OLIVEIRA v. BOROUGH OF NORTH ARLINGTON et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 04/10/2017. (ek)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-77 17 (ILL)
BOROUGH OF NORTH ARLINGTON,
LINARES, District Judge
The plaintiff, John Oliveira, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
(hereinafter, “Section 1983”) and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-2
(hereinafter, “the NJCRA”) against the following defendants:
(1) the Borough of North Arlington;
(2) the North Arlington Police Department (hereinafter, “NAPD”);
(3) NAPD Officer Joseph Cappelluti;
(4) NAPD Officer L. Pinto; and
(5) the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (hereinafter, “the BCPO”). (See dkt.
The Court will refer to documents by the docket entry numbers and the
page numbers imposed by the Electronic Case filing System.
The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his rights under the federal
constitution and the New Jersey constitution when he was arrested and then charged for
the arson of an automobile, and that those charges were subsequently dismissed.
dkt. 19 at 4—8.) The plaintiff was never indicted by a Grand Jury on those charges.
The BCPO now moves pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (hereinafter,
“Rule”) 12(b)(l) and Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the plaintiffs claims that are asserted
against it. (See dkt. 27 through dkt. 27-5; dkt. 34; dkt. 34-1.) The plaintiff has opposed
the BCPO’s motion. (See dkt. 33; dkt. 33-1.)
The Court resolves the BCPO’s motion to dismiss upon a review of the papers and
without oral argument. See LCiv.R. 78.1(b). For the following reasons, the Court grants
the BCPO’s motion, but dismisses the plaintiffs claims that are asserted against the
BCPO without prejudice.
The Court is guided by the following standards in resolving the BCPO’s motion to
It is not necessary for this Court to restate the standard for resolving a motion
made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(l), because that standard has been already enunciated.
Davis v. Wells Fargo, $24 F.3d 333, 346 (3d Cir. 2016) (setting forth the standard; citing
Mortensen v. First Fed. Say. & Loan Ass’n, 549 F.2d 884 (3d Cir. 1977), Petruska v.
Gannon Univ., 462 f.3d 294 (3d Cif. 2006), and Constitution Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757
F.3d 347 (3d Cir. 2014)).
It is also not necessary for this Court to restate the standard for resolving a motion
made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), because that standard has been already enunciated.
Mariotti v. Mariotti Bldg. Prods., Inc., 714 F.3d 761, 764—65 (3d Cir. 2013) (setting forth
the standard; citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209—12 (3d Cir. 2009) (setting forth the standard; citing
Twombly and Ashcrofi v. Igbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)).
Section 1983 and the NJCRA
“Section 1983 creates a species of tort liability for the deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.” Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill.,
No. 14-9496, 2017 WL 1050976, at *3 (U.S. Mar. 21, 2017) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted).
The NJCRA does the same for the federal constitution, as well as for the New
Jersey constitution. Sç N.J.S.A. 10:6-2(c) (stating that “[a]ny person who has been
deprived of any substantive due process or equal protection rights, privileges or
immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or any substantive
rights, privileges or iimnunities secured by the Constitution or laws of this State, or
whose exercise or enjoyment of those substantive rights, privileges or immunities has
been interfered with or attempted to be interfered with, by threats, intimidation or
coercion by a person acting under color of law, may bring a civil action for damages and
for injunctive or other appropriate relief’). As a result, “[t]he NJCRA is interpreted as
1983,” Szernple v. Correctional Med. Servs., Inc., 493 Fed.Appx. 238,
241 (3d Cir. 2012), and a court “will analyze.
NJCRA claims through the lens of §
1983.” Trafton v. City of Woodbury, 799 F.Supp.2d 417, 444 (D.N.J. 2011); see Estate
of Martin v. U.S. Marshals Serv. Agents, 649 Fed.Appx. 239, 245 n.4 (3d Cir. 2016)
(holding that “it appears undisputed that Plaintiffs’ claims under the New Jersey
Constitution and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act trigger the same legal elements and
[the] federal causes of action tunder Section 1983]”). Thus, the Court’s
analysis of the plaintiffs Section 1983 claims also applies to the plaintiffs NJCRA
claims in this case.
Section 1983 and the NJCRA both enable a plaintiff to bring a civil action only
against a “person” who causes a deprivation of federal and state constitutional rights
under the color of state law. It is well-settled law that the prosecutor’s office of a New
Jersey county, such as the BCPO in this instance, is not a “person” subject to liability
under Section 1983 or the NJCRA when that office is fulfilling its law enforcement and
investigative roles. See Estate of Lagano v. Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, 769 F.3d
850, 854—55 (3d Cir. 2014); McKinney v. Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, No. 132553, 2014 WL 2574414, at *7 (D.N.J. June 4, 2014); see also Milthaeil v. Santos, 646
Fed.Appx. 158, 161 (3d Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 2017 WL 737872 (U.S. Feb. 27, 2017);
McKinney v. Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, 612 Fed.Appx. 62, 65 (3d Cir. 2015);
Wilson v. Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, No. 15-6035, 2016 WL 1090811, at *7
(D.N.J. Mar. 21, 2016).
It is also well-settled law that the Eleventh Amendment bars a plaintiff from
bringing claims under Section 1983 and the NJCRA against the prosecutor’s office of a
New Jersey county, such as the BCPO in this instance, when the conduct at issue
concerns law enforcement and investigative functions on behalf of the state, because
those kinds of claims are, in effect, brought against the State of New Jersey itself. See
Woodyard v. County of Essex, 514 Fed.Appx. 177, 182 (3d Cir. 2013); Hyatt v. County
of Passaic, 340 Fed.Appx. 833, 837—38 (3d Cir. 2009); Henry v. Jersey City Police Dep’t,
No. 14-5480, 2016 WL 1586875, at *5_7 (D.N.J. Apr. 20, 2016); Lopez-Siguenzav.
Roddy, No. 13-2005, 2014 WL 1298300, at *7 (D.N.J. Mar. 31, 2014); Endi v. New
Jersey, 5 F.Supp.3d 689, 697 (D.N.J. 2014).
The State of New Jersey has not consented to subject the BCPO to liability for
claims brought under Section 1983 or the NJCRA, and the immunity afforded to the
BCPO against Section 1983 claims and NJCRA claims has not been abrogated.
Therefore, the Court grants the motion by the BCPO for the aforementioned reasons, and
dismisses all of the plaintiffs claims that are asserted against it.
However, the Court dismisses the plaintiffs claims that are asserted against the
BCPO without prejudice. The plaintiff is granted leave to move to amend those Section
1983 claims and NJCRA claims in order to assert allegations against a BCPO prosecutor
who was allegedly connected to the plaintiffs arrest in the individual or personal
The plaintiff neglected to cross-move for leave to amend his claims in order to
name a BCPO prosecutor in the individual capacity. However, the plaintiff explicitly
acknowledges in his opposition papers to the BCPO’s motion to dismiss that he failed to
name an individual BCPO prosecutor, and he asks the Court for leave to amend. (Scc
dkt. 33 at 5—6 (the plaintiff requesting that the Court dismiss the claims asserted against
the BCPO without prejudice, and requesting leave to file a new complaint in order “to
add the assistant prosecutor advising the police as a party”); id. at 19—20 (the plaintiff
arguing that the new complaint would add claims against the assistant prosecutor who
advised the NAPD concerning his arrest).)
The Court cannot discern at this juncture whether such an amendment would be
futile. The employees of a New Jersey county prosecutor’s office are not necessarily
immune from liability for Section 1983 claims and NJCRA claims that are asserted
against them in their individual capacities, even if the conduct that is the subject of the
claims is part of their official duties. See Estate of Lagano, 769 F.3d at 856; see also
Slinger v. New Jersey, 366 Fed.Appx. 357, 360—6 1 (3d Cir. 2010) (reversing a district
court’s dismissal on the grounds of immunity of the claims that were asserted against a
prosecutor and detectives who were employed by a New Jersey county prosecutor’s
office in their individual capacities).
For the aforementioned reasons, this Court: (1) grants the motion by the BCPO to
dismiss the plaintiffs claims that are asserted against it; (2) dismisses all of the plaintiffs
claims that are asserted against the BCPO without prejudice; and (3) grants leave to the
plaintiff to amend his claims.
The Court will enter an appropriate order.
led States District Judge
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