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Harold Miller v. Chris Christie

March 11, 2011

HAROLD MILLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katharine S. Hayden United States District Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff, Harold Miller, who was involuntarily committed under the Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24, et seq., seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Based on his affidavit of indigence, the Court will grant plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (1998) and order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), 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 reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Complaint should be dismissed without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Harold Miller ("Miller"), brings this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey; Paula Dow, Attorney General for the State of New Jersey; Gary Lanigan, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC"); Jennifer Velez ("Velez"), Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services ("NJDHS"); Steven Johnson ("Johnson"), NJDOC Administrator; and Merril Main ("Main"), NJDHS Administrator. (Compl., Caption and ¶¶ 4b-4g.) The following factual allegations are taken from the Complaint, and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of plaintiff's allegations.

Miller alleges that, on April 14, 2010, defendants Main and Johnson told plaintiff and other residents at the Northern Regional Unit ("NRU") in Kearny, N.J., that they were going to be transferred to the East Jersey State Prison ("EJSP"). The prison facility would supply the residents with "prison meals," and they wold be housed in the administrative segregation unit at EJSP. Main further told the residents that they would likely be idle for a month while the facility was being fixed up to be suitable for civilly committed persons. (Compl., ¶ 6, Statement of Claims.)

On April 24, 2010, Miller learned that the NJDOC was changing the name of the EJSP administrative segregation unit to be called the "Special Treatment Unit." On April 26, 2010, Johnson told plaintiff that the residents would be under the supervision of EJSP correctional officers and an elite force of guard dogs to make sure the residents follow prison rules. Plaintiff told Johnson on April 28, 2010, that transferring him onto prison property violated his constitutional rights. (Id.)

On April 30, 2010, plaintiff was informed that the unit at EJSP did not have good drinking water. It also had poor air circulation, cold showers, non-adjustable windows, and no kitchen facility. (Id.)

Miller asks that he be provided with "the proper treatment of a federally funded facility." He also seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory damages for the mental anguish and stress that he is suffering as a result being transferred to a prison facility. (Compl., ¶ 7.)

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

A district court is required, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), to review a complaint in a civil action where the litigant is proceeding in forma pauperis 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. Miller is proceeding in forma pauperis in this matter, so this action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal.

A court considering the sufficiency of a pro se complaint must 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 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 the 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).

To prevent a summary dismissal, civil complaints must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that a claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210(3d Cir. 2009). "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do,'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] a context-specific task," id. at 1950, which the Third Circuit dictates must be a two-part inquiry:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. [Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50]. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." [Id.] In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's ...


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