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Alyas Muhammad Badu-Shabazz v. Kenneth Sharp

March 21, 2011

ALYAS MUHAMMAD BADU-SHABAZZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KENNETH SHARP, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

APPEARANCES:

Plaintiff, Alyas Muhammad Badu-Shabazz, an involuntarily committed person pursuant to 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 the action 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 this action should be dismissed for failure to state a claim at this time.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Alyas Muhammad Badu-Shabazz ("Badu-Shabazz"), brings this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: Kenneth Sharp, Assistant Attorney General for the State of New Jersey; Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services ("NJDHS"); John Main, CEO of the NJDHS at the Ann Klein Forensic Center in Trenton, New Jersey; Steve Johnson, Assistant Superintendent at the East Jersey State Prison, Special Treatment Unit ("EJSP-STU"); Dr. Merril Main, Clinical Director at EJSPSTU; Shantay Brame Adams, Assistant Unit Director at the STU in Avenel, New Jersey; and Debbie Hasting, Superintendent at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center ("ADTC") in Avenel, New Jersey. (Complaint, Caption and ¶¶ 4b-4h). 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.

In his Complaint, Badu-Shabazz alleges that defendants have either authorized or condoned the New Jersey Department of Corrections to place plaintiff, a civilly committed resident, on prison grounds and under prison policy and guidelines in violation of his constitutional rights and his patients' bill of rights. (Compl., ¶¶ 4b-4h). In addition, Badu-Shabazz complains that defendants have ignored and/or overlooked how the correctional officers are treating the residents at EJSP-STU; that defendants Merril Main and John Main have allowed correctional officers at EJSP-STU full control to dictate how therapy groups and treatments are run. (Compl., ¶¶ 4d and 4f). Plaintiff also complains that defendant Adams has failed to come to EJSP-STU to see how the conditions of the cells are for the residents, and that defendant Hastings allows the correctional staff to treat the residents' visitors "like there [sic] not human." (Compl., ¶¶ 4g,4h).

Specifically, Badu-Shabazz alleges that, on May 6, 2010, defendant Johnson placed plaintiff on the South Unit after a test called the "HairScore Psychopathy Test" was conducted. On May 12, 2010, defendants Johnson and Merril Main informed the residents that mail and packages would be received and sent at different facilities. Plaintiff attaches to his Complaint a memo dated May 14, 2010, concerning first class mail and packages. He also attaches to his Complaint another memo dated June 18, 2010, pertaining to receipt of food packages. (Compl., ¶6).

On May 19, 2010, Badu-Shabazz reported to Johnson that the ceiling was leaking and rain would drip on the floor leaving a white substance on the floor. (Id.). Also on May 19, 2010, Badu-Shabazz observed the NJDHS staff psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers moving their office supplies off grounds to a location in Edison, New Jersey, leaving plaintiff with no on-site psychiatrist after 4:00 p.m. (Id.).

On October 14, 2010, Dr. Merril Main came to the South Unit where plaintiff was confined and told plaintiff that he was on South Unit because of plaintiff's past history. On October 18, 2010, Badu-Shabazz called his attorney to inform him that Dr. Merril Main had stopped plaintiff's therapist from being in the meeting that day. On October 21, 2010, at 9:45 a.m., plaintiff had group but was told by Sgt. S. Smith that plaintiff had to go to the commissary first. While at the commissary, plaintiff's cell unit was searched.

Badu-Shabazz does not indicate the relief he seeks in this matter.

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

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

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 is "frivolous" is an objective one. Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995).

A pro se complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears "'beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Haines, 404 U.S. at 521 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). See also Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93-94 (In a pro se prisoner civil rights complaint, the Court reviewed whether the complaint complied with the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2)).

However, recently, the Supreme Court revised this standard for summary dismissal of a Complaint that fails to state a claim 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 which, if true, violated his constitutional rights. Id. 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).*fn1 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 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 1949-1950 (citations omitted).

The Court further explained that a court considering a motion to dismiss 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 should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 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 then "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 are plausible. Id. at 1949-50; see also Twombly, 505 U.S. at 555, & n.3; Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210(3d Cir. 2009).

Consequently, the Third Circuit observed that Iqbal provides the "final nail-in-the-coffin for the 'no set of facts' standard" set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957),*fn2 that applied to federal complaints before Twombly. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. The Third Circuit now requires that a district court must conduct the two-part analysis set forth in Iqbal when presented with a motion to dismiss:

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 entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts. See Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234-35. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, "[w]here 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 ...


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