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Gerald Lovelace v. Eric Shenkus

May 31, 2011

GERALD LOVELACE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIC SHENKUS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff Gerald Lovelace, a prisoner incarcerated at Atlantic County Justice Facility, seeks to file a Complaint against Public Defender Eric Shenkus, for violation of his constitutional rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Based on Plaintiff's affidavit and prison account statement, this Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. As required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court has screened the Complaint for dismissal and, for the reasons set forth below, will dismiss the Complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff sues Public Defender Eric Shenkus, who represents Plaintiff in a New Jersey criminal proceeding, for violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts:

On the date of 04-01 me and Mr. Shenkus were having our interview for status conference, and I explain to him about there was no probable cause to the arrest and I was not guilty of the charges and his exact words were "I believe you did the crime and the police reports shows you having a gun. I don't know why most of you n****** say and claim you are innocent when it's written in black and white. This occurred at the Superior Court interview room. (Docket Entry #1, p. 4.) Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and $100,000 in damages. (Id. at 5.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 screen a complaint in a civil action in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis or a prisoner sues a government entity or employee, and 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), hammered 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),*fn1 which was previously applied to determine if a federal complaint stated a claim. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009). 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 assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 -1950 (citations omitted).

Since Iqbal, the Third Circuit has required district courts to conduct a three-part analysis when reviewing a complaint for dismissal for failure to state a claim:

To determine the sufficiency of a complaint under the [Iqbal] pleading regime . . . , a court must take three steps: First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1947. Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 1950. Finally, "where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a ...


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