Graham v. Rawley et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge John Michael Vazquez on 6/29/2017. (ld, )
Not for Publication
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
JESSICA C. GRAHAM, Individually &
Civil Action No. 14-6743
CHARLES T. RAWLEY, et al,
John Michael Vazguez, U.S.D.J.
This matter comes before the Court by way of the motion to dismiss flied by Defendants
Sheriffs Officers Anthony Genova, M. DeSanto and McCarthy, and the Union County Sheriff’s
Office (the “Union County Defendants”). D.E. 70. Plaintiff Jessica C. Graham did not oppose the
Union County Defendants’ motion.
The Court reviewed the Union County Defendants’
submission in support and considered the motion without oral argument pursuant to Fed. R. Civ.
P. 7$ and L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED.
Plaintiff filed her original pro se complaint on or about October 3, 2014 in the Eastern
District of New York.
See Transfer Order, D.E. 6.
The complaint alleged that Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights were violated (1) in connection to a child custody dispute involving her son
J.P.S.R., and (2) when she was involuntarily brought to and detained at Jersey City Medical Center
(“JCMC”). Id. at 2-3. Because Plaintiff requested to proceed in forma pauperis, Judge Chen
screened Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to 2$ U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Judge Chen dismissed
Plaintiffs claims regarding the child custody dispute because the Court lacked subject matter
jurisdiction and transferred the remainder of the claims to this district because the events occurred
in Jersey City, New Jersey. Id. at 4-6. Afler the case was transferred, Judge Arleo screened the
transferred claims pursuant to Section 1915. D.E. 12. Judge Arleo granted Plaintiffs application
to proceed informa pauperis but dismissed Plaintiffs complaint for failing to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Id. at 4-6. Judge Arleo, however, granted Plaintiff leave to file an
amended complaint. Id. at 6-7.
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint (the “FAC”) on February 17, 2015.
included many of the same facts and legal theories as the original complaint and asserted claims
against JCMC, multiple JCMC staff members, the Elizabeth Police Department (“EPD”), Mr.
Rawley and Ms. Herrera.’ D.E. 14. Judge Arleo screened the FAC because Plaintiff was still
proceeding in forma pauperis and dismissed the FAC in its entirety because Plaintiff failed to
assert any federal claims against Defendants. D.E. 15. Judge Arleo granted Plaintiff leave to file
a second amended complaint, only as to the EPD and only as to events that occurred afier October
10, 2014. Judge Arleo dismissed the remainder of the claims and Defendants with prejudice
because she determined that providing Plaintiff with an opportunity to cure would be futile. Id. at
Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint (the “SAC”) on June 16, 2015 but it was
dismissed after Judge Arleo learned that Plaintiffs application to proceed informapauperis was
denied in another case because she had a “substantial surplus income per month.” D.E. 18. Judge
Arleo determined that Plaintiff was no longer indigent, therefore, she did not qualify for informa
‘Mr. Rawley is Plaintiffs ex-husband and Ms. Herrera is allegedly married to Mr. Rawley. TAC
Judge Arleo, however, provided Plaintiff thirty days to refile her amended
complaint with the necessary filing fee. Id.
Plaintiff paid the filing fee and filed a third amended complaint (the “TAC”) on January
The TAC includes numerous new parties, including the Union County
Defendants, factual allegations, and causes of action, in addition to including parties and claims
that have already been dismissed with prejudice. D.E. 23. After being served with the TAC, every
Defendant except for the Union County Defendants filed motions to dismiss, which were granted
in their entirety. D.E. 66. The Union County Defendants answered the TAC. D.E. 30. Now, the
Union County Defendants seek dismissal of the claims asserted against them pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fler the pleadings are closed
early enough not to delay trial
a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” A motion for
judgment on the pleadings is reviewed pursuant to the same standard as a motion to dismiss.
Wyndhain Constr., LLCv. Cotttmbia Cas. Ins. Co., No. 15-7667, 2016 WL 5329585, at *2 (D.N.J.
Sept. 21, 2016). Thus, under Rule 12(c), “a court must take all allegations in the relevant pleading
as true, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” N.J. Physicians United
Reciprocal Exch. v. Boynton & Boynton, Inc., 141 F. Supp. 3d 298, 302 (D.N.J. 2015). The Court,
however, is not required to accept “unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping
legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.” Allah v. Brown, 351 F. Supp. 2d 278,
280 (D.N.J. 2004). The motion should not be granted “unless the moving party has established
that there is no material issue of fact to resolve, and that it is entitled to judgement as a matter of
law.” Perez v. Griffin, 304 F. App’x 72, 74 (3d Cir. 200$) (internal quotation marks omitted).
In addition, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court construes the pleadings
liberally and holds them to a less stringent standard than those filed by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
“The Court need not, however, credit a pro se plaintiffs ‘bald
assertions’ or ‘legal conclusions.’” D ‘Agostino v. CECOM RDEC, No. 10-4558, 2010 WL
3719623, at *1 (D.N.J. Sept. 14, 2010) (quoting Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 f.3d 902,
906 (3d Cir. 1997)).
The Union County Defendants argue that the claims asserted against them should be
dismissed because Plaintiff fails to plead sufficient facts necessary to support a claim. Union Defs’
Br. at 2, D.E. 70-2.
The TAC names Genova, DeSanto and the Union County Sheriffs Office2 as Defendants
but fails to include any allegations as to their wrongdoing. In a paragraph alleging that a judge in
Union County issued a temporary order of protection, the TAC states that “Plaintiff believes that
the Union County Sheriffs Officer is Anthony Genova & M. Desanto.” TAC
This is the
only factual allegation as to these officers. In addition, the paragraph with this statement does not
attribute any wrongdoing to Genova and DeSanto. Moreover, there are no factual allegations as
to the Union County Sheriffs Office. In bringing a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege the
nature of the unconstitutional conduct, as well as the time, place, and persons responsible.
Evanchov. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Boykins v. Ambridge Area Sch. Dist.,
Although not raised by the Union County Defendants, the Union County Sheriffs Office is not
a proper Section 1983 Defendant. “[S]heriffs departments and corrections departments are not
separate legal entities from the County, and therefore cannot be independently sued for violations
of [Section] 1983 and [Section] 1985.” Medina v. Cumberland County, No. 11-905, 2011 WL
1750738, at *2 (D.N.J. May 3, 2011).
621 f.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980)). Because Plaintiff does not attribute any wrongdoing to these
Defendants, they are dismissed.
Next, Plaintiff alleges that she was illegally detained, handcuffed, and held against her will
by McCarthy. TAC ¶ 54. These allegations as to Plaintiffs illegal detention, which is in essence
a false arrest claim, fail. To prevail on a claim for false arrest a plaintiff must demonstrate that the
police lacked probable cause to arrest plaintiffs. Groman v. Township oflianalapan, 47 F.3d 628,
634 (3d Cir. 1995). “[P]robable cause is defined in terms and circumstances sufficient to warrant
a prudent man in believing that the suspect had committed or was committing a crime.” Merkle v.
Upper Dublin $ch. Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 789 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Sharrar v. felsing, 128 F.3d
810, 817-18 (3d Cir. 1997)). Plaintiff alleges, in a conclusorymanner, that she was falsely arrested
and illegally detained. Plaintiff, however, fails to provide any necessary factual allegations as to
her allegedly illegal detention. To state a claim for relief, Plaintiff must plausibly assert why
Defendant McCarthy lacked probable cause to arrest her. Plaintiff fails to do so. Consequently,
the Section 1983 claim against McCarthy is dismissed.
DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE
Generally, when dismissing a case for failure to state a claim, a district court will provide
a plaintiff with an opportunity to amend unless an amendment would be inequitable or futile.
Phillips v. County ofAllegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008). “This is true even where the
plaintiffs failure to state a claim is raised in defendant’s Rule 12(c) motion.” See Jablonski v. Pan
Am. WorldAirways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 292 (3d Cir. 1988). In this instance, Plaintiff has already
been granted two opportunities to cure. Judges Arleo and Chen have already explained to Plaintiff
that certain legal theories lack merit, yet Plaintiff continues to assert these same legal theories in
her amended pleadings, asserting these claims against parties with no factual basis. Consequently,
the Court concludes that any amendment would be futile. As a result, Plaintiffs claims are
dismissed with prejudice. A dismissal with prejudice operates as an adjudication on the merits
and bars a later action against the same defendants or their privies concerning the factual allegation
raised. Gambocz v. Yelencsics, 468 F.2d 837, 840 (3d Cir. 1972).
for the foregoing reasons, the Union County Defendants’ motion to dismiss, D.E. 70, is
Dated: June 29, 2017
C\Qq\J c (
John Michael VazuezJ!S).J.
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