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Alshuski v. Cumberland County Freeholders

August 8, 2008

FRANK ALSHUSKI, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CUMBERLAND COUNTY FREEHOLDERS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff Frank Alshuski, Jr., a sentenced prisoner who is currently confined at South Woods State Prison, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. 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 New Jersey Department of Corrections 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 New Jersey Department of Corrections 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. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff sues Cumberland County Freeholder Glenn Nickerson and the other Cumberland County Freeholders for alleged violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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). Plaintiff alleges that the Violent Crimes Compensation Board loses approximately $72,000 per year by selling commissary items to inmates only twice per month, rather than four times per month. Plaintiff asserts that he has written at least seven letters to defendants informing them of this lost financial opportunity and asking why money is deducted from his prison account seven days before he receives the items. Plaintiff maintains that it would be more efficient to process a commissary order the day after it is received, and to make deliveries the following day. Plaintiff states he received no response to his letters. In addition, Plaintiff alleges:

Health Reason. I have to go at least 7 extra days without soap, vitamins, aspirins, right now I have no toilet tissue, we are suppose to receive tissue 3 days from now. unsanitary.

(Compl. p. 2.)

For relief, Plaintiff seeks "to make a mandate for commissary privileges to be once every week." (Id. p. 9.)

II. STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

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 ...


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