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Yuson v. Sherrer

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


August 20, 1999

MORRIS B. YUSON,
PLAINTIFF,
V.
LYDELL SHERRER,
DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle U.S. District Judge

HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

SIMANDLE, District Judge

This matter is before the court on the motion of defendant, Lydell Sherrer, to dismiss plaintiff Morris B. Yuson's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Because the court has already determined that Yuson has adequately pleaded a claim upon which relief can be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on the alleged conditions of his confinement between October 21, 1997 and November 17, 1997, the court denies defendant's motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Sherrer, is the Assistant Superintendent of Northern State Prison, where Yuson was incarcerated at the time of the events giving rise to this civil action. Yuson alleges that on October 21, 1997, Sherrer moved him from the general population at Northern State Prison to a detention cell, where he remained until November 17, 1997. (Complaint at ¶ 8.) Yuson claims that the cell was cold and dirty, that "yellow water stuff" was running down the walls, that he was given no pillow or blankets, and that he was forced to wear the same boxer shorts, T-shirt and socks for the duration of his confinement in the detention cell. (Id.) Yuson further claims that prison officials would not supply him with any hygienic items or cleaning supplies, thereby forcing him to live, eat and sleep in an unsanitary cell. (Id.) Additionally, Yuson claims that prison officials denied him access to his personal and legal property and the use of a telephone and the law library during the period of his confinement in the detention cell. (Id.) Yuson also claims prison officials ignored his complaints of a broken tooth and denied him dental and medical attention during the period of his confinement in the detention cell. (Id.) Finally, Yuson claims that prison officials responded to his attempts to submit administrative remedy forms concerning his situation with verbal abuse and threats. (Id.)

Yuson was transferred to Bayside State Prison on December 13, 1997. (Id.) Yuson claims to have discovered upon the delivery of his personal property to Bayside State Prison that prison officials at Northern State Prison lost or confiscated items belonging to him. (Id.)

Yuson commenced this action by filing a Complaint and an application to proceed in forma pauperis on August 18, 1998. In an Opinion and Order filed on September 9, 1998, the court evaluated the sufficiency of the allegations contained in the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b). The court determined that Yuson had adequately pleaded a claim that the conditions of confinement to which he was subjected between October 21, 1997 and November 17, 1997 violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, but dismissed his claim that he was deprived of his personal property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Sherrer now moves under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss Yuson's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard on Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted does not attack the merits of the case, but merely tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the reviewing court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). In considering the motion, a district court must also accept as true any and all reasonable inferences derived from those facts. Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 (3d Cir. 1994). A court may not dismiss the complaint "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

The question before the court is not whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail; rather, it is whether they can prove any set of facts in support of their claims that would entitle them to relief. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). However, while the rules do not dictate that a "claimant set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3, 104 S. Ct. 1723, 80 L. Ed. 2d 196 (1984) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47).

B. Analysis

When the court evaluated Yuson's Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b), the court construed the pleading as containing two claims: (1) that the conditions of confinement to which he was subjected between October 21, 1997 and November 17, 1997 violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment; and (2) that he was deprived of his personal property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In an Opinion and Order filed on September 9, 1998, the court ruled that Yuson had adequately pleaded a claim that the conditions of confinement to which he was subjected between October 21, 1997 and November 17, 1997 violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, but dismissed his claim that he was deprived of his personal property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

To the extent Sherrer seeks reconsideration of the court's September 9, 1998 ruling that Yuson has adequately pleaded a claim that the conditions of confinement to which he was subjected between October 21, 1997 and November 17, 1997 violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in the instant Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court denies Sherrer's motion. The court is satisfied that if Yuson proves the facts alleged in his Complaint, he may be entitled to relief on this claim.

The court agrees, however, that Yuson has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for violation of his due process rights simply because he was placed in segregated detention or for violation of his right of access to the courts simply because he was denied access to a telephone and/or the law library during the period of his detention. Indeed, as noted above, the court did not construe Yuson's Complaint as containing such claims in the first place. Thus, to the extent Sherrer seeks to dismiss these claims under Rule 12(b)(6), the court grants Sherrer's motion.

Sherrer also contends that he is entitled to dismissal of Yuson's Complaint in its entirety because Yuson has not alleged sufficient personal involvement by Sherrer in the alleged violations of his constitutional rights, citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207-08 (3d Cir. 1988). The court does not agree. Rode involved a claim by a civilian employee of the Pennsylvania State Police that she had been unlawfully suspended from employment for several days and that her duties and working conditions had been impermissible altered. Id. at 1197. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's claims against the governor and the attorney general of Pennsylvania, who had no personal involvement in or knowledge of the adverse employment action taken against the plaintiff. Id. at 1208. In contrast, Yuson alleges that Sherrer was personally involved in the alleged violations of his civil rights insofar as it was Sherrer who personally ordered Yuson's confinement in an allegedly filthy and cold cell without a blanket or pillow, without a change of clothes, and without medical attention or access to the telephone or law library for 27 days. "Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence." Id. Accepting Yuson's allegations as true, construing them in the light most favorable to Yuson, and giving Yuson the benefit of all reasonable inferences, as the court must on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court finds that the Complaint adequately states a claim against Sherrer in his personal capacity.

CONCLUSION

For these reasons, the court grants in part and denies in part Sherrer's motion to dismiss Yuson's Complaint. The court grants Sherrer's motion to dismiss any claim asserted in the Complaint other than Yuson's claim that the conditions of confinement to which he was subjected between October 21, 1997 and November 17, 1997 violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The court denies Sherrer's motion in all other respects. The accompanying Order is entered.

ORDER

THIS MATTER having come before the court on the motion of defendant, Lydell Sherrer, to dismiss plaintiff Morris B. Yuson's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the court having considered the submissions of the parties, and for the reasons expressed in the accompanying Opinion;

IT IS on this 20th day of August, 1999, hereby ORDERED that Sherrer's motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as follows:

1. The court grants Sherrer's motion to dismiss any claim asserted in the Complaint other than Yuson's claim that the conditions of confinement to which he was subjected between October 21, 1997 and November 17, 1997 violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment; and

2. The court denies Sherrer's motion in all other respects.

JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. District Judge

19990820

© 2000 VersusLaw Inc.



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