WALSH v. GIZINSKI et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Peter G. Sheridan on 5/25/2017. (km)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
JASON B. WALSH,
Civil Action No. 17-2031 (PGS) (TJB)
JUDGE ROCHELLE GIZINSKI, et al.,
SHERIDAN, District Jud2e:
This matter comes before the Court on a civil rights Complaint filed by Plaintiff Jason B.
Walsh, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
1983, alleging that his constitutional rights had been violated by
Defendants. The Court previously granted Plaintiff informa pauperis status. ECF No. 2. At this
time, the Court must review the Complaint 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.
See 28 U.S.C.
191 5(e)(2)(B) (in forma pauperis actions). It appearing:
1. The claims asserted in the Complaint appears to arise out of a criminal prosecution against
Plaintiff in state court. However, the Complaint provides absolutely no details of this criminal
prosecution—indeed, Plaintiff does not even provide this Court with what crime Plaintiff was
prosecuted for, or when the prosecution occurred.
However, after the Complaint was filed,
Plaintiff submits a 55-page exhibit, from which the Court deduces that Plaintiffs claims arose out
of a prosecution against him for endangering the welfare of a child that occurred in December of
2014. See, e.g., ECF No. 3 at 37, ECF No. 1 at 4. Because Plaintiff asserts that he was sentenced,
ECF No. 1 at 4, the Court presumes that he was convicted of the crime.
2. A plaintiff can pursue a cause of action under
§ 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
§ 1983. Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish, 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. Am.
Mfrs. li/Jut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan. 526 U.S. 40, 50-1 (1999); Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 166-.
67 (3d Cir. 2013).
3. Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and Ocean County
Justice System are dismissed. Prosecutor’s offices are not “persons” amendable to suit under
1983. See Mikhaeil v. Santos, 646 F. App’x 158, 161 (3d Cir. 2016). As for Defendant “Ocean
County Justice System,” the Court cannot even determine who that is, since there is no such entity.
To the extent Plaintiff is suing the Superior Court of New Jersey in Ocean County, which very
likely presided over his criminal prosecution, courts are not “persons” subject to suit under
Travaline v. Travaline, 639 F. App’x 73, 74 (3d Cir. 2016); Lynch v. City ofPhiladelphia, 440 F.
App’x 117, 119 (3d Cir. 2011) (finding that neither state courts nor local courts are “persons”
§ 1983). As such, claims against these two defendants are dismissed with prejudice.
4. Plaintiff’s claims against Judge Rochelle Gizinski, the presiding judge of his criminal
matter, are dismissed. Judges are absolutely immune from suit for actions taken in their judicial
capacity. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11(1991); Kaplan v. Miller, 653 F. App’x 87, 89 (3d Cir.
2016) (“[J]udges are immune from suit under section 1983 for monetary damages arising from
their judicial acts.”) (quoting Gallas v. Supreme Ct. of Pa., 211 F.3d 760, 768 (3d Cir. 2000)).
“[J]udicial immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice, the existence of which
ordinarily cannot be resolved without engaging in discovery and eventual trial.” Mireles, 502 U.S.
at 11. Thus, Plaintiff’s claims against Judge Gizinski are dismissed with prejudice.
5. Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Ocean County Public Defenders Office, as well as
Defendants Ernest A. Ryberg, Dawn M. Nee, and Todd S. Wilson, who appear to be attorneys
from said office, see ECF No. I at 5-6, are dismissed. Public defenders are not state actors liable
§ 1983, because they are not persons acting under the color of law. See Vermont v. Brillon,
556 U.S. 81, 91 (2009) (‘[Tlhe relationship between a defendant and the public defender
representing him is identical to that existing between any other lawyer and client. Unlike a
prosecutor or the court, assigned counsel ordinarily is not considered a state actor.”) (citation and
quotation omitted); Rieco v. Hebe, No. 15-2323, 2015 WL 9583987, at *2 (3d Cir. Dec. 31, 2015)
(“Public defenders are generally not considered state actors for
§ 1983 purposes when acting in
their capacities as attorneys.”) (quoting Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981)).
Additionally, a public defender’s office is not is a “person” liable under
§ 1983. Crisostomo v.
State ofNJ Pub. Defender Office Passaic Cnty., No. 14-4756, 2014 WL 4094793, at *2 (D.N.J.
Aug. 18, 2014); Santos v. Smith, No. 08-3846, 2008 WL 4922207, at *3 (D.N.J. Nov. 12, 2008).
Therefore, all claims against these defendants are dismissed with prejudice.
6. Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Dawn M. Kingsley and Amber M. Kingsley are
dismissed. Although it is difficult for the Court to deduce their involvement in the criminal matter,
as Plaintiff provides very little details in the Complaint, the Court is able to comb through the
exhibits and determine that Dawn was Plaintiff’s ex-wife, and Amber was Plaintiffs step daughter,
see ECF No. 3 at 49, who were likely the victims of the criminal offense. Plaintiffs
§ 1983 claims
against them fail simply because they are not state actors. See Gage v. Township of Warren, No.
09-0519, 2009 WL 1635602, at *3 (D.N.J. June 10, 2009) (individuals availing themselves to the
government apparatus were not state actors); Boykin v. Bloomsburg Univ. ofPa., 893 F. Supp. 409
(M.D. Pa. 1995) (reporting an individual’s criminal conduct to the state was the act of a private
individual). Accordingly, Plaintiffs claims against them are dismissed with prejudice.
7. Finally, the lone remaining defendant, Terry Ann Linardakis, appears to be a prosecutor at
the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. See ECF No. 1 at 5. Plaintiff alleges that Linardakis
violated his constitutional rights when she failed to transfer the case to a different county due to
alleged conflicts of interest, stemming from the alleged facts that (1) Judge Gizinski was her ex
boss, and (2) she handled another criminal matter against Plaintiffs daughter in 2012.
Notwithstanding the fact that those allegations do not amount to conflicts of interest, “[t]he arrest
of a criminal defendant and the filing of charges are at the core of the prosecutorial function, and
‘[a] prosecutor is absolutely immune when making [the decision to initiate a prosecution], even
where he acts without a good faith belief that any wrongdoing has occurred.” Munchinski v.
So/oman, 618 F. App’x 150, 154 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Kuiwicki v. Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1464
(3d Cir. 1992)). As such, the decision to initiate prosecution against a defendant at a particular
By Plaintiffs logic, individual members of a family who have extensive criminal histories can
disqualify prosecutors assigned to their place of residence simply because there is a high likelihood
the same prosecutors would have prosecuted cases against other family members, an absurd
jurisdiction is not challengeable under
§ 1983. Cf Heinemann v. Satterberg, 731 F.3d 914, 918
(9th Cir. 2013) (Prosecutor was immune from liability even though he, as a state prosecutor, lacked
jurisdiction to bring a charge against a defendant for a federal offense). Hence, the claims against
Linardakis are dismissed with prejudice.
Peter G. Sheridan
United States District Judge
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