AHMAD v. HUDSON COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE NARCOTICS TASK FORCE et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 4/25/16. (DD, ) N/M
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 15-8994 (JLL)
HUDSON COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S
OFFICE NARCOTICS TASK FORCE,
LINARES, District Judge:
Currently before this Court is the complaint of Plaintiff, Musaddiq Ahmad. (ECF No. 1).
Because this Court has granted Plaintiff in forma pauperis status, this Court is required to screen
the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Pursuant to these statutes, this
Court must dismiss Plaintifr s claims if they are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for
reliet: or seek damages from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons set forth below, this
dismiss Plaintifr s complaint.
Plaintiff is a convicted state prisoner currently incarcerated in the Southern State
Correctional Facility in New Jersey. Plaintiff seeks to raise civil rights claims against numerous
law enforcement officials arising out of his arrest. Plaintiff provides only a limited factual
recitation, stating that
[a confidential informant ("Cl") named] Norman Douglas Glover
initiated entrapment by providing funds to [Plaintiff] for CDS and
then theatrically entrapping [Plaintiff] with the [Hudson County
Prosecutor's Office] for illegal arrest. Officer John Kolakowski
oversaw all procedures and reports, committed false [and] willful
disregard for the truth, falsified reports, facilitated the entrapment,
signed off on illegal arrests, [and engaged in] selective enforcement.
Officer Jeffrey Keams facilitated [a] "bootstrap mechanism" arrest,
worked hand-in-hand with the CI, Norman Douglas Glover, did not
keep appropriate supervision [over] the CI' s behavior, [and] may
have forced [the] CI into entrapping [Plaintiff]. [The Hudson
County Prosecutor's Office] Narcotics Task Force are employed by
the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Jersey City
Police Department is employed by the city of Jersey City. All other
officers [named in the complaint were] involved with the illegal
1 at 5). As recompense for these alleged infractions, Plaintiff seeks his "immediate
release from custody[;] compensation for lawyer fees, filing fees, legal fees, time spent in
custody, loss of time with family and children, loss of business, loss of marriage, all funds spent
in custody, [and damages for] kidnapping, false imprisonment, inter alia[; and] prosecution of
Defendants." (Id. at 6).
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321(April 26, 1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review complaints in those civil
66 to I
which a prisoner is proceeding informa pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), or
seeks damages from a state employee, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The PLRA directs district courts
to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relie£ This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A because Plaintiff is a convicted prisoner who has been granted in
forma pauperis status and is bringing suit against employees of a governmental entity.
According to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, "a pleading that offers
'labels or conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim 1, the complaint must allege
"sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764
308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while prose
pleadings are liberally construed, "prose litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their
complaints to support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.
(citation omitted) (emphasis added).
Plaintiff, in his complaint, seeks to raise claims against police and prosecutor etnities for
alleged violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "To establish a claim
U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a violation of a right protected by the
Constitution or laws of the United States that was committed by a person acting under the color
of state law." Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000); see also Woodyard v. Cnty. of
F. App'x 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013) (section 1983 provides "private citizens with a
"The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)." Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App'x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing
Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App'x 230, 232
(3d Cir. 2012) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(l)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App'x
159, 1 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
means to redress violations of federal law committed by state [actors]"). "The first step in
evaluating a section 1983 claim is to 'identify the exact contours of the underlying right said to
violated' and to determine 'whether the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a
constitutional right at all."' Nicini, 212 F.3d at 806 (quoting County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523
841 n. 5 (1998)). Here, Plaintiff appears to be asserting two types of claims: a claim
for false arrest/false imprisonment and a malicious prosecution claim. 2
1. The Jersey City Police Department and Hudson County Prosecutor's Office Narcotics
Task Force are not proper Defendants and Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief against
the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the City of Jersey City
Plaintiff attempts to assert claims against various entities including the Jersey City Police
Department. A New Jersey police department
is not an independent entity with the capacity to sue and be sued, but
only "an executive and enforcement function of municipal
government." N.J.S.A. 40A:14-118. The case law under Section
1983 uniformly holds that the proper defendant is therefore the
municipality itself, not the police department. See Jackson v. City
of Erie Pol[.} Dep't, 570 F. App'x 112, 114 (3d Cir. 2014) (per
curiam; not precedential) ("We further agree with the District Court
that the police department was not a proper party to this action.
Although local government units may constitute 'persons' against
whom suit may be lodged under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a city police
department is a governmental sub-unit that is not distinct from the
Although Plaintiff also mentions "selective enforcement," Plaintiff alleges no facts which
would suggest a selective enforcement claim, so it does not appear that Plaintiff intended to use
that term as a term of art, and to the extent that Plaintiff did intend to raise a claim for selective
enforcement, that claim would need to be dismissed as Plaintiff has pied no facts which, if true,
would establish such a claim. See Hill v. City ofScranton, 411 F.3d 118, 125 (3d Cir. 2005)
(selective enforcement claim requires a plaintiff to plead that similarly situated individuals were
treated differently by law enforcement, and that the reason for this difference in treatment was an
improper basis "such as race, or religion, or some other arbitrary factor, ... or to prevent the
exercise of a fundamental right").
municipality of which it is a part.") (citation omitted)[;] [s ]ee also
Boneberger v. Plymouth Twp., 132 F.3d 20, 25 n. 4 (3d Cir. 1997)
([ c ]ourt[ s] "treat the municipality and its police department as a
single entity for purposes of section 1983 liability"); Michaels v.
State ofNew Jersey, 955 F. Supp. 315, 329 n. 1(D.N.J.1996).
Zwiegle, No. 13-3024, 2014 WL 6991954, at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 9, 2014). As such, the
Jersey City Police Department is not a proper Defendant and must be dismissed from this action
with prejudice. Id. To the extent that Plaintiff that Plaintiff has named the city of Jersey City, he
has set forth no facts to support a claim against the city as he has identified no policy or
ordinance which resulted in the violations at issue here, and the city must therefore be dismissed
action without prejudice. See Los Angeles Cnty. v. Humphries, 562 U.S. 29, 35-36
(2010); Monell v. New York City Dep 't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978).
Plaintiff also names as a Defendant a subsection of the Hudson County Prosecutor's
the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office Narcotics Task Force. A New Jersey
prosecutor's office when carrying out prosecutorial functions, including the investigation and
prosecution of criminal defendants, is an arm of the state for § 1983 purposes. See, e.g.,
Beightler v. Office of Essex Cnty. Prosecutor, 342 F. App'x 829, 832-33 (3d Cir. 2009). As
such, a prosecutor's office is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal
court for cases arising out of a prosecutor's office's criminal investigation and prosecution
activities. Id. As such, the Prosecutor's Office, and its subsection narcotics task force, to the
extent that the task force is a separate legal entity subject to suit, would be entitled to Eleventh
Amendment Immunity here, and thus must be dismissed from this matter with prejudice. Id.
Plaintiff also seeks to name as a Defendant the Hudson County Board of Chosen
Freeholders. Plaintiff, however, has pled no facts connecting the Board to the events about
which he complains, and Plaintiffs only potential theory ofliability for the Board appears to be
indirectly employ some of the officers involved in Plaintiffs case. Plaintiff is thus
seeking to hold them accountable vicariously for the actions of their subordinates. Section 1983,
however, does not permit recovery for vicarious theories ofliability, and liability cannot be
predicated solely on the operation ofrespondeat superior. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675-76; see
v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207-08 (3d Cir. 1988) (a "defendant in a civil rights
action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated
solely on the operation of respondeat superior"). As Plaintiff has pled no other basis for a claim
against the Board, and as Plaintiff cannot maintain his vicarious liability supervisory liability
claim against the Board under§ 1983, the Board must be dismissed from this action without
prejudice at this time.
2. Plaintiff fails to state a claim for either false arrest/false imprisonment or malicious
first type of claim Plaintiff seeks to bring is a claim for false arrest and false
imprisonment arising out of that arrest. False imprisonment and false arrest claims under § 1983
are two halves of the same coin, and they share the same necessary elements: that a plaintiff was
arrested and incarcerated, and that his arrest was not based on probable cause. See Groman v.
Twp. o_fManalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 636 (3d Cir. 1995); see also Berg v. Cnty. ofAllegheny, 219
268-69 (3d Cir. 2000); Johnson v. Provenzano, --- F. App'x ---, ---, 2016 WL
1459545, at *2-3 (3d Cir. Apr. 14, 2016). Here, in claiming that he was "entrapped," Plaintiff
has essentially pled that the police provided a CI with money with which to purchase CDS from
Plaintiff, and that he was arrested following his sale of CDS to the Cl. As the sale of CDS is a
New Jersey, Plaintiffs sale of CDS to a confidential informant is more than sufficient to
establish probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest. Thus, based on the few facts Plaintiff has provided
in his complaint, probable cause existed for Plaintiff's arrest, and he can make out neither a false
arrest nor false imprisonment claim, and those claims must be dismissed without prejudice at this
219 F.3d at 268-69; Groman, 47 F.3d at 636.
Having dismissed Plaintiff's other claims, this Court is faced solely with Plaintiff's
malicious prosecution claims. A plaintiff seeking to bring a malicious prosecution claim must
(1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the criminal
proceeding ended in [the plaintiff's] favor; (3) the defendant
initiated the proceeding without probable cause; (4) the defendant
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
Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 296-97 (3d Cir. 2014). Thus, a plaintiff cannot plead a
cognizable claim for relief if he fails to establish that his criminal prosecution terminated in his
Indeed, where a plaintiff has been convicted of a crime, a claim for malicious
prosecution does not even accrue until his conviction has been overturned. See Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 489-90 (1994). Here, Plaintiff fails to plead any facts suggesting that
his criminal prosecution terminated in his favor. Indeed, as he both pleads that he is currently a
convicted state prisoner, and one of the forms ofreliefhe requests is his release from
incarceration, it fully appears that Plaintiff has been convicted- the least favorable conclusion of
all for a criminal defendant. As such, Plaintiff has failed to plead a cognizable claim for
malicious prosecution, and his complaint must be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state
a claim for which relief may be granted. Halsey, 750 F.3d at 296-97.
As a final note, one of the forms ofrelief Plaintiff seeks is his "immediate release from
(ECF No. 1 at 6). Plaintiff also seeks damages for his "time spent in custody
[including] loss of time with family and children, loss of business, loss of marriage, [and] all
funds spent in custody." (Id.). Plaintiff also essentially seeks to show that his conviction is
invalid because it was based on entrapment. Release from criminal custody is a form of relief
which is only available through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and a § 1983 suit is an
improper mechanism for seeking such relief. See, e.g., Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78-82 (2005) ("a state prisoner's§ 1983 action is
barred .. no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), [and] no matter the target of
the prisoner's suit[,] if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of [his]
confinement or its duration"). Likewise where the success of a plaintiffs complaint would
necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or continued incarceration, that claim is barred
under§ 1983 until such time as a Plaintiff has had his underlying conviction or incarceration
invalidated. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 78-82; Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994). Thus,
to the extent Plaintiff is seeking damages arising out of his conviction, and to the extent that he
seeks an immediate or speedier release, Plaintiffs claims would need to be dismissed without
prejudice for that reason as well.
the reasons stated above, this Court dismiss the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office
Narcotics Task Force and Jersey City Police Department from this action with prejudice, and
will dismiss Plaintiffs remaining claims without prejudice. Plaintiff will be granted leave,
within thirty (30) days. An appropriate order follows.
ose L. Linares,
ed States District Judge
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