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MARQUEZ v. NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH & FAMILY SERVICES

September 16, 2005.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, et al. Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM BASSLER, District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff Miguel Marquez ("Marquez"), confined at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, New Jersey ("ADTC"), seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (1998), and moves for certification of this matter as a class action and appointment of counsel. The Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and direct the Clerk to file the Complaint without prepayment of fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Having thoroughly reviewed Plaintiff's allegations, the Court will dismiss the Complaint as against the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, the Governor of New Jersey, and Correctional Medical Services, Inc., for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)and 1915A(b)(1)) and permit the Complaint to proceed at this time as against the remaining Defendants.

  I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn1 for alleged violations of his rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Defendants are Devon Brown, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC"); the Governor of New Jersey (listed as James McGreevey); Grace Rogers, Administrator of the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center ("ADTC") in Avenel, New Jersey; T.E. Diller and John Dale, an internal affairs investigation team; Correctional Medical Services, Inc. ("CMS"), a provider of medical services for the NJDOC; Nancy Graffin, head of the Health Sevice Unit and Psychological Services for the ADTC; and John Doe Defendants. (Compl., Caption and ¶¶ 3-13.)

  Plaintiff asserts the following facts: On December 12, 2001, he arrived at the ADTC for specialized treatment after serving a part of a state criminal sentence imposed on September 30, 1994. (Compl., ¶ 14.) He began a treatment program, participating in psychotherapy and educational process groups and completing "such additional modules as: Victim Empathy, Personal Victimization, Anger Management, Social Skills, Relationship Group, Relapse Prevention One and Arousal Reconditioning." (Id., ¶ 15.) Plaintiff allegedly also participated in a number of ancillary groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. (Id., ¶ 16.) He was given a job as a wing worker on December 19, 2001. (Id., ¶ 17.) Plaintiff became a wing representative for the 7R wing in February, 2003. (Id., ¶ 18.) According to Plaintiff, his reviews concluded that he showed continuing "strength and developmental growth." (Id., ¶ 20.) According to Plaintiff, he "would be amenable for parole without the stipulation of minimum sentencing that is indicated within his prison sentence." (Id., ¶ 21.)

  In light of the aforesaid factual background, Plaintiff appears to assert the following claims: (1) a liberty interest existed upon his referral to the ADTC, and he had no opportunity to challenge that referral in view of the threat to his life posed by transfer to the ADTC; (2) absence of guidelines and regulations respecting transfer in light of the danger to Plaintiff's life; (3) use of unqualified personnel in making release, transfer, and therapeutic decisions; (4) violations with regard to discharge plans, and other violations of state law; (5)impermissibly differential treatment of similarly situated inmates with respect to transfer; (6) arbitrary and capricious actions with regard to the release process, evaluations, and reports; (7) unconstitutional policies, practices, and/or customs of state entities. (Compl., Counts 1-4); and (8) failure to protect him from harm; and (9) constitutionally inadequate medical care.

  II. DISCUSSION

  The Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66, 1321-77 (1996), requires the Court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis and to 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. § 19159(e)(2)(B). A. Standard for Dismissal

  Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); accord Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993). Plaintiff is "required to `set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist.'" Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357, at 340 (2d ed. 1990)). The Court "must determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff? may be entitled to relief, and . . . must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom." Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing Holder v. Allentown, 987 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1993)); Eli Lily & Co. v. Roussel Corp., 23 F. Supp.2d 460, 474 (D.N.J. 1998) (citing Nami and Holder).

  A pro se complaint is held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Then v. I.N.S., 58 F. Supp.2d 422, 429 (D.N.J. 1999), aff'd sub nom. Then v. Quarantino, 208 F.3d 206 (3d Cir. 2000). "Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stage of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant" and give "credit to the allegations of the complaint as they appear? in the complaint." Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83, 86 (3d Cir. 1997); see also Kulwicki v. Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1462 (3d Cir. 1992). But a court need not credit a complaint's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" when deciding whether dismissal is appropriate. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); see also Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993) ("[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss."). "When it appears beyond doubt that no relief could be granted under any set of facts which could be proved consistent with the allegations of the complaint, a dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is proper." Robinson v. Fauver, 932 F. Supp. 639, 642 (D.N.J. 1996) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).

  Section 1983 of Title 42 does not confer substantive rights, but provides a remedy for the deprivation of rights protected by federal law. Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985); see also Sameric Corp. of Delaware, Inc. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 590 (3d Cir. 1998). To establish a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the challenged conduct was committed by a person acting under color of state law and that the conduct deprived him of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48-49 (1988); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 152 (1970); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994); Shaw v. Stackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990).

  Plaintiff also must assert and prove some causal connection between a Defendant and the alleged wrongdoing in order to recover against that Defendant. See Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977); Lee-Patterson v. New Jersey Transit Bus Operations, Inc., 957 F. Supp. 1391, 1401-02 (D.N.J. 1997). "A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior." Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Parratt, 451 U.S. at 537 n. 3). Causal connection is shown where a Defendant (1) participated in violating Plaintiff's rights; (2) directed others to violate them; (3) as the person in charge, had knowledge of and acquiesced in his subordinates' violations; or (4) tolerated past or ongoing misbehavior. Friedland v. Fauver, 6 F. Supp.2d. 292, 302-03 (D.N.J. 1998) (citing Baker v. Monroe Tp., 50 F.3d 1186, 1190-91 & n. 3 (3d Cir. 1995)). The Court will now determine whether dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) is warranted.

  B. Medical Care Claim

  In order to recover damages and obtain other relief, Plaintiff must show that Defendants demonstrated "deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." See Durmer v. O'Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 67 (3d Cir. 1993); Boring v. Kozakiewicz, 833 F.2d 468, 471 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 991 (1988). He must show (1) that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and (2) that ...


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