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Boss v. Lanigan

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 10, 2013

LAWRENCE BOSS, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY LANIGAN, et al., Defendants.

LAWRENCE BOSS, Plaintiff pro se, #220, East Jersey State Prison - Special Treatment Unit, Avenel, New Jersey.

OPINION

JOSE L. LINARES, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Lawrence Boss, an involuntarily committed person pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24, et seq., seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Based on his affidavit of indigence, the Court will grant plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), 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. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Lawrence Boss ("Plaintiff"), brings this civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: Gary Lanigan, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC"); Merril Main, Clinical Director of the East Jersey State Prison-Special Treatment Unit ("EJSP-STU"); Steve Johnson, Assistant Superintendent of EJSP-STU; and Angel Santiago, Superintendent at the EJSP-STU. (Docket # 1, Complaint, Caption, and ¶¶ 4b, 4c.) The following factual allegations are taken from the Complaint, and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of Plaintiff's allegations.

Plaintiff alleges that, on March 8, 2013, a memorandum dated March 7, 2013[1] was posted informing residents at the EJSP-STU that electronic cigarettes were not permitted. Prior to that date, Defendant Johnson had informed the residents that, effective January 1, 2013, electronic cigarettes could not be ordered or received. The March 7, 2013 memo stated that all tobacco products and related paraphernalia were considered contraband, and that residents were permitted only nicotine lozenges to be obtained from the inmate canteen or commissary. (Dkt. # 1-3.)

Plaintiff also alleges that a memorandum issued on May 16, 2012, prohibited food packages to be received by residents from family members via drop off or by mail. The Memorandum, attached as an unnumbered exhibit to Plaintiff's Complaint, stated that residents were allowed to receive food packages from "Source of Sale Vendors Only." (Dkt. # 1-3.)

Plaintiff claims that these restrictions on property violate their rights as civilly committed persons, who are not to be treated as prisoners. ( Id. ) Plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary compensation for "mental anguish and stress" caused by Defendants' policies. Plaintiff also asks for injunctive relief, namely, to permit residents to receive electronic cigarettes, and to have an investigation as to why residents are treated like "problem prisoners." ( Id. )

On April 1, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an "addendum" to his Complaint. (Dkt. # 2.) Plaintiff alleges that residents have filed grievances regarding the no tobacco product and paraphernalia policy. He attaches grievances submitted by another resident, which were returned to that resident informing that the tobacco-free policy remains in effect and suggesting that electronic cigarettes be returned for a refund. Plaintiff further alleges that some residents have started smoking tea bags, leaves, dry grass, etc., because of the no-tobacco policy. ( Id. )

On April 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed an amended Complaint seeking to add Jihad Williamson, Thaddeus Thomas and Donnell Wolfe, as new Plaintiffs. These individuals did not submit any filing fee or application to proceed in forma pauperis. Accordingly, they are not party Plaintiffs in this action. The amended Complaint also seeks to add Bruce Davis and Lieutenant J. Jones as Defendants in the case. Davis is an Assistant Superintendent at the EJSP-STU, and Lt. Jones is a second shift Command officer at the EJSP-STU. The amended Complaint alleges that these Defendants told residents at a community meeting on April 25, 2013, that they had to abide by prison policy regarding tobacco-free issues and the food package limitations. (Dkt. # 3.) Plaintiff complains they are being treated as prisoners, not civilly-committed persons. ( Id. )

On June 5, 2013, Plaintiff filed another "addendum" to his Complaint. The "addendum" alleges that, on June 3, 2013, residents were given a new rule book for the EJSP-STU, which Plaintiff attaches as an exhibit to the "addendum." Plaintiff alleges that the rule book allows residents to smoke and receive food packages. (Dkt. # 4.)

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis or seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. Specifically, the PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon 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); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Accordingly, ...


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