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Wesson v. N.J. Dep't of Corrections

July 31, 2008


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


Plaintiff Robert Wesson, a sentenced prisoner who is currently confined at Atlantic County Justice Facility, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.*fn1 Based on his affidavit of poverty, prison account statement, and the absence of three dismissals within 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), the Court (1) grants the application to proceed in forma pauperis; (2) directs the Clerk to file the Complaint; (3) assesses the $350.00 filing fee against Plaintiff; (4) directs the agency having custody of Plaintiff to deduct an initial partial filing fee from Plaintiff's prison account and to forward same to the Clerk of the Court, when funds exist; and (5) directs the agency having custody of Plaintiff to forward payments from Plaintiff's prison account to the Clerk each subsequent month that the amount in the account exceeds $10.00, until the $350.00 filing fee is paid in full. Having screened the Complaint for dismissal, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's federal claims, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint, and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under New Jersey law.


Plaintiff sues the New Jersey Department of Corrections for alleged violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising from his incarceration. He asserts the following facts, which this Court is required to regard as true for the purposes of this review. See Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F. 3d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 2007).

Was being illegally transferred from Atlantic County Justice Facility to (C.R.A.F.) in Trenton N.J. by Department of Corrections (bus) when it made hard stop avoiding a car in front of us. My neck jerked & snapped forward hard, had my hand cuffed to my waist and no seat belt on bus to protect myself.

Neck still hurts to this day, and never got xrays. (Compl. ¶ IV, p. 8.) For relief, Plaintiff seeks "medical attention, $1,000,000 pain & suffering, and punitive damages." (Id. ¶ V, p. 8.)


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 or a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A. 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.

Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint "must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds of the court's jurisdiction . . . ; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Rule 8(d)(1) provides that "[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct. No technical form is required." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d).

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). As for dismissal for failure to state a claim, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently clarified the standard, in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), as follows:

Thus, under our reading, the notice pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2) remains intact, and courts may generally state and apply the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, attentive to context and a[] showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. It remains an acceptable statement of the standard, for example, that courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinker, 292 F. 3d at 374 n.7. See also Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1969 n.8 (citing as consistent with its rejection of the "no set of facts" language the statement that "if, in view of what is alleged, it can reasonably be conceived that the plaintiffs . . . could, upon a trial , establish a case which would entitle them to . . . relief, the motion to dismiss should not have been granted") (citation omitted). * * *

The issues raised by Twombly are not easily resolved, and likely will be a source of controversy for years to come. Therefore, we decline at this point to read Twombly so narrowly as to limit its holding on plausibility to the antitrust context. Reading Twombly to impose a "plausibility" requirement outside the § 1 context, however, leaves us with the question of what it might mean. "Plausibility" is related to the requirement of a Rule 8 "showing." In its general discussion, the Supreme Court explained that the concept of a "showing" requires only notice of a claim and its grounds, and distinguished such a showing from "a pleader's bare averment that he wants relief and is entitled to it." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 n.3. While Rule 12(b)(6) does not permit dismissal of a well-pleaded complaint simply because "it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable," the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 1965.

The Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading state, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element . . . .

The complaint at issue in this case clearly satisfies this pleading standard, making a sufficient showing of enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest ...

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