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Christy v. Hayman

February 1, 2008

MICHAEL CHRISTY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GEORGE W. HAYMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jerome B. Simandle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

It appearing that:

1. On October 24, 2007, this Court received Plaintiff's complaint ("Complaint"), together with Plaintiff's application to prosecute this matter in forma pauperis consisting solely of Plaintiff's affidavit of poverty. See Docket Entry No. 1.

2. If a prisoner seeks permission to file a civil rights complaint in forma pauperis, the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires the prisoner to file an affidavit of poverty and a prison account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2).

3. By Order entered December 6, 2007, this Court denied Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis without prejudice and administratively terminated the action on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to submit an in forma pauperis application executed in accordance with the requirements posed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) or to pre-pay the $350.00 filing fee. See Docket Entry No. 3. The Order provided that Plaintiff may have the above entitled case reopened if, within 30 days of the date of the entry of the Order, Plaintiff either pre-paid the $350.00 filing fee or filed an in forma pauperis application executed in accordance with the requirements posed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). See id.

4. On December 19, 2007, the Clerk received from Plaintiff his new application to proceed in forma pauperis. See Docket Entry No. 5. This Court, consequently, directed the Clerk to reopen this matter.

5. In 1996, Congress enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Title VIII of the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (April 26, 1996). Congress's purpose in enacting the PLRA was "primarily to curtail claims brought by prisoners under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Federal Tort Claims Act . . . many of which are routinely dismissed as legally frivolous." Santana v. United States, 98 F.3d 752, 755 (3d Cir. 1996). A crucial part of the congressional plan for curtailing meritless prisoner suits is the requirement, embodied in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b), that a court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, any prisoner actions that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from immune defendants.

However, in determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court should "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and 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, lend credit to a pro se plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Id. Thus, "[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.'" Milhouse v. Carlson, 652 F.2d 371, 373 (3d Cir. 1981) (quoting Haines, 404 U.S. at 520).

6. Plaintiff's Complaint names two Defendants: Commissioner George Hayman of New Jersey Department of Corrections and Charman Peter Barnes of New Jersey Parole Board. See Docket Entry No. 1, caption. With respect to both Defendants, Plaintiff alleges that they "wiped out [Plaintiff's jail] credits and [are] forcing [Plaintiff] to do more prison time than established." Id. ¶¶4(b) and (c).

7. Specifying the remedies Plaintiff is seeking to obtain, the Complaint states as follows: "Plaintiff is seeking judgment . . . order[ing] jail credits . . . restor[ed in the amount] of 174 days [as well as an] order [to] the Parole Board to give [Plaintiff parole eligibility date] reflecting 174 days [of] jail credit and 46 days [of] good[-]time credit." Id. ¶ 7.

8. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Mansfield, C. & L. M. R. 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 Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority." U.S. Const. art. III., § 2; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code authorizes a person such as Plaintiff to seek redress for a violation of his federal civil rights by a person who was acting under color of state law. 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.

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

To recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 152 (1970); Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1107 (3d Cir. 1989). "When evaluating a claim brought under § 1983, we must first 'identify the exact contours of the underlying right said to have been violated' in order to determine 'whether [plaintiff] has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right at all." Natale v. Camden County Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, ...


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