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Pender v. County of Cumberland

April 1, 2010

GLENDALE PENDER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF CUMBERLAND, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert B. Kugler, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

IT APPEARING THAT:

1. Plaintiff, who is either a pre-trial detainee or a convicted individual,*fn1 has submitted for filing his civil complaint and his application to proceed in this matter in forma pauperis. See Docket Entry No. 1. The latter qualifies Plaintiff for in forma pauperis status.

2. Plaintiff alleges that, during his arrest on May 24, 2008, the arresting officers exercised excessive force. See id. at 6. The Court construes these allegations as Plaintiff's claim that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated during that arrest.

3. Plaintiff names, as Defendants in this action, the following entities and individuals: (a) County of Cumberland ("County"); (b) City of Vineland ("City"); (c) Vineland Police Department ("Police Department"); (d) South Jersey Healthcare ("Healthcare"); (e) Cumberland County Department of Corrections ("DOC"); (f) Medical Department of the Cumberland County Department of Corrections ("Medical Department"); and (g) Officer Walter Wronyuk ("Wronyuk").

4. Plaintiff alleges that the aforesaid Defendants were involved in this case in the following fashion: (a) the Complaint is wholly silent as to any involvement of the County or the City; (b) the Complaint refers to the Police Department solely in order to indicate that Plaintiff's arresting officers were employed by that entity; (c) Plaintiff refers to the Healthcare in order to state that, after suffering injuries as a result of the alleged excessive force, Plaintiff was taken to the Healthcare and was duly administered medical assistance; (e) Plaintiff refers to the DOC to clarify that, after being released from the Healthcare, Plaintiff was placed in custody of the DOC; (f) Plaintiff refers to the Medical Department to clarify that, upon his entry in DOC custody, Plaintiff was placed in the Medical Department where he received additional medical care for six weeks; and (g) Plaintiff asserts that Wronyuk was either physically present during -- or otherwise aware of -- the use of excessive force by Plaintiff's arresting officers but, regardless of having supervisory capacity over those officers, Wronyuk did not interfere with their use of excessive force.

5. 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. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2) (B) an § 1915A. 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). The Court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all 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). The Court need not, however, credit a pro se plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Id. A complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting the predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former § 1915(d)). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint as "frivolous" is an objective one. See Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995). Recently, the Supreme Court clarified the standard for summary dismissal in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Iqbal's civil rights complaint adequately alleged defendants' personal involvement in discriminatory decisions regarding Iqbal's treatment during detention at the Metropolitan Detention Center. 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 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 identified two working principles underlying the failure to state a claim standard:

First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice . . . . Rule 8 . . . does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not "show[n] that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1950 (citations omitted).

The Court further explained that

a court . . . can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.

Id. at 1950.

Thus, to prevent a summary dismissal, civil complaints must now allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that a claim is facially plausible. This "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 1948. The Supreme Court's ruling in Iqbal emphasizes that a plaintiff must demonstrate that the allegations of his complaint is plausible. See id. at 1949-50; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, & n.3; Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009). Consequently, the Third Circuit observed that Iqbal provides the "final ...


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