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Downey v. Doe

July 6, 2007


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


Plaintiff Rodney George Downey seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This Court will reopen the file and grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons expressed below, this Court will dismiss the federal claims asserted in the Complaint, decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under state law, and re-close the file.


Plaintiff asserts violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising from his incarceration at Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey. Plaintiff sues Dr. R.F. Grady, Medical Director of Bergen County Jail, and Dr. John Doe, a physician at the jail. Plaintiff states his claim as follows:

On Wed. July 12, 2006 I saw the Dr. at 8:30 P.M. while I was housed in the medical unit of the Bergen County Jail. At that time I requested pain medicine, having dealt with me in the past I was expecting to receive the same meds that I was getting in the past. But the Dr. decided that for some strange reason that regular tylenol wold work the same as oxycontin and Percocets. See Attached 1. Also saws the Dr. on two more occasions and was told that he would order me something stronger for pain, Monday July 17, 2006, and Tuesday July 18, 2006, needless to say that on all occasions he informed me that he had ordered me something stronger for pain than tylenol. As my medical records will show.

(Compl. ¶ 6.)

Attached to the Complaint are three pages of handwritten notes on a form entitled "Bergen County Sheriff's Detention Center, Medication Order Sheet." Plaintiff is listed as the patient. The notes indicate that OxyContin was prescribed as follows: 60 mg. PO BID on November 4, 2003; 40 mg. PO BID on December 26, 2003; 20 mg. PO BID on January 6, 2004, and January 23, 2004.

For relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that Defendants failed to provide adequate medical attention according to the Eighth Amendment, unspecified injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. ¶ 7.)


The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires the Court, prior to docketing or as soon as practicable after docketing, to review a complaint in a civil action in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The PLRA requires the Court to sua sponte dismiss any claim if the Court determines that it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id.

"A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, U.S. , , 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.' Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson, 127 S.Ct. at 2200 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

A claim is frivolous if it "lacks even an arguable basis in law" or its factual allegations describe "fantastic or delusional scenarios." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989); see also Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990). "Given the Federal Rules' simplified standard for pleading, '[a] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); see also Thomas v. Independence Tp., 463 F.3d 285, 296-97 (3d Cir. 2006); Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 233 n.6 (3d Cir. 2004).


Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Mansfield, C. & L. M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 383 (1884). "[T]hey have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto." Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). A district court may exercise jurisdiction over "Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and ...

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