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Todd C. Ford, Jr v. Ronald Cassella

July 26, 2011


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



Plaintiff, Todd C. Ford, Jr., a pretrial detainee incarcerated at Cumberland County Jail in Bridgeton, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and direct the Clerk to file the Complaint without prepayment of the filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Having reviewed Plaintiff's allegations, as required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, this Court will dismiss the federal claims raised in the Complaint and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under state law.


Plaintiff asserts violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Cumberland County Prosecutor Ronald Cassella and Assistant Prosecutors John Reilly and G. Harrison Walters. Plaintiff asserts the following facts:

On May 16, 2007 I was charged with a first degree drug offense and my bail was set at $250,000.00/full. On 12/15/08 the case was dismissed and Judge Becker stated I can have my money that was s[ei]zed back ($741.00) Prosecutor John Reilly who had my case at the time didn't provide me with any assistance in obtaining my money back despite knowing I was entitled to it. May 21, 2009 my lawyer wrote Asst. Pros. G. Harrison Walters after getting no assistance in obtaining my money back in this matter and he also didn't provide any assistance. Prior to that on May 1, 2009, I wrote all of the[ir] bosses at the time Mr. Ronald Cassella and again;, I still didn't get any assistance in the matter. It got so bad that my family made very frequent trips to the[ir] office from May 2009 to currently, but still have gotten no assistance. (Dkt. 1, p. 6.) Plaintiff seeks the following relief:

I would like to obtain the money that was s[ei]zed from me since the case was dismissed $741.00, the money that I had to use to get my bail from $250,000.00 dollars/full ($1,000 dollars that I owe to a lawyer still) to 150,000 dollars/ cash or bond and the $15,000 that I had to spend for that bail amount to bail out. I would also like to receive $10,000.00 dollars for court costs and lawyer fees (public defender), the time I sat in jail, the emotion[al] distress it caused and punitive & compensatory damages in the amount of $100,000.00 dollars including lost of job wages. (Dkt. 1, p. 7.)


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 is seeking redress against a government employee or entity, 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), 1915A.

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).

The Court is mindful that the sufficiency of this pro se pleading must be construed liberally in favor of the plaintiff, even after Iqbal. See ...

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