Lori Parker appeals the District Court's dismissal of a suit against the Bergen County Surrogate's Court ("Surrogate's Court") and several of its employees. We will affirm the District Court's judgment.
Parker, a party in a dispute over a will that her aunt executed two days before she died and which disinherited Parker, filed suit complaining of record tampering by the Surrogate's Court and its employees. She specifically alleged that certain filings, including her response to the estate's motion for summary judgment and her aunt's medical records (she had subpoenaed them to support her own motion for summary judgment), were either removed from the official judicial record or entered into the record after the New Jersey trial judge held a hearing on the motions for summary judgment.
The District Court reviewed Parker's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), dismissed it without prejudice as time-barred, and allowed her to amend her complaint. She filed an amended complaint, which the District Court again dismissed pursuant to § 1915(e)(2) as time-barred, this time without leave to amend because any such amendment would be futile. She timely appealed.
We have jurisdiction over this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.
When screening a complaint under § 1915, a district court may sua sponte dismiss the complaint as untimely under the statute of limitations if the defense is obvious from the complaint and no development of the factual record is required.
The District Court found that the statute of limitations began to accrue in February 2014. That is when, according to Parker's own allegation, "certain irregularities appeared  to begin occurring," specifically that a Surrogate's Court employee "stated she was refusing to file the subpoena and proof of service certifying the notary of the  Will  had been served." Doc. No. 5 at ¶ 30. On August 5, 2016, two years and six months later, Parker filed her complaint. Parker argues, however, that her complaint was timely because her claims did not begin to accrue until either August 8, 2014 or late November 2014. It was on August 8, 2014 that Parker accessed the Surrogate Court's microfilm records and learned, in her estimation, that the medical records had not been filed into the judicial record, and that her response to the estate's motion for summary judgment had been entered into the record after the hearing.
But the face of Parker's amended complaint belies her assertion that she did not become aware of the alleged records tampering until she received a copy of the docket sheet in November 2014. And the Surrogate Court employee's stated refusal in February 2014 to properly file the subpoena and proof of service is not the only indicator that Parker was aware of any purported malfeasance before August 5, 2014 (two years before she filed this suit). In early May 2014, she received a box from the Surrogate's Court with medical records that were meant to be "filed directly into the Record" in support of her April 2014 motion for summary judgment.
Further, even if her complaint had been timely, we are doubtful that it states any claim upon which relief could be granted, as Parker fails to allege any constitutionally cognizable injury arising from the alleged filing issues. To recover under § 1983, "a plaintiff must show that the defendants, acting under color of law, violated the plaintiff's federal constitutional or statutory rights, and thereby caused the complained of injury."
Even if Parker's summary judgment response or the medical records were mishandled, Parker did not suffer the type of harm necessary to state a viable claim under § 1983. As for the summary judgment response, the judge who granted the estate's summary judgment motion indicated that "the Court in fact did have [Parker's] response and considered it prior to the hearing on April 15, 2014." Appellant's Supp. App'x at 4-5.
Finally, Parker's complaint included several claims under federal criminal statutes, but a private party has no right to enforce criminal statutes.
Consequently, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court.