FINNEMEN v. JOHN DOE CAMDEN COUNTY POLICE OFFICER et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Renee Marie Bumb on 8/11/2016. (dmr)(n.m.)
[Dkt. No. 1, 2]
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil No. 15-7308
JOHN DOE CAMDEN COUNTY POLICE
OFFICER, DET/IA Officer Joe
Hoffman case number (13-10-031764),
On October 5, 2015, Plaintiff Nasir Finnemen (the
“Plaintiff”) initiated this civil action against Defendant John
Doe, Camden County Police Officer and Defendant Det/IA Officer
Joe Hoffman. (Compl. 3 [Dkt. No. 1]; Am. Compl. 3 [Dkt. 2]).
This court granted Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma
(Feb. 2, 2016 Order [Dkt. No. 3]).
proceeds in forma pauperis, this court must screen his amended
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
Plaintiff alleges that on October 8, 2013, Defendant “John
Doe police officer took [him] down” from behind, struck him with
a metal object, and “aggravated assaulted” him. (Am. Compl. 3).
In his amended complaint, Plaintiff repeats the same allegation
and also names Joe Hoffman, a “Det/IA officer” as a Defendant.
(Am. Compl. 1). Plaintiff alleges that the injury occurred at
1:20 PM while there was “daylight” at South 4th Street, between
Berkley and Clinton Streets, in Camden, New Jersey. (Am. Compl.
As a result of John Doe’s alleged actions, Plaintiff
suffered a fractured left ankle and a laceration on his
(Compl. Ex. A at 9, 39).
Plaintiff received seven
sutures on his forehead to close the laceration. (Am. Compl. 3;
Compl. Ex. A at 39).
He also alleges he had to receive physical
therapy for his ankle injury. (Am. Compl. 4).
On April 15, 2014, Plaintiff was informed that the Camden
County Police Department Professional Standards Bureau
exonerated his case, finding no wrongdoing by those involved.
(Compl. Ex. B 24). On November 20, 2014 and December 5, 2014,
Plaintiff filed “Records Management Request[s] for Copies of
Documents or Return of Property” with the Camden County
Prosecutors office. (Id. at 13, 18).
He sought police reports,
internal affairs reports and police surveillance video arising
out of his October 8, 2013 arrest. (Id. at 13).
requested the return of his keys and cellphone. (Id.).
February 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Request to Review County
Records Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) Request Form pursuant
to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 in the Camden County Office of Archives and
Records Management. (Id. at 4, 16). Plaintiff requested the
internal affairs reports, Camden County police surveillance
videos, and police reports stemming from Plaintiff’s arrest on
October 8, 2013.
On March 9, 2015, Plaintiff was denied
on each request because: (1) internal affairs are not public
records pursuant to OPRA; (2) no video records exist; and (3) no
police reports exist. (Id. at 19). Plaintiff brings his case
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as the U.S.
Constitution. (Am. Compl. 2).
STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
Pursuant to U.S.C. § 1915(e)(3), this Court must screen in
forma pauperis filings.
Filings that are frivolous, fail to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seek monetary
compensation from immune parties should be dismissed.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), pertaining to the
“General Rules of Pleading,” dictates that a complaint must
contain the following:
(1) [A] short and plain statement of the grounds for the
court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction
and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;
(2) [A] short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief; and
(3) [A] demand for the relief sought, which may include
relief in the alternative or different types of relief.
“[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's
entitlement to relief.
A complaint has to ‘show’ such an
entitlement with its facts."
203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009).
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d
However, in screening a complaint to
verify whether it meets this standard, this Court is mindful of
the requirement that pro se pleadings must be construed
liberally in favor of the plaintiff.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520-21 (1972).
A. John Doe
Plaintiff has successfully stated a claim to survive the
screening stage because he points to facts that could comprise
an excessive force claim in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
recover under § 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a
person deprived him or caused him to be deprived of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and
(2) the deprivation was done under color of state law.
v. Sgt. Michael Beach, No. CV 15-5795 (RMB/JS), 2015 WL 8228579,
at *2 (D.N.J. Dec. 7, 2015).
Here, plaintiff alleges that in the course of an arrest on
a specific time, date, and location, the Defendant John Doe
struck him with a metal object and caused his ankle to be
He went to the hospital where he received sutures,
and he alleges that as a result of the fracture, he had to get
Such allegations, construed liberally, are
120 days to amend his claim to state the name of the officer
involved in the alleged incident.
B. Joe Hoffman
Plaintiff named “Det/IA Officer Joe Hoffman #177” as the
second defendant in his Amended Complaint. (Am. Compl. 2).
Since “IA” is presumed to mean internal affairs, Plaintiff’s
suit against Joe Hoffman likely arises out of the denial of
access to the internal affairs report regarding the conduct of
his arresting officers and the location of his missing items.”1
The letter Defendant received informing him of the denial of his
request also letter indicated that “internal affairs records are
investigative reports and are not public records under OPRA and
pursuant to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Internal Affairs
Guidelines.” (Compl. Ex. B 17).
Denial of access to OPRA records is not cognizable under
federal law, so Plaintiff’s allegations against Defendant
Hoffman fail to state a claim.
Aristeo v. Raines, No. 15-4115
(RMB/JS), 2016 WL 430568, at *7 (D.N.J. Feb. 3, 2016) (holding
that even if plaintiff’s claim were not time-barred, N.J.S.A.
47:1A-6 provides a designated forum for which denials of OPRA
requests may be adjudicated); Slaughter v. Perry, No. CIV.A. 12-
If the Court misconstrues plaintiff’s allegations, he may so
advise the Court and amend his allegations to more clearly
outline the perceived basis for liability of Defendant Hoffman.
2577 WJM, 2012 WL 4891698, at *3 (D.N.J. Oct. 12, 2012) (denying
plaintiff’s claim because denying “[p]laintiff's OPRA request
[does] not trigger any federal rights.”).
For the reasons above, Plaintiff has stated a claim against
Officer John Doe.
Plaintiff, however, has not provided
sufficient identifying information such that the U.S. Marshal
can effectuate service and the action may continue.
Plaintiff granted 120 days in which to amend his allegations and
name the defendant against whom he seeks relief.
allegations against Defendant Hoffman are dismissed.
DATED: August 11, 2016
s/Renée Marie Bumb
RENÉE MARIE BUMB
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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