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Vazquez v. Brown

March 18, 2008


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

[relates to Docket Items 64 and 65]


This matter is before the Court upon two motions submitted by Plaintiff, pro se, who is a prisoner at Riverfront State Prison. In his first motion [Docket Item 64], Plaintiff requests that the Court impose sanctions on the New Jersey Attorney General's office pursuant to Rule 11, F. R. Civ. P., and hold attorneys from that office in civil and criminal contempt for alleged misconduct committed earlier in this litigation. In that motion, Plaintiff also requests that the Court enter an order preliminarily enjoining various Defendants and non-parties from violating his constitutional rights. In his second motion [Docket Item 65], Plaintiff requests that the undersigned recuse himself from further consideration of this case on account of the alleged bias of the undersigned. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motions for sanctions, contempt and recusal. Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction will be dismissed without prejudice to refiling in accordance with the considerations set forth in this Opinion.


A. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on November 26, 2003, alleging that on numerous occasions a long list of defendants had violated his civil rights during his incarceration at multiple correctional facilities operated by the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC"). The facts underlying Plaintiff's claims, taken primarily from his Complaint, are as follows. Plaintiff was confined at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility ("GSYCF") from November 28, 1999 through January 10, 2002. (Docket Item 34 at 5.) In 1999, during his incarceration at GSYCF, Plaintiff filed a separate civil rights complaint alleging that he had been denied access to certain religious articles in violation of his First Amendment rights.*fn1 See Vazquez v. Burns, D.N.J. Civil Action No. 99-2589 (GEB). According to the Complaint, while Vazquez v. Burns was pending, Defendant Brian Bonomo, an employee of GSYCF, filed false disciplinary reports against Plaintiff and threatened Plaintiff's life, acts which Plaintiff alleges were committed as retaliation against Plaintiff to punish Plaintiff for pursuing his claims in Vazquez v. Burns. (Compl., Parties Section, ¶ 6.)

Plaintiff was transferred from GSYCF to the Administrative Close Segregation Unit ("ACSU") at East Jersey State Prison ("EJSP") on January 10, 2002, where he was confined until November 6, 2002. (Docket Item 34 at 5-6.) Plaintiff alleges that after he was transferred, Defendants Michael Powers, C. Offei, and T.V. Davis -- all of whom are employed by EJSP -- unconstitutionally deprived Plaintiff of certain religious articles and legal materials. (Compl., Parties Section, ¶¶ 9-11.)

On November 6, 2002, Plaintiff was transferred from EJSP to Bayside State Prison ("BSP"), where he was confined until May 7, 2003. (Docket Item 34 at 6.) According to Plaintiff, after he was transferred to BSP, Defendant Rina Terry unconstitutionally deprived him of certain religious articles, including a religious book. (Compl., Statement of Claims, ¶ 52.) Plaintiff further claims that while he was incarcerated at BSP, he submitted request forms on April 2, 2003 and April 14, 2003, for use of the law library and legal materials, but that his requests were denied. (Id. at ¶ 56.) Two days later, on April 16, 2003, Plaintiff was brought to "central control," where Defendant Georgescu yelled at Plaintiff, threatened him with disciplinary action, and ordered him never to enter the prison chapel or law library again. (Id. at ¶ 58.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Georgescu also wished Plaintiff a "happy Easter" in order to mock Plaintiff's religious beliefs, and indicated that if Plaintiff spoke about these matters he would be killed. (Id. at ¶¶ 58-60.) Plaintiff also claims that he was assaulted by Defendant Georgescu, as well as Defendants Caldwell, Cotto, and Bailey, on multiple occasions. (Id. at ¶¶ 68-70.)

Plaintiff was transferred from BSP to the ACSU at New Jersey State Prison ("NJSP") on May 7, 2003. (Docket Item 34 at 7.) Plaintiff alleges that on May 8, 2003, he submitted an Inmate Request Form to Defendant Atchison concerning his religious practices and articles but received no response. (Compl., Statement of Claims, ¶ 80.) Plaintiff claims that he made a similar request for legal supplies, to which he likewise received no response. (Id. at ¶ 86.) He filed a Complaint in this matter on November 26, 2003 to seek redress for this series of alleged civil rights violations.

B. Proceedings Before this Court

On February 9, 2004, Chief Judge Bissell entered an Order granting Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissing with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against Judge Brown and District Court Supervising Deputy Clerk Michael Shanklin. (Docket Item 3.) On June 23, 2004, this Court ordered the Clerk of Court to correct the docket to reflect Brian Bonomo as an additional defendant and, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, dismissed with prejudice those claims which failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted.*fn2

Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss and/or for summary judgment, arguing as to the majority of his claims that Plaintiff had not exhausted his administrative remedies as the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") requires of all "action[s] . . . brought [by prisoners] with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). In its December 17, 2004 Opinion and Order (the "December 2004 Opinion and Order"), the Court found that the record demonstrates that Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies only with respect to his allegations of retaliation, as set forth in paragraphs six of the Parties section and paragraph twelve of the Statement of Claims of Plaintiff's Complaint. However, Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies with respect to all other claims raised herein, particularly his claims that he was threatened by staff at GSYCF.

(Docket Item 34 at 17.) The Court then noted that courts in this district and "in other jurisdictions confronted with complaints involving both exhausted and unexhausted claims have held that the entire case should be dismissed." (Id. at 11-12) (citing Rivera v. Whitman, 161 F. Supp. 2d 337, 341 (D.N.J. 2001), rev'd on other grounds, Ray v. Kertes, 285 F. 3d 287, 293 n.6 (3d Cir. 2002); Keenan v. Twommey, 229 F.3d 1152 (6th Cir. 2000); Graves v. Norris, 218 F.3d 884 (8th Cir. 2000)). Based on this authority, the Court dismissed the action without prejudice to give Vazquez the opportunity to administratively grieve his unexhausted claims, or to abandon his ...

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