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Bobby Brown v. Governor Christopher Christie

December 13, 2010

BOBBY BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GOVERNOR CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE, DEFENDANT.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at the New Jersey State Prison, seeks to bring this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Based upon his affidavit of indigence, the Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(a) and order the Clerk of Court to file the complaint.

The Court must review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A to determine whether Plaintiff states cognizable claims or whether the complaint 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, the complaint will be dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are from the complaint and accepted as true for purposes of this review. Plaintiff argues that changes in New Jersey state laws that affected awards of commutation credits violate the Ex Post Facto Clause and Due Process Clause of the Constitution and are unconstitutionally vague. Plaintiff argues that, due to the state court's interpretation of these laws, he is being improperly denied commutation credit. He states that his commutation time must be applied to his "maximum term." Plaintiff also appears to argue that he should have been sentenced to a "specific term" and he seeks clarification as to whether he was serving a life sentence or a sentence of seventy-five years. Plaintiff asks for a judgment declaring that the acts of the Defendants violate §1983; a permanent injunction ordering Defendants to take action to apply the law that was in effect at the time Plaintiff's crime was committed; and that Defendants pay costs.

Plaintiff previously filed a complaint with fellow inmate Kevin Jackson, alleging nearly identical claims as those alleged here against then-Governor James McGreevey and various Department of Corrections officials. (See 06-7822 (MLC), Jackson v. McGreevey, Docket Entry No. 1.) This Court dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state claim, noting that the proper recourse to challenge Plaintiffs' length of confinement was a habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As the claims appear to be nearly identical, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's instant complaint on the same grounds.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Section 1915 Review

A court, under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b), must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, any prisoner actions that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from immune defendants. The Court must construe a pro se complaint liberally in the plaintiff's favor in determining its sufficiency. 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 Sch. 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 predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former § 1915(d)). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint is "frivolous" is an objective one. Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995).

The standard for summary dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). The Court examined Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), 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).*fn1 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. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50 (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. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court ...


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