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Joseph Aruanno v. Officer Green

June 22, 2011


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



Joseph Aruanno, who is civilly committed under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act, filed a Complaint without prepayment of fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This Court dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint stating a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff thereafter filed an Amended Complaint consisting of a five-page narrative. (Docket Entry #11.) This Court has screened the Amended Complaint for dismissal, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), and will dismiss the Amended Complaint because it fails to correct the deficiencies in the Complaint. This Court will give Plaintiff one final opportunity to assert facts stating a cognizable claim under the standard of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). See Gasoline Sales, Inc. v. Aero Oil Co., 39 F. 3d 70, 74 (3d Cir. 1994) (where plaintiff is not seeking claims that were not known about earlier but to modify allegations in hopes of remedying factual deficiencies in prior pleadings, "three attempts at a proper pleading is enough").


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 judgment, 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 his detention in New Jersey, Mr. Aruanno has filed 28 civil cases in this Court, and 27 appeals in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The original Complaint in this matter named as defendants Officer Green, Steve Johnson and Cindy Sweeney. Plaintiff asserted the following facts:

All defendants are denying proper access to the yard to minimize my exposure to the indoor smoking. And for speaking up against staff who smoke indoors I have been retaliated against which includes being assaulted and locked in a room full of smoke.

Please see attached complaint and statement in support of complaint.

(Docket entry #1 at p. 6.)

Plaintiff further asserted that Administrator Steve Johnson violated his constitutional rights as follows: "Mr. Johnson is allowing smoking indoors exposing me to environmental smoke (ETS) which poses an unreasonable risk of harm contrary to the 14th amend. and the 8th amendments cruel and unusual punishment." (Docket entry #1 at p. 5.) Plaintiff states that he sought administrative relief by "rais[ing] the issue at community meetings and submitt[ing] institutional remedy forms, etc." (Id.) Attached to the form complaint was a two-page signed document which stated:

This civil complaint, or lawsuit, is about being subjected to second-hand cigarette smoke from March-1999 until present.

During that time I have been forced to share rooms with other persons who smoke, most of them chain-smoke, as well as being subjected to second-hand smoke of staff members who also smoke indoors in total defiance of the law and my rights, health and safety, etc...

During this time I have brought it to the attention of all of the defendants I have named as well as many other staff members and the only result was being threatened and assaulted. I had brought to their attention the fact that I have never smoked and that being subjected to cigarette smoke makes it hard for me to ...

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