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Jackson v. Grondolsky

August 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Noel L. Hillman United States District Judge


This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's filing of his in forma pauperis application, see Docket Entry No. 4, together with Plaintiff's amended complaint, see Docket Entry No. 4-2, and it appearing that:

1. On February 26, 2009, the Clerk received Plaintiff's petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Jackson v. Grondolsky, 09-0853 (NLH), Docket Entry No. 1. On March 10, 2009, this Court issued an order ("March Order") and accompanying opinion: (a) dismissing the petition for lack of jurisdiction; (b) determining that Plaintiff's allegations raised challenges that should be raised in a civil complaint, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971); (c) construing, accordingly, Plaintiff's petition as a civil complaint subject to docketing in a new and separate action, which is the instant matter; and (d) noting that the filing fee for a civil rights complaint is $350.00 and the consequences of an inmate's decision to seek permission to file a civil rights complaint in forma pauperis. See Jackson v. Grondolsky, 09-0853 (NLH), Docket Entries Nos. 2 and 3. On March 25, 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of this Court's March Order. See Jackson v. Grondolsky, 09-0853 (NLH), Docket Entry No. 4. In his motion, Plaintiff reiterated and elaborated on his Bivens challenges without stating any grounds warranting reconsideration. See id. Finally, on April 3, 2009, the Clerk received Plaintiff's letter requesting extension of time to comply with the March Order; the letter indicated Plaintiff's intent to have it filed in Civil Action 09-0853, i.e., the habeas action. See Jackson v. Grondolsky, 09-0853 (NLH), Docket Entry No. 5. The letter unambiguously expressed Plaintiff's intent to incur the financial and legal responsibilities associated with a grant of in forma pauperis status (or with Plaintiff's submission of the appropriate filing fee) with respect to Plaintiff's civil rights, i.e., Bivens challenges. See id.

2. In light of the statements made in Plaintiff's motion and letter, this Court determined that Plaintiff's allegations warranted the grant of conditional in forma pauperis status for the purposes of the instant matter. See Instant Action, Docket Entry No. 2. In addition, upon screening Plaintiff's allegations for sua sponte dismissal, this Court determined that such dismissal was not warranted. See id. The Court, therefore, issued an order dated April 29, 2009 ("April Order"), which: (a) granted Plaintiff conditional in forma pauperis status; (b) directed Plaintiff to either prepay his filing fee or to submit a duly executed application to prosecute this matter in forma pauperis; and (c) directed service of Plaintiff's petition construed as a civil complaint upon Defendants named in that petition. See id.

3. On May 29, 2009, the Clerk received a package from Plaintiff containing: (a) a one-page cover letter; (b) Plaintiff's in forma pauperis application ("IFP"); and (c) a document titled "Motion to Amend" (elaborating on Plaintiff's allegations) and a seemingly proposed amended complaint (collectively "Amended Complaint"). See Docket Entry No. 4. This mailing was followed by two other mailings from Plaintiff, i.e.: (a) on July 15, 2009, the Clerk received Plaintiff's request for two additional U.S. Marshal forms (presumably, sought with intent to request service upon two additional defendants); and (b) on July 24, 2009, Plaintiff submitted a 14-page document, which appears to reflect Plaintiff's administrative grievances and a certain request for medical care. See Docket Entries Nos. 5 and 6. As of the date of issuance of this Memorandum Opinion and Order, Plaintiff filed no documents supplementing his May 29, 2009, IFP application. See generally, Docket.

4. Plaintiff's IFP, in the form it was submitted on May 29, 2009, appears insufficient. If a prisoner seeks permission to file a civil rights complaint in forma pauperis, the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires the prisoner to file a complete application. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). Specifically, under Section 1915, a prisoner seeking to bring a civil action in forma pauperis must submit an affidavit, including a statement of all assets, which states that the prisoner is unable to pay the fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The prisoner also must submit a certified copy of his inmate trust fund account statement(s) for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). The prisoner must obtain this certified statement from the appropriate official of each prison at which he was or is confined. See id.; see also Tyson v. Youth Ventures, L.L.C., 42 Fed. App'x 221 (10th Cir. 2002); Johnson v. United States, 79 Fed. Cl. 769 (2007). Here, Plaintiff submitted his application with the required certification signature missing, See Docket Entry No. 4-2, at 4, and an "Inmate Inquiry" as to Plaintiff's account balance, as of May 21, 2009, instead of his trust fund account statements for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint. Without Plaintiff's explanation as to why he could not obtain a certified statement and a trust fund account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint (including a detailed discussion as to Plaintiff's efforts to obtain the statutorily-required documents), this Court cannot accept Plaintiff's IFP submission in lieu of the required in forma pauperis application. This Court, however, finds it unwarranted, at this juncture, to deem Plaintiff's conditional in forma pauperis status withdrawn and will extend Plaintiff's conditional in forma pauperis status ensuing from this Court's April Order for thirty days from the date of entry of this Order. That said, the Court expressly notifies Plaintiff that Plaintiff's failure to timely submit his certified account statement covering the applicable period would result in withdrawal of Plaintiff's conditional IFP status and administrative termination of this matter for lack of prosecution.

5. In light of Plaintiff's failure to submit documents qualifying him for in forma pauperis status, this Court finds service of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint unwarranted. However, the Court finds it appropriate to screen at this juncture the Amended Complaint, in the interests of judicial economy, to determine whether any of Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

6. In determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe the facts stated in the complaint 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 [factual] 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). While a court will accept well-pled allegations as true, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See id. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently provided a detailed and highly instructive guidance as to what kind of allegations qualify as pleadings sufficient to pass muster under the Rule 8 standard. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230-34 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court of Appeals guided as follows:

[There are] two new concepts in Twombly [127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)]. First, . . . "[w]hile a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's [Rule 8] obligation [is] to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires [by stating] more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . ." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 . . . Rule 8 "requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Id. at 1965 n.3. . . . "[T]he threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) [is] that the 'plain statement [must] possess enough heft to 'sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 1966. [Hence] "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 1965 & n.3. Second, the Supreme Court disavowed certain language that it had used many times before -- the "no set of facts" language from Conley. See id. at 1968. . . . After Twombly, it is no longer sufficient to allege mere elements of a cause of action; instead "a complaint must allege facts suggestive of the proscribed conduct." Id. . . . . The more difficult question raised by Twombly is whether the Supreme Court imposed a new "plausibility" requirement at the pleading stage that materially alters the notice pleading regime. . . . The Court explained that a plaintiff must "nudge [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible" . . . . 127 S.Ct. at 1974. . . . "Plausibility" is related to the requirement of a Rule 8 "showing." [Thus, while a court cannot] dismiss[] . . . 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. [T]he 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. Id. This "does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage[]" but . . . "calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the necessary element. Id.

Phillips, 515 F.3d at 230-34 (original brackets removed).

7. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint names, as Defendants in this action, the following persons: (a) Warden Grondolsky ("Grondolsky"); (b) Doctor Seabur ("Seabur"); (c) Mr. Spalding ("Spalding"); (d) Ms. Lopez; (e) Ms. Cane; (f) Mr. Sutterland ("Sutterland"); and (g) a certain Jane Doe ("Doe") who, apparently, signed certain documents with inscription reading "mmm." See Docket Entry No. 4, at 8, 13.

8. Plaintiff's allegations could be summarized as follows: at the time of his transfer from FCI Big Spring to the place of his current confinement, FCI Fort Dix, Plaintiff arrived to Fort Dix with already established diagnoses of uveitis,*fn1 glaucoma,*fn2 photophobia,*fn3 cataract,*fn4 and sarcoidosis.*fn5 See id.

In light of Plaintiff's diagnoses, Plaintiff had surgery while at FCI Big Spring, and ongoing treatment in the form of three types of eye drops and medical monitoring of Plaintiff's eye condition. See id. at 9-10. Upon his arrival at For Dix, Plaintiff informed the prison officials of his diagnoses and requested refills of the three prescribed eye drops. See id. at 10. Plaintiff's request was approved and, thirty months after his arrival to Fort Dix, he was examined by Defendant Seabur. See id. However, Plaintiff alleges that, after an initial prompt refill of his prescription, Plaintiff's requests for following refills were delayed on numerous occasions for non-medical reasons. See id. at 11. In addition, Plaintiff asserts that, when his eye condition began deteriorating and resulted in burning, itching and pain in the eyes, Defendants denied Plaintiff's request to be examined by an ophthalmologist, and his condition continued to be monitored by Defendant Seabur, who is an optometrist who, ...

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