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Darrel Reeves v. Office of the

May 25, 2011

DARREL REEVES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICE OF THE
PUBLIC DEFENDER ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Peter G. Sheridan, District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff Darrel Reeves ("Plaintiff"), a convicted prisoner currently confined at the Hudson County Correctional Center, Kearny, New Jersey, seeks to bring this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action in forma pauperis without prepayment of fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Plaintiff submitted his application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (1998). Plaintiff also submitted for filing his complaint ("Complaint"). Plaintiff's Complaint named the following parties as Defendants in this action: Hope Mitchell ("Mitchell," public defender in Plaintiff's criminal case), Martha Royster ("Royster," Mitchell's supervisor), Yvonne Smith Seagars ("Seagars," Royster's former supervisor), the Office of Public Defender for the State of New Jersey, Frank Morono ("Morono," prosecutor of Plaintiff's criminal case) and the Office of the Prosecutor (presumably, in the county of Morono's employ). In addition, mentioned in the Complaint is a certain "Edward DeFazo"; the reference suggests that Plaintiff is referring to Edward J. DeFazio ("DeFazio," the head of Hudson County Office of the Prosecutor.

Plaintiff's Complaint asserts that: (a) Mitchell violated Plaintiff's civil rights by providing him with ineffective assistance of counsel during Plaintiff's criminal proceedings; (b) Royster violated Plaintiff's civil rights by being Mitchell's supervisor; (c) Seagars violated Plaintiff's civil rights by being Royster's supervisor; (d) the Office of Public Defender violated Plaintiff's civil rights by being the entity employing Seagars, Royster and Mitchell; (e) Morono violated Plaintiff's civil rights by relying, during Plaintiff's prosecution, on the documentary evidence which Plaintiff believed to be untrue, by not presenting Plaintiff's grand jury with the statements that Plaintiff would have preferred disclosed and by not investigating the crime scene in the fashion Plaintiff believed to be proper under the state court rules; (f) De Fazio violated Plaintiff's civil rights by not fostering criminal proceedings against an individual who, allegedly, assaulted and stole cash from Plaintiff; and (g) the Office of the Prosecutor violated Plaintiff's civil rights by being the entity employing Morono and DeFazio. See Docket Entry No. 1, at 2-4. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id. at 6.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint 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.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe the facts stated in the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). Indeed, it is long established that a court should "accept as true all of the [factual] allegations in the complaint and 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). However, while a court will accept well-pled allegations as true, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See id.

Addressing the clarifications as to the litigant's pleading requirement stated in the United States Supreme Court in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit provided the courts in this Circuit with detailed and careful guidance as to what kind of allegations qualify as pleadings sufficient to pass muster under the Rule 8 standard. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230-34 (3d Cir. 2008). Specifically, the Court of Appeals observed as follows:

"While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation [is] to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' [by stating] more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . ." Twombly, 127 S. Ct. at 1964-65 . . .

Rule 8 "requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Id. at 1965 n.3. . . . "[T]he threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) [is] that the 'plain statement [must] possess enough heft to 'sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 1966. [Hence] "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level."

Id. at 1965 & n.3. . . . [Indeed, it is not] sufficient to allege mere elements of a cause of action; instead "a complaint must allege facts suggestive of the proscribed conduct." Id. Id. at 230-34 (original brackets removed).

This pleading standard was further refined by the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), where the Court observed:

[In any civil action, t]he pleading standard . . . demands more than an unadorned ["]the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me["] accusation. [Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 555 . . . . A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." [Id.] at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement." Id. at 557. . . . A claim has facial plausibility [only] when the plaintiff pleads factual content . . . . Id. at 556. [Moreover,] the plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. [Indeed, even w]here a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, [the so-alleging complaint still] "stops short of [showing] plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Id. at 557 (brackets omitted). [A fortiori,] the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions [or to t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements [,i.e., by] legal conclusion[s] couched as a factual allegation [e.g.,] the plaintiffs' assertion of an unlawful agreement [or] that [defendants] adopted a policy "'because of,' not merely 'in spite of,' its adverse effects upon an identifiable group." . . . . [W]e do not reject these bald allegations on the ground that they are unrealistic or nonsensical. . . . It is the conclusory nature of [these] allegations, rather than their extravagantly fanciful nature, that disentitles them to the presumption of truth. . . . [Finally,] the question [of sufficiency of] ...


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