The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orlofsky, District Judge
This § 1983 prison litigation is, incredibly, still in its initial
phases almost four-and-a-half years after the first complaint was filed on
October 17, 1997. This prolonged first act is the result of the hundreds
of constantly evolving Plaintiffs, the impossibility of maintaining the
case as a class action, and the shifting contours of the law applicable
to Plaintiffs' claims. This latest, and presumably last Motion to
Dismiss, presents this Court with two novel questions.
First, I must address whether Plaintiffs are required to meet a
pleading standard more demanding than the one set forth in Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 8(a),*fn1 for claims against individual government
officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Second, I must decide whether the
"grievance procedure" described in the Bayside Prison Inmate Handbook
could or did constitute an "available administrative remedy" for purposes
of the exhaustion requirement contained in the Prison Litigation Reform
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (2000) ("PLRA").
For the reasons that follow, I conclude that the Supreme Court's recent
reiteration of the purpose of the simplified pleading system embodied in
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates the conclusion that
Plaintiffs can not be held to a "heightened pleading standard" for their
§ 1983 claims. I further conclude that the while administrative
remedies described in internal prison documents that are not promulgated
pursuant to a state administrative procedure act may constitute an
"administrative remedy" under the PLRA, the procedures codified in the
Bayside Prison Inmate Handbook were not sufficiently clear, expeditious,
or respected by prison officials to constitute such an administrative
The plaintiffs in this case are hundreds of inmates incarcerated at the
Bayside State Correctional Facility ("Bayside") in Leesburg, New Jersey,
between July 30, 1997 and November 1, 1997. Plaintiffs allege that
following the fatal stabbing of Corrections Officer Fred Baker by Inmate
Steven Beverly on July 30, 1997, a "lock down" was ordered at Bayside,
during which they suffered a panoply of injuries at the hands of
Defendants, in violation of their constitutional rights. See Sixth
Amended Compl. at ¶ 4. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs'
Fifth Amended Complaint*fn2 marks the end of this lengthy prelude to
substantive discovery,*fn3 thus, a brief summary of the case's
procedural history is in order.
Plaintiffs' initial complaint was filed on October 17, 1997. An Amended
Complaint followed quickly thereafter on October 31, 1997. Pursuant to a
Court Order, Plaintiffs' counsel conducted a series of interviews with
Bayside inmates, in order to determine the composition of the Plaintiff
class. See Order of Nov. 16, 1997. Defendants moved to dismiss
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint and Plaintiffs cross-moved to file a Second
Amended Complaint on February 6, 1998. In an Opinion dated September 29,
1998, I granted in part and denied in part both motions. See White v.
Fauver, 19 F. Supp.2d 305 (D.N.J. 1998), abrogated in part by Nyhuis v.
Reno, 204 F.3d 65 (3d Cir. 2000) and Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d 289 (3d
Cir. 2000). Specifically, this Court held: (1) the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) ("PLRA"), did not encompass
complaints of excessive force; (2) the PLRA did not encompass claims of
false disciplinary charges or retaliation for filing suit; (3) the PLRA's
requirement that inmates exhaust administrative remedies before filing
suit did not apply to claims for compensatory and punitive damages where
monetary relief was not available under a state's inmate grievance
procedure; (4) allegations of mere threats do not state a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (5) prison officials were entitled to qualified
immunity with respect to allegations of unconstitutional prison
conditions. I granted Plaintiffs' Motion for leave to file a Second
Amended Complaint, except with regard to the retaliation claim in Count
V, which was denied without prejudice for Plaintiffs' failure to
exhaust administrative remedies. See White, 19 F. Supp.2d
Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint in response to White on
December 22, 1998, and, due to inadvertent omissions, filed a Third
Amended Complaint two days later, on December 24, 1998. Magistrate Judge
Rosen consolidated the separately filed cases for case management
purposes only on December 31, 1998, and amended the caption to read: "In
re: Bayside Prison Litigation." See Order of Dec. 31, 1998.
Plaintiffs moved to certify a class action on September 3, 1999,
seeking to name Plaintiffs Laverna White, Carlos Martinez and Michael
Shontz as class representatives. I denied that motion in an Order dated
April 25, 2000, finding that the Complaint alleged that Plaintiffs
suffered widely varying types of injury at different times and at the
hands of many different defendants, thus, "individual issues
overwhelm[ed] those that might be viewed as common." See Order of Apr.
25, 2000, at 6-8; Memorandum Op., In re: Bayside Prison Litigation, Civ.
A. No. 97-5127 (D.N.J. Apr. 25, 2000).
Defendants filed a Motion to Partially Dismiss Plaintiffs' Third
Amended Complaint on March 22, 1999. While that motion was pending,
Plaintiffs moved for leave to file a Fourth Amended Complaint on July
29, 1999 in order to add approximately 656 new plaintiffs and 228 new
defendants. That motion was granted on September 10, 1999. See Order of
Sept. 10, 1999 (Rosen, J.). On December 2, 1999, this Court ruled on
Defendants' Motion to Partially Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint,
which, due to the interim filing of the substantially similar Fourth
Amended Complaint, was treated as a Motion to Dismiss the Fourth Amended
Complaint. See Order of Dec. 2, 1999, at 4 (Orlofsky, J.). Specifically,
I: (1) denied Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs' allegations of
derogatory name calling and inadequate medical care; and, (2) granted
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the due process claims of Plaintiffs which
alleged that they were coerced into pleading guilty to disciplinary
charges because a writ of habeas corpus is the sole remedy for such
claims. Id. at 7.
After filing a Motion to Partially Dismiss Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended
Complaint on January 31, 2000, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint in its entirety on July 12, 2000.
Defendants argued that recent opinions of the United States Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit, i.e., Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65 (3d Cir.
2000) and Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d 289 (3d Cir. 2000), dictated the
dismissal of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies. In a Bench Opinion, dated November 29, 2000, I
recognized that both Nyhuis and Booth impacted the In re: Bayside Prison
Litigation, because they established, respectively, that there is no
"futility exception" to the PLRA's administrative exhaustion
requirement, and that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement applied to claims
of excessive force. See Bench Op. of Nov. 29, 2000. I denied both motions
on November 29, 2000, however, because of the changing state of the law
governing the issues in the case, and granted Plaintiffs leave to file a
Fifth Amended Complaint that: (1) alleged that each Plaintiff had
exhausted his administrative remedies; (2) removed references to the
First, Fifth and Ninth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and
(3) removed references to malicious destruction of personal property.
See Order of Nov. 29, 2000.
Plaintiffs filed a Fifth Amended Complaint on March 29, 2001.*fn4
moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Fifth Amended Complaint for
failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on October
16, 2001. While that motion was pending, Plaintiffs were given leave to
file a Sixth Amended Complaint, solely to "supply further detail to the
claims already asserted by 42 specific individuals, all named plaintiffs
in the previous complaint." See Order of Dec. 11, 2001 (Rosen, J.). Judge
Rosen's Order also provided that no further amendments to the Complaint
will be allowed. Id. When it was discovered that the Sixth Amended
Complaint added eight new plaintiffs in contravention of Magistrate Judge
Rosen's Order, the Court ordered that those plaintiffs be stricken from
the Sixth Amended Complaint. See Order of Jan. 3, 2002 (Rosen,
J.)(striking Sixth Amended Complaint ¶¶ 187a (Glen Michael Jackson);
232a (William David Mellow); 249a (Joseph Novak); 267a (Edwin Martin
Ranero); 280a (Gerard Roberts); 282c (Ramon Rodriguez); 344a (Charles L.
White); 354a (Channy Young)).
I shall now consider Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Fifth Amended
Complaint. Because the Sixth Amended Complaint is substantially identical
to the Fifth Amended Complaint, and because Defendants have requested
that this Court treat their pending Motion to Dismiss the Fifth Amended
Complaint as their Answer to the Sixth Amended Complaint, see Letter from
Roselli to Magistrate Judge Rosen of Jan. 11, 2002, I shall treat the
pending motion as one to dismiss the Sixth (and final) Amended Complaint.
I have jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
1343. For the reasons set forth below, I will deny in part and grant in
part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, I will: (1) grant
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the § 1985(3) conspiracy claims,
contained in Count IV of Plaintiffs' Sixth Amended Complaint and in Count
III of Williams's Fifth Amended Complaint, of all Plaintiffs, except
those identified in Part III.A.4. infra; and, (2) deny Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss in all other respects.
A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) governs motions to dismiss for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. "In
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may dismiss a complaint if
it appears certain the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support
of its claims which would entitle it to relief." Mruz v. Caring, Inc.,
39 F. Supp.2d 495, 500 (D.N.J. 1999) (Orlofsky, J.) (citing Ransom v.
Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988)). "While all well-pled
allegations are accepted as true and reasonable inferences are drawn in
the plaintiff's favor, the Court may dismiss a complaint where, under any
set of facts which could be shown to be consistent with a complaint, the
plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Id. (citing Gomez v. Toledo,
446 U.S. 635, 636 (1980); Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402, 1405 (3d
Cir. 1991); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir.
1990)); see also Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984);
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Finally, Rule 12(b)(6)
authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on a dispositive issue of law.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989).
B. What Matters Not Contained in the Pleadings May Be Considered on a
Motion to Dismiss Without Conversion to a Motion for Summary
Ordinarily, if, on a motion to dismiss, a party presents matters
outside the pleadings, the District Court must convert the Motion to
Dismiss into a Motion for Summary Judgment, and give all parties a
reasonable opportunity to present all material pertinent to such a motion
under Rule 56. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b); Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 340
(3d Cir. 1989). However, in this Circuit, a District Court may also
consider: (1) matters attached to the complaint, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c);
Arizmendi v. Lawson, 914 F. Supp. 1157, 1160-61 (E.D.Pa. 1996); (2)
matters incorporated into the pleadings by reference, see In re
Westinghouse Sec. Litig., 832 F. Supp. 948, 964 (W.D.Pa. 1993), rev'd on
other grounds, 90 F.3d 696 (3d Cir. 1996); (3) matters of public record,
see Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. White, 998 F.2d 1192, 1196-97 (3d
Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1042 (1994); Caldwell Trucking PRP
Grp. v. Spaulding Composites Co., 90 F. Supp. 1247, 1252 (D.N.J. 1995);
and (4) matters integral to or upon which plaintiff's claim is based.
See In re Donald J. Trump Casino Sec. Litig., 7 F.3d 357, 368 n. 9 (3d
Cir. 1993); Caldwell Trucking, 890 F. Supp. at 1252.
"The primary purpose of Rule 12(b)'s conversion provision is to protect
plaintiffs against, in effect, summary judgment by ambush." See Bostic v.
AT&T of the Virgin Islands, 166 F. Supp.2d 350, 354-55 (D.V.I. 2001)
(Orlofsky, J.)(citing Pension Benefit, 998 F.2d at 1196). Incorporation
of a document which is referenced in a plaintiff's complaint is
especially appropriate where neither party can claim prejudice or
surprise by the court's reliance on the document and where plaintiff's
claim relies solely or substantially on the document's contents. See Cue
Fashions, Inc. v. LJS Distrib., Inc., 807 F. Supp. 334, 336 (S.D.N.Y.
Because both Defendants and Plaintiffs have submitted numerous
documents outside the pleadings in support of and in opposition to the
Motion to Dismiss, I must, as an initial matter, decide which, if any, I
may consider without converting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss into a
Motion for Summary Judgment. Because most of the matters outside the
pleadings that have been submitted arguably fall under the exception for
matters integral to or referenced in Plaintiffs' complaint, I will first
describe the contours of Plaintiffs' Sixth Amended Complaint and
Williams's Fifth Amended Complaint.
In response to this Court's November 19, 2002 Order, Plaintiffs
included paragraphs pertaining to Exhaustion of Remedies in their Sixth
Amended Complaint. See Sixth Amended Compl. at ¶¶ 5-12. In those
paragraphs, Plaintiffs allege that the New Jersey Department of
Corrections ("NJ DOC") has "failed to promulgate a statewide, uniform
administrative grievance procedure that would allow plaintiffs to pursue
an administrative remedy," thus there can be no requirement that the
Plaintiffs exhaust administrative remedies under the PLRA. Id. at ¶
5. Plaintiffs allege that the Administrative Remedy Form ("ARF"),
discussed in the Bayside State Prison handbook, "did not constitute an
available `administrative remedy' within the meaning of the PLRA, because
it was not an administrative scheme promulgated and adopted by the state
Department of Corrections." Id. at ¶ 6. Alternatively, Plaintiffs
allege that, even if the ARF was an administrative remedy, it was not
"available" to Plaintiffs here because Defendants "frightened,
intimidated and deterred [Plaintiffs] from obtaining and filing [ARF's],"
and because the Inmate Handbook instructed that ARF's were not a
substitute for litigation and were inapplicable to claims affecting more
than one inmate. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. Paragraph 9 alleges that New Jersey
statutes and regulations led Plaintiffs to believe that complaints to the
Ombudsman were proper means to register complaints. Id. at ¶ 9.
Paragraphs 10 through 11a, included in response to this Court's Order
that Plaintiffs allege that they have exhausted their administrative
remedies, list those Plaintiffs whose complaints were investigated by
Internal Affairs or who filed ARFs. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11a. Williams's Fifth
Amended Complaint summarily alleges that he has exhausted his
administrative remedies, see Williams Fifth Amended Compl. at ¶ 18,
and that he suffered permanent injuries as a result of the alleged
conduct of Defendants. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 15, 16, 20.
In support of their Motion, Defendants have submitted: (1) this Court's
November 29, 2000 Order; (2) a letter, dated January 18, 2001, from
Plaintiffs' counsel to this Court requesting an additional sixty days to
file the Fifth Amended Complaint; (3) a letter, dated March 27, 2001,
from Plaintiffs' counsel to Judy Gentilini, former Administrative
Assistant at Bayside regarding the filing of Administrative Remedy Forms
by some of the Plaintiffs; (4) a letter, dated March 28, 2001 from
Plaintiffs' counsel to Ms. Gentilini regarding the Administrative Remedy
Form of Plaintiff, Michael Jordan; (5) a letter, dated March 15, 2001
from counsel for Plaintiff, Junius Williams, regarding Williams's
Administrative Remedy Form; and, (6) a list of 380 Plaintiffs identified
in the caption of the Fifth Amended Complaint who do not make specific
allegations in the body of the Complaint. See Certification of Mark M.
Roselli, Esq. in Support of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' Fifth Amended
I conclude that I may consider Item (1) because it is a public record,
and that I may consider Items (3), (4), (5), and (6) because they are
matters integral to Plaintiffs' Sixth Amended Complaint. Item (2) does
not fall under any applicable exception, and ...