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Joseph Aruanno v. Steven Johnson

June 8, 2011

JOSEPH ARUANNO,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEVEN JOHNSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Joseph Aruanno, who is civilly committed under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act, seeks to file a Complaint against Steven Johnson, Assistant Superintendent of the Special Treatment Unit, Director Merrill Main, and 25 John/Jane Does. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). This Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis. This Court has screened the Complaint for dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and, for the reasons explained below, will dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint showing standing to pursue an access to courts claim. See Tucker v. Arnold, 361 Fed. App'x 409 (3d Cir. 2010).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff has been civilly committed as a sexually violent predator since 2004. As explained by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, [i]n 1994, while in Florida, he exposed himself to two adolescent girls as they were walking home from school and engaged in lewd conduct in their presence. As a result of this incident, Aruanno pled guilty to second-degree lewd conduct, and was sentenced to ten years' probation. Just two years later, in 1996, Aruanno sexually molested an eight-year-old girl who had been playing on the front steps of her house in Wildwood, New Jersey. A jury convicted Aruanno of second-degree sexual assault, and he was sentenced to ten years in prison, and disqualification from parole for five years. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court affirmed the conviction and sentence. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification. State v. Aruanno, 793 A. 2d 716 (N.J. 2002) (table op.).

In April 2004, while Aruanno was still serving his prison sentence, the State of New Jersey . . . filed a petition to involuntarily commit Aruanno pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA), N.J.S.A. § 30:4-27.24 et seq. . . . .

At the commitment hearing, the State presented the testimony of Dr. Vivian Shnaidman . . . . Dr. Shnaidman testified that Aruanno was a chronic paranoid schizophrenic, but her diagnosis explicitly ruled out diagnoses of exhibitionism and pedophilia. Nevertheless, Dr. Shnaidman opined that Aruanno's schizophrenia, when combined with his previous violent conduct, created a "very high" risk of future violence. In particular, because Aruanno refused to take psychotropic medication to treat his schizophrenia, he would continue to suffer from psychotic delusions which would render sex offender treatment useless. According to Dr. Shnaidman, Aruanno would have serious difficulty controlling his sexually predatory behavior without undergoing treatment for his schizophrenia . . . .

Aruanno testified on his own behalf at the hearing. He denied committing either the Florida or the New Jersey offense, and testified that he believed the State had filed the commitment petition in retribution for his decision to go to trial for the New Jersey offense, rather than accepting a deal to plead guilty . . . . The state court found that Aruanno suffered from a mental abnormality which created "substantial, significant, severe difficulty controlling his sexually violent behavior," and granted the State's petition for involuntary commitment. Aruanno appealed the order, and the Appellate Division affirmed. In re Civil Commitment of J.A., 2007 WL 609284 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2007).

Aruanno v. Hayman, C.A. No. 09-3499 slip op., pp. 2-4 (3d Cir. May 27, 2010).

In 2009, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court reversed the Law Division's May 3, 2007, order denying post-conviction relief on the New Jersey conviction, vacated the conviction, and remanded the case.*fn1 See State v. Aruanno, 2009 WL 1046033 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. April 21, 2009), certif. denied, 199 N.J. 543 (2009) (table).

Since being detained in New Jersey, Mr. Aruanno has filed over 28 civil cases in this Court, and 27 appeals in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In the Complaint presently before this Court, Plaintiff asserts the following facts:

This complaint involves the defendants deliberately denying plaintiff Joseph Aruanno, JA, legal access such as access to the courts, attorneys, institutional legal access such as a law library, etc., since 2004 when he was civilly committed . . . .

The motivation for submitting this complaint is after just hearing from one of his attorneys, Mr. Christopher Murray from the law Offices of Covington & Burling in Washington DC, and being told they have been trying to reach JA here but all the unit phones are always busy. And after contacting the defendant . . . Steven Johnson . . . and being told "THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PRIVATE LEGAL CALL" contrary to NJ:10AA ...


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