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Anthony P. Favoroso v. State of New Jersey

April 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert B. Kugler United States District Judge


This matter comes before this Court upon Plaintiff's submission of a civil complaint accompanied by his application to proceed in this matter in forma pauperis. See Docket Entries Nos. 1 and 1-1. Both Plaintiff's in forma pauperis application and his complaint raise numerous concerns. For the reasons detailed below, this Court will deny Plaintiff in forma pauperis status without prejudice, subject to Plaintiff's submission of a certified prison account statement detailing Plaintiff's assets, as required by the statute, and establishing to this Court's satisfaction that Plaintiff is eligible to proceed in this matter as pauper; the Court will also dismiss Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice, allowing Plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint complying with the guidance provided to Plaintiff in this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

1. Section 1914 provides that "[t]he [C]lerk of each district court shall require the parties instituting any civil action, suit or proceeding in such court . . . to pay a filing fee of $350 . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Indeed, a litigant's pleading is "properly filed" when its delivery and acceptance are in compliance with the applicable laws and rules governing filings. These usually prescribe . . . the form of the document, . . . the court and office in which it must be lodged, and the requisite filing fee.

Artuz v. Bennett, 531 U.S. 4, 8-9 (2000) (citations and footnote omitted).

However, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") allows an imprisoned litigant to prosecute his/her claims without prepayment of the filing fee if that litigant files an affidavit of povertyand a certified prison account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the submission of the pleading (jointly, "in forma pauperis application)", and such in forma pauperis application establishes, to the court's satisfaction, that the litigant is eligible to proceed in his/her litigation as pauper. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2) and § 1915(a)(1) (leave to proceed IFP may be granted in any suit to a litigant "who submits an affidavit [which demonstrates] that the [litigant] is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor"). As the Supreme Court, observed that, "while [the filing fee might be] an 'extremely nominal' sum, if one does not have it and is unable to get it[,] the fee might as well be [a very large sum]." Smith v. Bennett, 365 U.S. 708, 712 (1961).

2. Here, Plaintiff's in forma pauperis application indicates that he earns $80 monthly, and his prison account statement (reflecting, oddly enough, only the balance figure rather than the transactions that took place within the last six months) shows that Plaintiff has a "spendable" balance of $1,654.51. See Docket Entry No. 1-1, at 2 and 4. This information suggests that Plaintiff is unlikely to be eligible to proceed in this matter as pauper.*fn1 However, since Plaintiff's prison account statement reflected only the final figure, rather than the transactions that took place during the last six months, this Court will allow Plaintiff an opportunity to submit his certified prison account statement for the last six months (as required by the statute) together with his amended complaint.

3. In conjunction with the foregoing, the Court takes this opportunity to highlight to Plaintiff certain legal aspect that might assist Plaintiff in execution of such amended pleading.*fn2

Here, Plaintiff named the following persons and entities as Defendants in this action:

(a) State of New Jersey; (b) New Jersey Department of Corrections; (c) Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Psychiatry Department; (d) New Jersey Parole Board Panel Member Yolette C. Ross; (e) New Jersey Parole Board Panel Member Samuel J. Plumeri, Jr.; (f) New Jersey Appellate Court Employee Joseph H. Orlando; (g) New Jersey Appellate Court Employee Anita B. Toldo; (h) Atlantic County Probation Office; (i) Probation Officer George Wolf; (j) Atlantic County Detective Finan; (k) Atlantic County Detective Johannesson; (l) Salem County Judge William L. Forester; (m) Monmouth County Judge Bette Uhrmacher; (n) Prosecutor Thomas Fichter; (o) Trial Attorney Robert

N. Agre; (p) Any Unknown John and Jane Does with Relative Influence in this Suit; (q) Governor Christopher J. Christie; and (r) Commissioner Gary M. Lanigan. See Docket Entry No. 1, at 2. The factual assertions raised in Plaintiff's 46-paragraph complaint describe -- in a diary-like fashion -- the events which, allegedly, took place during more than half a decade, i.e., between March 21, 2006, and December 21, 2010. See id. at 5-9. This panoply of claims alleges, inter alia, that Plaintiff was unduly transferred from one prison to another, that he was denied his medication during a certain single day, that he was denied an opportunity to call his attorney on that particular day, that he was given an unfavorable mental health examination by certain psychiatrists and/or psychologists, that he was visited by two detectives on another day and experienced panic seeing those two detectives, that he was issued an arrest warrant for violation of the terms of his probation, that he had a certain facsimile sent about him to a certain state judge, that he was sentenced to certain state terms of imprisonment, that he had these terms of imprisonment imposed consecutively, that he had his motions for re-sentencing denied by state courts, that he had his appellate applications returned for corrections due to his failure to comply with local court rules, that he was displeased with his parole proceedings (finding these proceedings "vulgar and negative"), that he was disappointed with the outcome of his parole proceedings, etc. See id. On the basis of the foregoing, Plaintiff asserts that his constitutional rights were violated and seeks this Court's "declaration" to that effect, as well as his release on parole "immediately," plus grant of "additional" good-conduct-time credit to him, and also $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages fro each of the above-named Defendant (i.e., about $36,0000,000 in damages). See id. at 10-11.

4. To start, it warrants mentioning that a civil complaint must conform to the requirements set forth in Rules 8(a) and (e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Rules require that the complaint be simple, concise, direct and set forth "a short and plain statementof the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993); cf. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (procedural rules in civil litigation should not be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel); Burks v. City of Philadelphia, 904 F. Supp. 421, 424 (E.D. Pa. 1995) (pleading which represented a "gross departure from the letter and the spirit of Rule 8(a)(2)" in failing to contain a short and plain statement of claims struck by District Court); Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988) (affirming dismissal of pro se civil rights complaint naming numerous defendants, setting forth numerous causes of action, and numbering fifteen pages and eighty-eight paragraphs). Here, Plaintiff's diary-like complaint fails to comply with the requirements of Rule 8. "A District courts should not have to read and decipher tomes disguised as pleadings." Lindell v. Houser, 442 F.3d 1033, 1035 n.1 (7th Cir. 2006). Therefore, the complaint is subject to dismissal on this ground.

5. Moreover, Rule 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure limits the joinder of defendants, and Rule 18(a), governs the joinder of claims. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a), 20(a)(2). Rule 20(a)(2) provides: "Persons . . . may be joined in one action as defendants if: (A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A) and (B). Rule 18 (a) provides : "A party asserting a claim . . . may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a). Wright & Miller's treatise on federal civil procedure explains that, where multiple defendants are named, the analysis under Rule 20 precedes that under Rule 18:

Rule 20 deals solely with joinder of parties and becomes relevant only when there is more than one party on one or both sides of the action. It is not concerned with joinder of claims, which is governed by Rule 18. Therefore, in actions involving multiple defendants Rule 20 operates independently of Rule 18 . . .

Despite the broad language of Rule 18(a), plaintiff may join multiple defendants in a single action only if plaintiff asserts at least one claim to relief against each of them that arises out of the same transaction or ...

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