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Willie E. Patterson v. Brian Bradford

May 19, 2011

WILLIE E. PATTERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRIAN BRADFORD, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter was administratively terminated by this Court, by Order entered on October 21, 2010, because it appeared that Plaintiff's application for in forma pauperis ("IFP") status was incomplete and no filing fee had been paid. (Docket entry no. 2). On December 1 and 8, 2010, Plaintiff submitted a complete IFP application with his six-month prison account statement (Docket entry nos. 4 and 5), and asked that his case be reopened, pursuant to the directive in this Court's October 21, 2010 Order. Based on Plaintiff's affidavit of indigence, the Court will grant the application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (1998) and order the Clerk of the Court to re-open this matter and file the Complaint accordingly.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, 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. On January 28, 2011, Plaintiff submitted a letter to the Court asking to add an claim with respect to his Complaint. (Docket entry no. 6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Complaint should be dismissed without prejudice at this time.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Willie E. Patterson ("Patterson"), brings this civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: Brian Bradford, Director of the Gateway Foundation, Inc.; Westley Dilks, New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC") Intermediary for Gateway; Ms. Malone, NuWay Supervisor at the South Woods State Prison ("SWSP"); Grace Cookwater, Gateway/NuWay Coordinator at ("SWSP"); and Karen Balicki, Administrator at SWSP. (Complaint, Caption and ¶¶ 4b, 4c, and ## 3, 4 and 5 of ¶ 4). The following factual allegations are taken from the Complaint, and are accepted as true for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of plaintiff's allegations.

Patterson alleges that, on or about August 6, 2010, at approximately 2:15 p.m., defendant Cookwater was "chastising" a Muslim participant in a NuWay meeting. Specifically, Cookwater made mocking remarks about the Islamic religion and its practices, mimicked an Arabic prayer by mumbling as if she were speaking Arabic, and then screamed "Allahu-Akbar." Patterson alleges that Muslim and non-Muslim participants became "offended and upset." (Compl., ¶ 4e).

Patterson further complains that the other named defendants failed to supervise the actions of Cookwater, failed to enforce the rules and bylaws of the Gateway/NuWay program at SWSP, failed to protect plaintiff's rights, failed to discipline the employee for making discriminatory remarks, and downplayed the seriousness of the incident, thus showing indifference in violation of plaintiff's First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Compl., ¶¶ 4 and 6).

On January 28, 2011, Patterson wrote to the Court asking to amend his Complaint to assert a claim that defendants violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc.1. (Docket entry no. 6). Plaintiff generally alleges that defendants continue to subject plaintiff to "substantial burdens to the free exercise of his Islamic Religion." (Id.).

Patterson seeks $7.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. He also seeks injunctive relief enjoining defendants from retaliating against any Muslim for exercising their civil rights at the SWSP NuWay program. Patterson asks for assigned counsel, and requests that any complaints filed by a Muslim with regard to this matter be joined together in one action and ruled as a class action. (Compl., ¶ 7).

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

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 is "frivolous" is an ...


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