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Shawn R. Strader v. Dawn M. Duverney

March 23, 2011


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



Plaintiff Shawn R. Strader, a pretrial detainee confined at Salem County Correctional Facility, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and, for the reasons expressed below and as required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1), dismiss the Amended Complaint.*fn1


Plaintiff asserts violations of his constitutional rights by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Timothy Farrell, Prosecutor John Lenahan, Deputy Public Defender Dawn Duverney, and Pennsville Township Police Officer Timothy Atkins. Plaintiff complains that Judge Farrell conspired with Public Defender Duverney to "keep[ him] in jail for absolutely no reason when the Prosecutor returned a ficti[t]ious indictment with no evidence, no physical link to the allege[d] crime nor no knowledge of the state's sole witness depriving [him] of [his] freedom." (Docket Entry #4, p. 5.) He asserts that Prosecutor Lenahan "[c]onspired with the Police Department in returning a ficti[t]ious indictment whereas there was not even probable cause for the i[s]suance of the arrest warrant, abusing the grand jury, keeping me in jail with no evidence, depriving me of Due Process and life and liberty under the law." (Id., p. 7.) Plaintiff complains that Officer Atkins "violated my 4th Amendment right by filing an arrest warrant (CDR-2 form) without probable cause." (Id.)

Plaintiff asserts the following facts in his statement of claim. On October 8, 2009, defendant Atkins prepared a criminal complaint filed by alleged victim Fawn Owens charging Plaintiff with aggravated assault. Plaintiff alleges that the complaint/warrant was based solely on the statement of Ms. Owens. "The discovery package I did receive only consists of medical records of Fawn E. Owens injuries and a police report from Timothy Atkins. There is no evidence of Shawn Strader other than Fawn E. Owens blurting out the name to the police officer." (Docket Entry #4, p. 10.) Plaintiff complains that the matter was not brought before a court within 72 hours of the filing of the criminal complaint. He further alleges that in February 2010, defendant Prosecutor Lenahan obtained an indictment from a grand jury. Plaintiff maintains that the indictment violated his constitutional rights because it was based solely on the hearsay testimony of defendant Atkins. He asserts that on March 2, 2010, he was taken into custody when he appeared for a pre-arraignment hearing, and on March 15, 2010, he pled not guilty.

Plaintiff contends that his Public Defender, Dawn Duverney, refused to interview or obtain statements from witnesses Plaintiff provided. In addition, Ms. Duverney allegedly withdrew a motion to dismiss the case on the ground that there is no case law prohibiting the prosecutor from presenting hearsay to the grand jury. Plaintiff states that, although Dawn Duverney was unable to contact Ms. Owens, the state's sole witness, and the prosecutor failed to produce a sworn statement from Ms. Owens, Judge Farrell refused to dismiss the case and refused to rule on Plaintiff's motion to compel. Plaintiff asserts that he successfully obtained new counsel to replace Duverney and that the trial is scheduled for August 16, 2010. Plaintiff insists that "[t]here is some kind of illegal under the record conspiracy going on here in Salem County . . . . A victim cannot sign a Complaint, arrest warrant (CDR-2) authorizing the defendant to be incarcerated without establishing probable cause and a judicial officer must sign a complaint to establish oath and affirmation." (Docket Entry #4, p. 12.) Plaintiff seeks the following relief:

I want the charges against me dismissed and released from jail. Everyone named in the lawsuit disbarred from practicing law. The police officer fired for ruining my name, selective prosecuting. To be compensated 10.6 million dollars for damages, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, mental anguish, pain and suffering, depriving me of my life and freedom for which they can never replace. (Docket Entry #4, p. 13.)


The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires the Court, prior to docketing or as soon as practicable after docketing, to review a complaint in a civil action in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis or a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A. The PLRA requires the Court to sua sponte dismiss any claim if the Court determines that it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. A claim is frivolous if it "lacksneven an arguable basis in law" or its factual allegations describe "fantastic or delusional scenarios." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989); see also Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990).

The pleading standard under Rule 8 was refined by the United States Supreme Court in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), where the Supreme Court clarified as follows:

Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly. 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 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it 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).

In keeping with these principles 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 ...

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