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Brian Keith Bragg v. Gary M. Lanigan

February 25, 2010

BRIAN KEITH BRAGG,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY M. LANIGAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff, Brian Keith Bragg, currently confined at the Northern State Prison, Newark, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action alleging violations of his constitutional rights in forma pauperis, without prepayment of fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. At this time, the Court must review the amended complaint (docket entry 3), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's amended complaint will be dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff seeks to sue various administrators and officers at the New Jersey State Prison ("NJSP"), where he was confined at the time he filed this action.*fn1 Plaintiff states that he is suing on his behalf, and on behalf of "other similarly situated inmates," because NJSP "has a pattern and practice of the use of excessive force." (Am. Complt., ¶ 2). First, Plaintiff complains about the "MCU,"*fn2 in that "newly-admitted inmates are not interviewed, tested, classified or screened for any medical or mental health issues before being confined to MCU," that they do not have access to jobs or training, that they are locked in their cells 24 hours a day, and that there are no surveillance cameras. (Am. Complt., ¶¶ 3-6).

Plaintiff asserts that: . . . for years the Defendants, through assessment of data, statistics, lawsuits, citizen complaints, and adverse publicity, were put on notice that NJSP correctional staff and supervisors had a custom or unwritten policy of unnecessary use of deadly, physical, mechanical, or chemical force against its inmates. (Am. Complt., ¶ 7).

Plaintiff further claims that the named defendants, Gary Lanigan (the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections), Michelle Ricci (the Administrator of NJSP), William Moleins (the Associate Administrator of NJSP), Christopher Holmes and James Drumm (Assistant Superintendents of NJSP), failed to act and were the moving force behind the "acts of violence" at NJSP. (Am. Complt., ¶ 7). Plaintiff states that there is a "wall of silence" at NJSP (Am. Complt. ¶ 8), and that staff and supervisors turn "a blind eye or deaf ear when inmates are beaten, intimidated, or mistreated by fellow officers." (Am. Complt., ¶ 9). Plaintiff asserts that new recruits are trained in these coercive techniques and are taught to condone illegal acts. (Am. Complt., ¶ 10).

Next, Plaintiff complains that the Special Investigations Division ("SID"), "the decision makers investigating misconduct complaints concerning NJSP correctional staff," act unconstitutionally. Plaintiff bases this on the fact that over 3000 inmate remedy forms are filed alleging inadequate medical and mental health services, and other conditions claims, and that the investigators have a greater degree of lawlessness having "come up through the chain-of-command ladder." (Am. Complt., ¶ 11). Plaintiff contends that "after they [were] viciously attacked by Defendants 1-1000 correctional officers, the internal SID investigators always manipulated the outcome of the investigation to cover up the unlawful conditions and pattern and practice of excessive use of force prevailing at NJSP." (Am. Complt., ¶ 12). Plaintiff asserts that inmates continue to be attacked and that unlawful conditions and "cover ups" continue; that defendants and SID investigators fail to bring about change or control defective policies and practices; that correctional officers failure to make rounds makes attacks on inmates reasonably foreseeable; that "plaintiffs are in daily fear for their safety, health, and life from Defendants 1-1000 correctional officers and supervisors at NJSP." (Am. Complt., ¶¶ 13-17).

Plaintiff argues that the above-referenced facts support a claim for a state-created danger under Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1208 (3d Cir. 1996). He asks for monetary and injunctive relief. In a motion filed in June of 2010, Plaintiff requested a temporary restraining order (docket entry 7).

DISCUSSION

A. Standards 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 a district court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis or seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. The Court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b), because Plaintiff is a prisoner and is proceeding as an indigent.

In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) and Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). See also United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992).

Recently, the Supreme Court refined the standard for summary dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). The Court examined Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Citing its recent opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), for the proposition that "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do,'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), the Supreme Court held that, to prevent a summary dismissal, a civil complaint must now allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. This then "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." See id. at 1948. ...


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