The opinion of the court was delivered by: JEROME SIMANDLE, District Judge
Plaintiff, Bernard Warner ("Warner"), currently confined at the
Burlington County Detention Center in Mount Holly, New Jersey,
seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915. Based on his affidavit of indigence and
accompanying account statement, the Court grants Warner's
application to proceed in forma pauperis and directs the
Clerk of the Court to file the complaint without pre-payment of
the filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), (b).
Having reviewed the complaint to identify cognizable claims as
required under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court
concludes that the Complaint should proceed in part. I. BACKGROUND
Warner brings this civil rights action, pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: Lt. Richard Sweeney of
the Burlington Township Police Department ("BTPD"); Detective
Stephen Craig of the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office;
Detective Deanna Kuzob of the BTPD; Patrol Officer Charles J.
Zelaukas of the BTPD; and Liesel Cunningham, the alleged victim.
(Complaint, Caption, ¶ 4). The following factual allegations are
taken from the Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of
On February 25, 2005, an elderly white female, defendant
Cunningham, was attacked in her home. Defendant, Lt. Sweeney,
apprehended plaintiff several blocks from the crime scene. Warner
alleges that Lt. Sweeney lied about probable cause to arrest him
and that defendant also illegally seized plaintiff's wallet and
jeans from the unlocked garage of plaintiff's girlfriend. Warner
further alleges that Lt. Sweeney lied about finding the wallet on
Warner and that Sweeney tainted plaintiff's jeans with the
victim's blood. (Compl., ¶¶ 4, 6).
Warner next claims that defendants, Det. Craig and Det. Kuzob,
ignored plaintiff's requests for an attorney, to make a phone
call, and to use the bathroom. Warner contends that the
defendants ignored these requests to force plaintiff to make a
confession. He also states that Det. Kuzob maced plaintiff, and then denied plaintiff's request to use the bathroom to wash his
eyes. (Compl., ¶¶ 4, 6).
Warner further alleges that defendant, Patrolman Zelaukas, was
in charge of the crime scene log and observed Lt. Sweeney plant
tainted evidence without stopping him. Plaintiff contends that
Zelaukas let others into the crime scene unit, which served to
compromise the integrity of the evidence. (Compl., ¶¶ 4, 6).
Finally, plaintiff asserts that the victim, Ms. Cunningham lied
about plaintiff's involvement in the attack, and made slanderous
statements about plaintiff. (Compl., ¶¶ 4, 6).
Warner seeks monetary damages from these defendants for their
public humiliation of him, and for wrongful imprisonment. He also
seeks to have it noted on record that he is innocent of all
charges. (Compl., ¶ 7).
II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub.L. No. 1041-34,
§§ 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.
A complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989) (interpreting the predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former
§ 1915(d)). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint is
"frivolous" is an objective one. Deutsch v. United States,
67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995). A pro se complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a
claim only if it appears "`beyond doubt that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle
him to relief.'" Haines, 404 U.S. at 521 (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); Milhouse v. Carlson,
652 F.2d 371, 373 (3d Cir. 1981). However, where a complaint can be
remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss the
complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment. Denton
v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 34 (1992); Alston v. Parker,
363 F.3d 229 (3d Cir. 2004) (complaint that satisfied notice pleading
requirement that it contain short, plain statement of the claim
but lacked sufficient detail to function as a guide to discovery
was not required to be dismissed for failure to state a claim;
district court should permit a curative amendment before
dismissing a complaint, unless an amendment would be futile or
inequitable); Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103,
108 (3d Cir. 2002) (dismissal pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir.
2000) (dismissal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Urrutia
v. Harrisburg County Police Dept., 91 F.3d 451, 453 (3d Cir.
1996). III. SECTION 1983 ACTIONS
Warner brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of his civil rights guaranteed under the United States
Constitution. 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, ...