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Abdul Batin Griggs v. State of New Jersey et al

August 24, 2011

ABDUL BATIN GRIGGS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, an inmate confined at the East Jersey State Prison, Rahway, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Based on his affidavit of indigence and the absence of three qualifying dismissals, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), the Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), and will order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff named the following individuals and entities as Defendants in this action: (a) the State of New Jersey; (b) Union and Essex Counties; (c) Department of Corrections; and (d) John Does and Jane Does, 1 to 5 each. See Docket Entry No. 1, at 1.

Plaintiff asserts that he had a daughter who was diagnosed, at the age of five, with brain cancer.*fn1 See Docket Entry No. 1-1, at 4. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff's daughter's health had a temporary improvement but, on May 1, 2008, she passed away. See id.

Plaintiff asserts that, in August 2006, he was arrested on murder charges and placed in the Union County Jail during the pendency of his criminal prosecution.*fn2 See id. Plaintiff also asserts that he was transferred to another jail, namely, the Essex County Jail, in January 2008. See id. When, upon his transfer, Plaintiff allegedly contacted his child's mother, Plaintiff's child's mother allegedly informed him that the daughter's health took a turn for the worse and she was at the final stages of her cancer. See id. Plaintiff seemingly maintains that he was either requesting a furlough to visit his daughter or sought to have himself escorted to his daughter's location at that time (which, seemingly, was the Children's Hospital in New Brunswick), or -- in alternative -- requested that his daughter, who was at that time at the final stages of brain cancer and paralyzed -- would be allowed to visit him at the jail. See id. at 4-5. Plaintiff alleges that his requests were denied, and -- after his daughter died -- he was denied furlough to attend his daughter's funeral. See id. at 5. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that certain personal mail was not forwarded to Plaintiff after his transfer from the Union County Jail to the Essex County Jail. See id. Plaintiff seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe the facts stated in the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). Indeed, it is long established that a court should "accept as true all of the [factual] allegations in the complaint and reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). However, while a court will accept well-pled allegations as true, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See id.

Addressing the clarifications as to the litigant's pleading requirement stated in the United States Supreme Court in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit provided the courts in this Circuit with detailed and careful guidance as to what kind of allegations qualify as pleadings sufficient to pass muster under the Rule 8 standard. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230-34 (3d Cir. 2008). Specifically, the Court of Appeals observed as follows: "While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation [is] to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' [by stating] more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . ." Twombly, 127 S. Ct. at 1964-65 . . . Rule 8 "requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Id. at 1965 n.3. . . . "[T]he threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) [is] that the 'plain statement [must] possess enough heft to 'sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 1966. [Hence] "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 1965 & n.3. . . . [Indeed, it is not] sufficient to allege mere elements of a cause of action; instead "a complaint must allege facts suggestive of the proscribed conduct." Id.Id. at 230-34 (original brackets removed).

This pleading standard was further refined by the United States Supreme Court in its recent decision Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009): [In any civil action, t]he pleading standard . . . demands more than an unadorned ["]the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me["] accusation. [Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 555 . . . . A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." [Id.] at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement." Id. at 557. . . . A claim has facial plausibility [only] when the plaintiff pleads factual content . . . . Id. at 556. [Moreover,] the plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.

Id. [Indeed, even w]here a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, [the so-alleging complaint still] "stops short of [showing] plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Id. at 557 (brackets omitted). [A fortiori,] the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions [or to t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements [,i.e., by] legal conclusion[s] couched as a factual allegation [e.g.,] the plaintiffs' assertion of an unlawful agreement [or] that [defendants] adopted a policy "'because of,' not merely 'in spite of,' its adverse effects upon an identifiable group." . . . . [W]e do not reject these bald allegations on the ground that they are unrealistic or nonsensical. . . . It is the conclusory nature of [these] allegations, rather than their extravagantly fanciful nature, that disentitles them to the presumption of truth. . . . [Finally,] the question [of sufficiency of] pleadings does not turn . . . the discovery process. Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 559 . . . . [The plaintiff] is not entitled to discovery ...


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