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Cortez v. Main

United States District Court, Third Circuit

April 29, 2013

EMMANUEL CORTEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
MERRILL MAIN, et al., Defendants.



STANLEY R. CHESLER, District Judge.

Emmanuel Cortez and William Palmer, who are civilly committed to the Special Treatment Unit under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act, seek to file a Complaint asserting violation of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 without prepayment of the filing fee. This Court will grant Plaintiffs' applications to proceed in forma pauperis. Having screened the Complaint, as supplemented by four letters, in accordance with the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court will dismiss the federal claims raised in the Complaint and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.


Emmanuel Cortez and William Palmer bring this Complaint for violation of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Merrill Main, Clinical Director of the Special Treatment Unit ("STU"); Mrs. Spagnolia, Program Coordinator; Shantay Adams, Assistant Unit Director; Mrs. Kearny, Program Coordinator; Steve Johnson, Assistant Superintendent; A. Valvano, Corrections Officer; and SCO Aponte, Corrections Officer. (ECF No. 1 at pp. 1-6.) Plaintiffs assert the following facts in the body of the Complaint:

On 4/14/11, the D.H.S. Director (Merril Main) has been sexually discriminating, humiliating and degrading me & my partner for over a year now.... On 5/3/12, I received a response from the administrator of D.O.C. towards our having a civil union (res. Emmanuel Cortez #154/William Palmer #470) and approving our request "stating that it's our right to have a civil union." But on 5/12/12, Dr. Merril Main - Clinical Director once again started discriminating against us. Causing the D.H.S. staff to inflict more mental punishment against/on us because of not giving up on needing to be united as one by having this civil union.
Every [sic] since our asking to have a civil union, we have been degraded by some of D.H.S./D.O.C. staff towards our gender and lifestyle. By boldly using derogatory statements towards our gay lifestyle* which is causing constant arguments, conflicts and mental frustration within this prison system (under the Civil Commitment Act).
And when this mental torture is brought to Merrill Main attention, "I am always overlooked and dis-regarded." Causing even more sexual humiliation and frustration.
* * *
9/1/12, I continuously put in grievances and make verbal complaints towards the derogatory statements, and D.O.C. getting other residents to constantly degrade me and my mate, because of our sexual gender and asking to have a civil union. But nothing is never done or resolved. Leaving us (E.C./W.P.) feeling humiliated and mentally tortured because of our togetherness, being gay.

(ECF No. 1 at 8-10.)

In addition, Plaintiffs describe what each defendant allegedly did to violate their rights. They assert that Merrill Main violated their rights by "causing and authorizing his D.H.S. staff to intimidate and therapeutically harass me and my mate. For asking for a civil union, causing other residents and D.O.C. staff to sexually degrade us with no regards towards my treatment and mental health." (ECF No. 1 at 3.) They allege that Program Coordinator Spagnolia violated their rights by "overlooking the sexual harassment that staff is giving me." Id. at 4. They contend that Assistant Unit Director Adams violated their rights by "dis-regarding the abuse that the D.H.S. is supplying/applying to me and my mate and overlooking her D.H.S. staff writing false reports on[] us causing conflict with residents and staff." Id. They assert that Assistant Superintendent Steve Johnson violated their rights by "failing to correct his correctional staff, abusing their authority by allowing them to constantly use degrading and derogatory statements belittling me & my mate['s] sexual gender." Id. They allege that CO Valvano violated their rights by "harassing and calling me a homo, fag, penis lover in front of the unit which holds 80 other residents." Id. at 6. They assert that Aponte violated their rights by "threatening and offering to do physical harm to us due to our life's gender saying that he will f-k our faggot asses up while other corrections officers w[ere] surrounding us." Id.

Seven documents are attached to the Complaint. Plaintiffs attached a Special Treatment Unit Request System & Remedy Form in which William Palmer asks about a civil union. (ECF No. 1 at 11.) The response, which is dated May 3, 2012, states: "Regarding your request for a civil union, you absolutely can do it. The Union will have no effect on housing, group assignments, etc." Id. The signature is not legible. A May 3, 2012, memorandum from Steven Johnson to both Plaintiffs states:

Recently, I received a remedy that indicated that I had not issued a formal answer regarding your request for a civil union. This will serve ...

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