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Brandon v. Warden

April 27, 2006

RE: JOSEPH BRANDON
v.
WARDEN, NORTHERN STATE PRISON, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge

LETTER OPINION

Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court on State Defendant Lydell Sherrer's Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 56, seeking to dismiss pro-se Plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety. Also before the Court is State Defendant Special Investigations Division of the New Jersey Department of Corrections'("SID")12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. Both motions are unopposed. The Court adjudicates this matter on the papers. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motions are both GRANTED and Plaintiffs' complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Pro-se Plaintiff Joseph Brandon is an inmate currently incarcerated at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey. From March 9, 2005 to July 25, 2005, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey ("NSP"). Brandon was previously incarcerated at NSP from December 3, 1999 to February 15, 2000 and also from September 20, 2000 to January 31, 2002. On June 14, 2005, Plaintiff filed this complaint pro-se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 naming "Warden Northern State Prison" and "Internal Affairs Northern State Prison" as defendants.*fn1 Defendant Lydell B. Sherrer is the NSP Warden to whom the Complaint referred. (Def. Sherrer's Brief at 2.)

Although, Plaintiff's Complaint is not particularly clear, it appears that Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a serious mental illness and that, upon his arrival at NSP, he advised officials that he should not be placed at NSP based on events that occurred during his prior stays at NSP. (Compl. at 6.) He alleges that, despite his requests, he was placed in the NSP population where he was physically and emotionally abused by inmates and corrections officers including physical abuse, emotional abuse, nourishment abuse and mental neglect. (Id.)

Prior to commencing this action, Plaintiff utilized NSP's internal grievance procedures and filed several Administrative Request Forms (ARFs) and Interview Request Forms (IRFs). These forms were submitted by State Defendant Sherrer with his Motion for Dismissal/Summary Judgment. (Ex. C. to Aff. of Peggy Brooks) On April 12, 2005, Plaintiff submitted an ARF seeking, in relevant part, new clothing. NSP administrator Peggy Brooks forwarded the request to Sergeant Joe Sorbino, who confirmed that Brandon received new clothing and linens on his arrival at NSP. (Aff. of Joseph Sorbino ¶5.) As noted on May 10, 2005 in the response area of the ARF, "inmate Brandon interviewed stated he no longer had any complaints." (Ex. C. to Aff. of Peggy Brooks); this response was approved and signed by Defendant Sherrer (Aff. of Lydell B. Sherrer ¶ 4; Oct. 24, 2005 Stmt. of Mat. Facts ¶ 11.) On May 1, 2005, Plaintiff submitted another ARF asserting, in relevant part, that he required a transfer to Southwoods State Prison because he has "special needs" requiring an "R.T.U. unit," and was the recipient of certain (unspecified) threats. (Id.) Then, on May 2, 2005, Plaintiff submitted an IRF further expressing a concern for his safety and now alleging he was attacked by two other inmates with gang affiliations. He again requested a transfer to Southwoods. (Id.). Brooks received the May 2, 2005 form on May 4, 2005 and, with the signed approval of Defendant Sherrer, the matter was referred to Defendant SID for investigation. (Aff. of Peggy Brooks ¶10; Id. at Ex. C.)

Plaintiff filed the Complaint on June 14, 2005 seeking unspecified financial relief, mental counseling, and "family relief" for deprivation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant Sherrer's Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment was filed on October 24, 2005. On January 18, 2006, Defendant SID (as Internal Affairs, Northern State Prison) moved for an extension to file its answer out of time; Magistrate Judge Hedges order granting the motion was entered on February 9, 2006. Defendant SID's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint was filed on March 8, 2006.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Dismissal Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) all allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc., v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court may consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the plaintiff's claims are based upon those documents. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, when a document attached to the motion to dismiss, but not submitted with the complaint, is undisputed and authentic and the basis for the plaintiff's claims, a court may consider such a document. Pension Benefit, 998 F.2d at 1196. Likewise, a document attached by a defendant to a motion to dismiss is considered part of the pleading if it is referred to in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's claims. See Pryor v. NCAA, 288 F.3d 548, 559-60 (3d Cir. 2002).

If, after viewing the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it appears beyond doubt that no relief could be granted "under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations," a court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Zynn v. O'Donnell, 688 F.2d 940, 941 (3d Cir. 1982). Moreover, when a motion to dismiss involves a pro-se plaintiff, the court must "find that it is clear 'beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Zynn v. O'Donnell, 688 F.2d at 941 (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972)).

B. Standard for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Rule 56

Summary judgment eliminates unfounded claims without resorting to a costly and lengthy trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). However, a court should grant summary judgment only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests initially on the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. A litigant may discharge this burden by exposing "the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. In evaluating a summary judgment motion, a court must view all ...


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