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Joseph Aruanno v. Jeff Smith

June 27, 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 the filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).

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 against at least one named defendant. On July 6, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. Having thoroughly reviewed Plaintiff's allegations in the Amended Complaint, this Court will dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.


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. The original Complaint in this case (Docket Entry #1) named the following defendants: Officer Jeff Smith, Nurse Morgan, Sgt. Franks, Dr. Merrill Main, Dr. Vivian Snaidman, Dr. Gabriel, Administrator Cindy Sweeney, DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez, DOC Commissioner George Hayman, University Medical and Dental of New Jersey, and 10 John and Jane Does.

Plaintiff asserted the following facts:

This case involves being denied access to proper medical care and to access to the medical area . . . . [T]his was the final straw as far as neglect and deliberate indifference in this issue which goes back many years as follows.

While serving a prison sentence for the first time in my life for a crime I did not commit I had asked the nurse for an aspirin for a headache I had which the NJ Dept. of Corrections used to civilly commit me at the end of my sentence stating the headache was due to a serious head injury from a motor vehicle accident with absolutely no proof of such a delusion. From which the fact is they gave me the headache. An in any case should have been part of doctor\patient confidentiality.

Then when I was committed I was approached by a doctor Vivian Snaidman who said she was my "care provider" and that her interview had "nothing to do with my commitment hearing" but even though I had told her I was advised not to talk to anyone, and did not speak with her, she did in fact attend my commitment hearing and testified that we spoke for hours which is totally false and resulted in my commitment. For which in any case also should have been confidential. And for which she continues to prepare reports to keep me committed.

And though they have created a situation where we the residents fear going to the medical area when I have really needed to I was prescribed certain things for which Administrator Cindy Sweeney has denied them and told me to buy my own.

And when I have spoke to Dr. Gabriel about breathing problems due to indoor smoking, a serious black mold problem inside the building, indoor welding that has taken place since I have been here, etc., and asked for outdoor yard access but was denied by Cindy Sweeney stating, "It was not my yard period," even though not one person was using the yard.

And though I am not a prisoner when we need to see a dentist we are taken to a state prison in Avenel from the hospital I/we are housed at in Kearny NJ for dental service for which even that I have been refused, as I will prove by institutional complaints I have submitted, as well as refused my requests to see a private dentist.

Also, when I have submitted medical request slips there has been times when I was never called out for which upon inquiring about this was told they never received it despite handing it to them personally as required. And when I have been called out I have seen it take from 2 to 4 weeks for which by that time the flu/cold or other illness has subsided, but not before getting worse as is the case now with the cold or flu I have.

In closing this case is not just being denied medical treatment but being denied in fear of further commitment. And being denied access to the medical area by the guards such as being thrown out for attempting and being denied that I am hesitant on going there in fear of being harassed, threatened, physically and mentally assaulted which is not therapeutic which is what this farce is supposed to be about.

In this case I am requesting immediate medical attention upon request without fear of further commitment or physical injury which would be declaratory and injunctive. And for ten million dollars in punitive damages for the harm inflicted upon me physically and ...

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