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WOODSON v. FERGUSON

September 23, 2005.

LEON WOODSON, Plaintiff,
v.
GLEN FERGUSON, et al., Defendants.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff, Leon Woodson ("Woodson"), currently confined at the Northern Regional Unit ("NRU") in Kearny, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Based on his affidavit of indigence, the Court will grant Woodson's application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint. At this time, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.*fn2 For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the Complaint should be dismissed.*fn3

  I. BACKGROUND

  The following factual allegations are taken from the Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this review.

  Woodson brings this § 1983 action against defendants, Dr. Glenn Ferguson and Dr. Merrill Mean. Dr. Ferguson is the Clinical Director at the Special Treatment Unit ("STU") in the NRU in Kearny, New Jersey. Dr. Mean is a psychologist and a member of plaintiff's treatment team at the STU.

  Woodson alleges that, on November 19, 2002, Dr. Ferguson violated plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to protect Woodson from harm. Specifically, Woodson was assaulted on that date by three residents as Woodson lay in bed watching television. He was taken to St. Francis Hospital for treatment of his injuries. Woodson alleges that Dr. Ferguson was aware of the residents' violent behavior from past disciplinary proceedings, but failed to take the appropriate safety and preventative measures to keep such conduct from happening again. Thereafter, Woodson was placed on involuntary protective custody and sent to a lock-up cage. (Complaint, ¶¶ 4b, 6).

  Woodson also relates that he came to the STU in 1999. At that time, he had participated in a treatment orientation with Dr. Ferguson in which Dr. Ferguson handed out lessons to the residents. Woodson looked at the lesson and attempted to hand it back to Dr. Ferguson. Dr. Ferguson gave a forceful push of his hand, as a show of force to plaintiff. (Compl., ¶ 4b).

  Next, Woodson alleges that Dr. Mean unlawfully restrained plaintiff and placed him in a stripped room in the lock-up area on November 24, 2003. Woodson contends that Dr. Mean's actions were done with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's civil rights, and for the purpose of punishment without reason. (Compl., ¶¶ 4c, 6).

  Woodson seeks monetary damages in the amount of $50,000.00. He also asserts supplemental state law claims under New Jersey's civil rights act for civilly committed persons, N.J.S.A. 30:4-24; New Jersey's Patients Bill of Rights, N.J.S.A. 30:4-24.2; medical negligence; and violations of New Jersey's constitutional right to adequate mental health treatment. Finally, Woodson asserts a general claim under the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Rehabilitation Act based on defendant's failure to reasonably accommodate plaintiff's handicap and denying treatment for health and mental illnesses.

  II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

  This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions).

  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 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). 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

  A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain 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 ...


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