KING v. SOMERSET COUNTY DRUG COURT
OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Peter G. Sheridan on 7/30/2015. (kas, )
*NOT FOR PUBLICATION*
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
WILLIAM G. KING, JR.,
Civil Action No. 1 5-5351 (PGS)
SOMERSET CNTY. DRUG COURT,
SHERIDAN, District Judge
Plaintiff William G. King, Jr. (‘Plaintiff’), a pre-trial detainee currently confined at the
Somerset County Jail in Somerville, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis.
Based on his affidavit of indigence, the Court will grant Plaintiff’s application to proceed inforina
pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(a) and order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint.
At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
and 1915A, to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes
that the Complaint should be dismissed.
The following factual allegations are taken from the Complaint, and are accepted for
purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of Plaintiff’s
On April 2, 2014, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with a drug court violation. (Cornpl.
On April 3, 2014, he was detained at the Somerset County Jail on a no bail hold” by the
Somerset County Court.
The assigned bail judge, Judge Paul W. Armstrong denied
Plaintiff a bail hearing from April 3. 2014 until February 17, 2015 based on Plaintiffs drug court
violation. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he wrote a letter to Judge Julie Marino advising her of the
violation of his due process rights, and as a result, he was given a bail hearing. (Id) On February
17, 2015, Judge Marino lifted Plaintiffs ‘no bail hold” status and granted “R.O.R.” status. (Id.)
Plaintiff names Somerset County Drug Court as the only defendant and is seeking monetary
damages for the violation of his due process rights. (Id. at ¶J 4(b); 7.)
A. Legal Standard
1. Standards for a Sua Spoiite Dismissal
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §S 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 injbrmapauperis, see 28 U.S.C.
against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C.
respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress
§ 1915A(b), or brings a claim with
§ l997e. 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 relief. This
action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §sS 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A
because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis.
According to the Supreme Court’s decision in Asheroft v. Iqbal, ‘a pleading that offers
‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
556 U.s. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
To survive sua ponte screening for failure to state a claim 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 F.3d 303, 308 n.3
(3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally
construed, “pro se 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. 2013) (citation omitted).
Section 1983 Actions
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for certain violations of his
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 state a claim for relief under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation
was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487
‘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 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(l)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App’x 159,
162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d
Plaintiff is alleging a violation of his due process rights against the Somerset County Drug
Court based on his “no bail hold.” However, state courts are not ‘persons” within the meaning of
a Section 1983 action. See Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989);
Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25—26 (3d Cir. 1981); Briggs v. Moore, 251 F. App’x 77, 79
(3d Cir. 2007) (finding that the New Jersey Superior Court is not a “person” for
§ 1983 purposes);
Ostroffv. New Jersey Supreme Court, 415 F.Supp. 326, 328 n. 2 (D.N.J. 1976) (“The New Jersey
Supreme Court is not a ‘person’ under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983”); [fernandez v. Switzer, 2009 WL
4730182, *3 n. 5 (municipal court is not a “person” within the meaning of
§ 1983). Therefore,
Plaintiff’s claim against the Somerset County Court must be dismissed with prejudice.
Even if the Court were to interpret Plaintiffs Complaint as alleging a claim against Judge
Armstrong for placing him on “no bail hold,” the Complaint would still be dismissed because the
doctrine of judicial immunity provides that judges are immune from suit for monetary damages
arising from their judicial acts. See Ga/las v. Supreme Court ofPa., 211 F.3d 760, 768 (3d Cir.
2000); see also Mire/es v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9 (1991). To determine whether the judicial immunity
doctrine applies, the Court must establish: (a) whether the judge’s actions were “judicial” in nature;
and (b) whether the judge acted in the “clear absence of all jurisdiction over the subject matter.”
Gal/as, 211 F.3d at 768—69 (quoting Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349. 356 n. 6 (1978)). Where a
judge “was properly called to preside over [a litigant’s court proceeding], there could be no basis
for a presumption that [the judge] acted ‘in the clear absence of alljurisdiction.” Peep/es v. Citta,
2012 WL 1344819 (D.N.J. Apr. 16, 2012) (relying on Ga//as, 211 F.3d at 769). An act is judicial
in nature if”it is a function normally performed by a judge” and if the parties “dealt with the judge
in his judicial capacity.” Stump, 435 U.S. at 362. “‘[A litigant’s] allegations of bad faith [and]
malice’ cannot overcome [judicial] immunity.” Abulkhair v. Rosenberg, 457 F. App’x 89 (3d Cir.
2012) (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11). Simply put, “an act does not become less judicial by
virtue of an allegation of malice or corruption of motive,” or that such action is “unfair” or
“controversial.” Ga/las, 211 F.3d at 769; accord Stump, 435 U.S. at 363 (“[d]isagreement with
the action taken by the judge
does not justify depriving the judge of his immunity”).
Here, it is clear that Judge Armstrong’s actions are protected by judicial immunity.
Certainly, Judge Armstrong, as the assigned bail judge, was well within his authority to preside
over Plaintiffs case and making a bail determination falls squarely into the category of activities
that judicial immunity was designed to protect. See Tucker v. Outwater, 118 F.3d 930, 933 (2d
Cir. 1997) (“In any event, [the judge’s] arraignment of plaintiff and setting of bail were plainly
Therefore, any intended due process claim against Judge Armstrong is also
dismissed with prejudice.
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint will be dismissed in its entirety for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and
1915A(b)(1). However, because it is conceivable that Plaintiff may be able to supplement his
pleading with facts sufficient to overcome the deficiencies noted herein, the Court will grant
Plaintiff leave to move to re-open this case and to file an amended complaint. An appropriate
Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint is filed, the original complaint no longer
performs any function in the case and “cannot be utilized to cure defects in the amended
Peter 0. Sheridan, U.S.D.J.
[complaint], unless the relevant portion is specifically incorporated in the new [complaint].” 6
Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1476 (2d ed. 1990) (footnotes omitted).
An amended complaint may adopt some or all of the allegations in the original complaint, but the
identification of the particular allegations to be adopted must be clear and explicit. Id. To avoid
confusion, the safer course is to file an amended complaint that is complete in itself. Id.
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