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WATSON v. DOE

May 10, 2005.

MARVIN WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN DOE, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOEL PISANO, District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff, Marvin Watson ("Watson"), confined at the U.S.P. Allenwood in White Deer, Pennsylvania, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Based on plaintiff's affidavit of indigence and his prison account statements, it appears that plaintiff is qualified to proceed as an indigent. Therefore, the Court will grant plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and direct the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint without pre-payment of the filing fee. Having reviewed the Complaint to identify cognizable claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court concludes that the Complaint should be dismissed as time-barred.

  I. BACKGROUND

  Watson brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against New Jersey State Trooper John Doe of the New Jersey State Police, and against the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Police. (Complaint, Caption). The following factual allegations are taken from the Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this review.

  On or about October 18, 1995, plaintiff alleges that the vehicle in which he was a passenger was stopped and searched by Trooper Doe for no apparent reason other than the fact that the occupants of the vehicle were Black. As a result of this allegedly unlawful stop and search, Watson was arrested and convicted. The conviction was reversed and vacated by a New Jersey court on March 11, 1999.

  Watson seeks damages in the amount of $250,000.00.

  II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

  The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub.L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires a district court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis or seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. The Court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, 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. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A.*fn1

  In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The Court need not, however, credit a pro se plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Id. III. SECTION 1983 LIABILITY

  Watson brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging 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. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994).

  Here, Watson names the New Jersey State Police and the State of New Jersey as defendants. However, the Eleventh Amendment*fn2 protects states and their agencies and departments from suit in federal court regardless of the type of relief sought. Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). Similarly, absent consent by a state, the Eleventh Amendment bars federal court suits for money damages against state officers in their official capacities. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985). Section 1983 does not override a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979).

  In addition, neither states, nor governmental entities that are considered arms of the state for Eleventh Amendment purposes, nor state officers sued in their official capacities for money damages are persons within the meaning of § 1983. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64, 70-71 and n. 10 (1989); Grabow v. Southern State Correctional Facility, 726 F.Supp. 537, 538-39 (D.N.J. 1989) (the New Jersey Department of Corrections is not a person under § 1983). Thus, all damages claims asserted by Watson against the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Police must be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1).

  IV. ANALYSIS

  As to the remaining defendant, State Trooper John Doe, the Court construes the allegations of the Complaint most liberally for the pro se plaintiff, and finds that the Complaint alleges a claim of racial profiling and false arrest in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth ...


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