SEVERINO v. MIDDLESEX COUNTY et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Michael A. Shipp on 7/1/2015. (eaj)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
WILLIAM F. SEVERINO, III,
Civil Action No. 14-6919 (MAS) (LHG)
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, et al.,
SHIPP, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on the uncontested motion of Defendants Borough
North Brunswick - Municipal Court ("North Brunswick Municipal Court") and its Court
Administrator, Sheral Rossman ("Rossman"), in her official capacity (collectively, "Moving
Defendants"). (ECF No. 6.) Moving Defendants seek dismissal, pursuant to Rule l 2(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim. (Id.) Plaintiff William F. Severino,
III ("Plaintiff'), who is proceeding prose, has not opposed the motion. The Court has carefully
considered Moving Defendants' submission and decided the matter without oral argument
pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons expressed herein, the Court grants Moving
Defendants' motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act,
N.J.S.A. §10:6-2(c) ("NJCRA"), for alleged violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment
rights. 1 Plaintiff alleges that on August 8, 2013, he filed criminal charges with the North
Brunswick Municipal Court while in county jail. (Compl. ~~ 12-13.) Once released from county
jail, he wrote to the North Brunswick Municipal Court requesting the status of those charges. (Id.
, 14.) After receiving no response, Plaintiff filed a notice of tort claim with the North Brunswick
Municipal Court disclosing violations of federal and state law. (Id.
15.) As a result, Plaintiff
brings suit against Moving Defendants based on alleged denial of access to the courts and failure
to implement appropriate policies, customs, and practices. (Id.
41, 45). In addition, Plaintiff
asserts state law claims of negligent supervision and hiring by the North Brunswick Municipal
Court and negligence against Rossman acting in her official capacity as court administrator. (Id.
Motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim are governed by Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief" Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The pleading standard does not require "detailed
factual allegations" but must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim that is "plausible"
on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Legal conclusions provide the
framework of a complaint, but they must be supported by factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). District courts conduct a three-part analysis when presented with a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Malleus v. George, 641 F .3d 560, 563 (3d Cir.
2011). First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim."
The Court has federal question jurisdiction over the controversy pursuant to 28 U.S. C. § 13 31
and exercises supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
Id. (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Second, the court separates the factual and legal elements of
the claim. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678). "The District Court must then accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true,
but may disregard any legal conclusions." Id. at 210-11.
Third, the court must determine
"whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a
'plausible claim for relief."' Id. at 211. A pro se plaintiff's complaint is liberally construed and is
held to a less stringent standard than a formal pleading drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also
Rose v. Myers, No. 13-7797, 2015 WL 1221352, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 17, 2015).
North Brunswick Municipal Court
Generally, the Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from hearing a suit brought
by private parties against a state. See MCI Telecomm. Corp. v. Bell Atl. Pa., 271 F.3d 491, 503
(3d Cir. 2001) (citations omitted); see also Prince v. Aiellos, No. 09-5429, 2010 WL 4025846, at
*4 (D.N.J. Oct. 12, 2010). In addition, the state is not a "person" capable of being sued within
the meaning of § 1983. See Callahan v. City of Phila., 207 F .3d 668, 669-70 (3d Cir. 2000); see
also Prince, 2010 WL 4025846, at *4. The Third Circuit has held that the New Jersey Superior
Court is not capable of being sued under§ 1983. Briggs v. Moore, 251 F. App'x 77, 79 (3d Cir.
2007) (citing Will v. Mich. Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989)). "As part of the
judicial branch of the State of New Jersey, a New Jersey Municipal Court is entitled to sovereign
immunity." Hernandez v. Switzer, No. 09-2758, 2009 WL 4730182, at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 4, 2009).
In addition, the Eleventh Amendment bars state law claims supported only by supplemental
jurisdiction. Garcia v. Richard Stockton Coll. of NJ., 210 F. Supp. 2d 545, 550 (D.N.J. 2002)
(citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 118-20 (1984)). Accordingly,
all claims asserted against North Brunswick Municipal Court are dismissed with prejudice.
The Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from hearing a suit by private parties
against a state official acting in his or her official capacity. Will, 491 U.S. at 71 (explaining that
suit against a state official acting in his or her official capacity is the same as suit against the
state itself). A court administrator is a state official, and therefore, Eleventh Amendment
immunity protects a court administrator acting in his or her official capacity from a § 1983 suit.
Conklin v. Anthou, 495 F. App'x 257, 263 (3d Cir. 2012); see Addlespurger v. Corbett, 461 F.
App'x 82, 86 (3d Cir. 2012). Accordingly, the Eleventh Amendment bars all claims asserted
against Rossman, as Plaintiff brings suit against her in her official capacity as court
administrator. Therefore, all claims asserted against Rossman are dismissed with prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants the Moving Defendants' motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, and all claims asserted against Moving Defendants are dismissed with
prejudice. An order reflecting this decision accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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