PITTMAN v. MIDDLESEX COUNTY PROBATION DEPARTMENT et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Freda L. Wolfson on 3/24/2017. (mps)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 14-1568 (FLW)
MIDDLESEX COUNTY PROBATION
DEPARTMENT, et al.,
This matter has been opened to the Court by William Pittman’s (“Plaintiff’s”) filing of a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an application for pro bono counsel.
(ECF Nos. 1, 1-1.) The Court previously granted Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma
pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1-2, 2.) For the reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss the entire
Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court dismisses the claims against
Middlesex County Probation Department and Criminal Case Management with prejudice, as
these entities are not persons under §1983. The Court dismisses the personal capacity claims
against the individual Defendants without prejudice as barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477 (1994). In light of the dismissal of the Complaint, the application for pro bono counsel is
Plaintiff was not incarcerated at the time he filed the instant Complaint and has sued the
Middlesex County Probation Department, Evelyn Cruz Carofilis, Kathie DeFuria, Bruce
Morgan, Jeffrey Israel, Janine Abdalla, Andrea Poland, “Criminal Case Management,” and “all
known and unknown” for violations of his civil rights in connection with the use of a sealed
psychiatric report or evaluation (“Psychiatric Report”) in his presentence report (“PSR”). 1 (ECF
No. 1, Compl. at ¶¶ 1-2, 8.) The individual Defendants appear to be employees at the Middlesex
County Probation Department, Criminal Case Management Unit, which has responsibility, in
relevant part, for the preparation of presentence reports for the state court. 2 According to
Plaintiff, the Psychiatric Report at issue was “ruled illegal” and “sealed by [a state court judge]
in the Middlesex County Superior Court  on May 27, 2003. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff states that he
sues the individual Defendants in their individual capacities. (Id. at ¶ 7.)
Plaintiff alleges that he was interviewed by Defendant Abdalla, then Janine Khale, in
2005 while he was incarcerated at Bayside State Prison, and Abdalla improperly questioned him
about the Psychiatric Report. Plaintiff told Abdalla that the report was sealed and could not be
used, but Abdalla allegedly used the psychiatric report for an unspecified purpose. (Id.) Plaintiff
subsequently filed a motion in the Middlesex County Superior Court, and a state court judge
allegedly ruled again that the matter was sealed. (Id.)
On May 27, 2012, “[P]laintiff was ordered by the state court to report to criminal case
management[.]” (Id.) During an intake evaluation, Defendant Bruce Morgan allegedly asked
Plaintiff about the Psychiatric Report. (Id.) Plaintiff told Defendant Morgan that the report was
sealed and that it could not be used against him. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Morgan “would
still use the report, [k]nowing it was a sealed matter.” (Id.) Later in the Complaint, Plaintiff
alleges that he repeatedly told Defendant Morgan that the Psychiatric Report was sealed and that
two judges had ruled that it could not be used against him. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Plaintiff appears to
The Psychiatric Report is referred to interchangeably in the Complaint as a “report” and an
“evaluation”, and was created by non-defendant Dr. William Johnson. (Id. at ¶ 8.)
See http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/middlesex/criminal.html, last visited March 23, 2017.
allege that the Psychiatric Report was used by Morgan to get Plaintiff “medical help” and to
harass him. (Id.)
On November 6, 2013, Plaintiff was ordered by a judge to report to Criminal Case
Management in order to “have a [PSR] done” in a then-pending case against him. 3 (Id.) At that
time, Defendant Abdalla once again interviewed and questioned Plaintiff about the Psychiatric
Report. (Id.) Plaintiff told Abdalla that the Psychiatric Report was “ruled illegal[.]” (Id.)
Plaintiff appears to allege that the PSR included or incorporated information from the Psychiatric
Report and states that he would not sign the consent form or the PSR. (Id.) Plaintiff
subsequently wrote to the sentencing judge about the matter, and the judge “stated the court has
not relied on the prior psychiatric evaluation and the probation department should also disregard
the same.” (Id.)
According to Plaintiff, Defendants Abdala, DeFuria, and “[C]riminal [C]ase
[M]anagement” “assisted with the preparation of the [PSR] in order “to paint a bad picture of
[Plaintiff], knowing that the Sentencing Judge  would review it” and that it would also be
reviewed by the state prison, classification[,] a[nd] parole. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-15.) Plaintiff appears to
allege that Defendants included the Psychiatric Report in the PSR so that Plaintiff would be
treated “harshly” by the sentencing judge, and receive harsher treatment from prison,
classification, and parole officials. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-17.)
According to the Complaint, the Middlesex County Probation Department “is responsible
for its staff and their actions and [d]id nothing to assist in the matter[.]” (Id. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff
also states that “[t]he actions of [C]riminal [C]ase [M]anagement were totally against policy.”
It is not entirely clear whether the year was 2012 or 2013, but the Court construes Plaintiff’s
handwritten notation to indicate that the year was 2013.
(Id. at ¶ 10.) Several of the individual Defendants are sued in their supervisory capacities.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kathie Defuria was “the supervisor and did nothing to assist in
the matter” after the state courts ordered that the psychiatric report was a sealed matter and was
to be disregarded. Defendant Defuria also allegedly “read the [PSR] and still signed it in order to
harass Plaintiff. (Id. at 11.) The Complaint also identifies Defendant Jeffrey Israel as “the team
leader” who “signed the [PSR].” (Id. at ¶ 23.) Finally, Defendant Evelyn Cruz Carolfilis is
described in the Complaint as the “supervisor at the time of [Defendant] Bruce Morgan [sic]
In addition to receiving harsh treatment by the sentencing court, Plaintiff has allegedly
experienced “prolong[ed] worry” as a result of Defendants’ inclusion of the Psychiatric Report in
his PSR. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 17.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for alleged
violations of his civil rights. (Id.)
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-
66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints in those civil
actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
“While much of the language in Section 1915 addresses ‘prisoners,’ section 1915(e)(2) applies
with equal force to prisoner as well as nonprisoner in forma pauperis cases.” Stamos v. New
Jersey, No. CIVA095828 (PGS), 2010 WL 457727, at *2 (D.N.J. Feb. 2, 2010), aff'd, 396 F.
App'x 894 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Jayne v. Pike County Correctional Facility, Civil No. 3:CV-071113, 2009 WL 4906520, at *1 n. 1 (M.D. Pa. Dec.15, 2009)). 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
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of
his or her constitutional rights. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ... 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 ....
Thus, to establish a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the
challenged conduct was committed by (1) a person acting under color of state law and (2) that
the conduct deprived him of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws
of the United States. See Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled in part on other
grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S.
144, 152 (1970); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994).
From the outset, the Court dismisses Middlesex County Probation Department and
Criminal Case Management with prejudice as these entities are not “persons” under § 1983. If a
subdivision of the state acts as an alter ego or an “arm” of the state, the subdivision of the state is
not a “person” under § 1983. See Fitchik v. N.J. Transit Rail Operations, 873 F.2d 655, 658-59
(3d Cir.1989). Furthermore, “neither states, nor governmental entities that are considered arms
of the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes ... are persons within the meaning of § 1983.”
Green v. Essex County Superior Court Clerk, No. 02-1872, 2006 WL 932055, at *3 (D.N.J.
2006). Courts in this district have found that county probation departments are arms of the state
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and are not persons under § 1983. See Otero v. Cty.
Of Monmouth, No. CIV.A. 06-3435 MLC, 2007 WL 1656851, at *2-3, *6 (D.N.J. June 5, 2007)
(analyzing the Fitchik factors and finding that county probation department is not a person under
§ 1983 and is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity).
The Court next construes Plaintiff’s Complaint to allege that his Fourteenth Amendment
due process rights were violated by the conduct of the individual Defendants, 4 who included the
allegedly false or “illegal” Psychiatric Report in Plaintiff’s PSR. 5 If the sentencing court relied
on false information in sentencing Plaintiff, without giving him a chance to correct the
information, he may have been denied due process of law. See United States v. Tucker, 404 U.S.
443, 447 (1972). Here, however, Plaintiff states that he notified the sentencing judge that the
Psychiatric Report was included in the PSR, and the sentencing judge told Plaintiff that the court
did not rely on the Psychiatric Report in rendering Plaintiff’s sentence. (ECF No. 1, Complaint at
¶ 8.) As such, to the extent the Psychiatric Report contained false or “illegal” information, it
does not appear that the sentencing court relied on that information in rendering its sentence. 6
The Court notes in this regard that the individual defendants who are supervisors may not be
held liable in their personal capacities simply because they supervised alleged wrongdoers or
because they signed the PSR. Liability under § 1983 is personal in nature, and to be liable, a
defendant must have been personally involved in the wrongful conduct. In other words, “state
actors are liable only for their own unconstitutional conduct.” Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc.,
766 F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir. 2014), rev'd on other grounds sub nom., Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct.
2042 (2015). As such, respondeat superior cannot form the basis of liability. Evancho v. Fisher,
423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005). “Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of
personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Thus, to establish a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that a
defendant participated in a violation of the plaintiff's rights, directed others to violate those
rights, or otherwise had knowledge of and acquiesced in violations committed by subordinates.
Baker v. Monroe Twp., 50 F.3d 1186, 1190–91 (3d Cir. 1995).
In addition to a § 1983 claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, Plaintiff also references the
Ninth Amendment, which provides: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall
not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Court, however, fails
to see how Plaintiff’s claims for relief arise under the Ninth Amendment.
Although Plaintiff also implies that classification and probation officers relied on the
Psychiatric Report, he does provide any facts explaining how the reliance violated his
Furthermore, to the extent Plaintiff alleges that the sentencing court improperly relied on
the Psychiatric Report in the PSR and gave him a harsher sentence, Plaintiff’s lawsuit is barred
because it appears to be an impermissible collateral attack on his criminal sentence. In Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, (1994), the United States Supreme Court held that a prisoner in state
custody could not bring an action for monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging
state actions related to a criminal sentence without first proving that the sentence had been
reversed or invalidated on appeal. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. Without such a showing, any claim
for damages that calls into question the validity of a sentence must be dismissed by a district
court. Id. The Court stated that this holding was consistent with the long-standing principle that
“civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal
judgments.” Id. at 486. Summarizing the interplay between habeas and § 1983 claims, the
Supreme Court has explained that “a state prisoner’s § 1983 action is barred (absent prior
invalidation)—no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of
the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings) – if success
in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of the confinement or its duration.”
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005); see also Williams v. Consovoy, 453 F.3d 173,
177 (3d Cir. 2006) (explaining same).
Here, Plaintiff contends that certain of the individual Defendants maliciously included the
Psychiatric Report in his PSR in order to influence the sentencing judge to give Plaintiff a
harsher sentence and to harass Plaintiff, and that Plaintiff received a harsher sentence from the
sentencing court due to the inclusion of the Psychiatric Report in his PSR. Plaintiff has not,
however, alleged that the sentence in question has been reversed or invalidated on appeal. See,
e.g., Ladner v. Maier, No. CIV.A. 11-0854, 2012 WL 6115680, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 10, 2012)
(finding similar claim to be barred by Heck), aff’d (May 21, 2013). Notably, the Third Circuit
applies Heck’s favorable termination requirement where the prisoner has finished serving his
sentence and thus it is no longer possible to meet the “favorable termination” requirement of
Heck by obtaining habeas corpus relief. See Deemer v. Beard, 557 F. App’x 162, 163-167 (3d
Cir. Feb. 27, 2014); Williams v. Consovoy, 453 F.3d 173, 177-78 (3d Cir. 2006) (declining to
hold that Heck’s favorable termination rule does not apply to defendants who are no longer in
custody absent clear direction from the Supreme Court). Because Plaintiff has not alleged
favorable termination, the Court dismisses, without prejudice, Plaintiff’s Complaint as barred by
Heck. To the extent Plaintiff can provide additional facts showing favorable termination, he may
submit a second amended complaint within 30 days.
In conclusion, the claims against Defendants Middlesex County Probation Department
and Criminal Case Management are dismissed with prejudice under § 1915(e)(2)(B). The
Complaint is otherwise dismissed without prejudice pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B) as barred by
Heck. Because the Court has dismissed the Complaint, the application for pro bono counsel is
likewise denied without prejudice. An appropriate Order follows.
/s/ Freda L. Wolfson
Freda L. Wolfson, U.S.D.J.
Date: March 24, 2017
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