immunity in
enacting § 1983, these suits, when brought
against a state, are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment. Id. at 58, 109 S.Ct. at 2310;
Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 339–346, 99
S.Ct. 1139, 1144–1148, 59 L.Ed.2d 358
Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 697 (3d Cir.
Therefore, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s claims
against the State of New Jersey.
Although the analysis is different, the Camden County
Prosecutor Office also has sovereign immunity from Plaintiff’s §
See In re Camden Police Cases, Civil Nos. 11–1315
(RBK/JS), 10–4757 (RBK/JS), 2011 WL 3651318, at *10 (weighing
the relevant factors and finding the Camden County Prosecutor
Office had sovereign immunity)); Beightler v. Office of Essex
County Prosecutor, 342 F. App’x 829, 833 (3d Cir. 2009)(finding
Essex County Prosecutor Office had sovereign immunity from §
1983 claims because New Jersey County Prosecutors are arms of
the state when carrying out prosecutorial functions).
reason, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against Camden
County Prosecutor Office.
The remaining defendant is the state trial court judge
presiding over Plaintiff’s criminal trial.
The Honorable Daniel
A. Bernadin has absolute judicial immunity from Plaintiff’s
See Supreme Court of Virginia v. Consumers Union of
U.S., Inc., 446 U.S. 719, 734-35 (1980)(“judges defending
against § 1983 actions enjoy absolute immunity from damages
liability for acts performed in their judicial capacities.”)
Granting or denying postponements in a criminal trial is an act
normally performed by a judge, thus it is protected by absolute
See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362
(1978)(judges are entitled to absolute immunity when performing
a judicial act.)
In addition to the Defendants having immunity, Plaintiff’s
claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
Supreme Court in Heck held that:
in order to recover damages for allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment,
or for other harm caused by actions whose
unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must
prove that the conviction or sentence has
been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal authorized to make such
determination, or called into question by a
federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for
damages bearing that relationship to a
conviction or sentence that has not been so
invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983.
Id. at 486-87.
If Plaintiff succeeded in establishing that his right to a
speedy trial was violated, that would call into question the
continued prosecution of the charges against him and any
Thus, the Heck bar extends to preclude
Plaintiff’s claims at this time.
Smith v. Holtz, 87 F.3d 108,
113 (3d Cir. 1996)(“In terms of the conflicts which Heck sought
to avoid, there is no difference between a conviction which is
outstanding at the time the civil rights action is instituted
and a potential conviction on a pending charge that may be
entered at some point thereafter.”) See also Asque v.
Commonwealth Allegheny County, Civ. No. 07-294, 2007 WL 1247051,
at *4 (E.D. Pa. April 27, 2007)(“The Heck bar would apply
whether Plaintiff is still a pretrial detainee or whether he has
already been convicted of the charges for which he is currently
Plaintiff is entitled to proceed without prepayment of
filing fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, but all defendants
named in this § 1983 action are immune from suit.
Plaintiff’s claims are Heck-barred.
Therefore, the Court will
enter an Order granting Plaintiff’s IFP application but
dismissing the Complaint.
s/Renée Marie Bumb
Renée Marie Bumb
United States District Judge
Dated: April 14, 2015
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