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Wheeler v. Imboden

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 15, 2013

MIKELL WHEELER, Plaintiff,
v.
DET. SCOTT IMBODEN, et al., Defendants.

MIKELL WHEELER, Plaintiff pro se, #41257, Belvidere, New Jersey.

OPINION

MICHAEL A. SHIPP, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Mikell Wheeler, a state inmate confined at the Warren County Correctional Center in Belvidere, New Jersey, at the time he filed this Complaint, 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)(1998) and order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint accordingly.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, 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 without prejudice for failure to state a claim at this time.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Mikell Wheeler ("Plaintiff'), brings this civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Detective Scott Imboden; Detective Douglas Baylor; and Detective James McDonald, of the Phillipsburg Police Department. (Complaint, Caption, ¶¶ 4b-d, 6.) 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 Plaintiffs allegations.

Plaintiff alleges that, on the night of February 14, 2012, Detectives Imboden and Baylor arrested two suspects at a house where Plaintiff was staying. The detectives asked who else was in the house and Plaintiff came out and was taken to police headquarters. Plaintiff alleges that Det. Imboden told him three times that Plaintiff was not under arrest, but once they arrived at the police station, Plaintiff was handcuffed to a wall in a room by himself. During the time Plaintiff was at the station, Defendant McDonald questioned Plaintiff and "repeatedly harassed" Plaintiff as to his name and address and "tried to get a confession out of [Plaintiff]." ( Id., ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that he was held against his will and was not allowed to leave from February 14, 2012 until February 15, 2012. (Id.) For these alleged wrongs, Plaintiff seeks $5 million in damages. ( Id., ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff has filed several prior lawsuits before this Court regarding this same incident that have been administratively terminated because his application for in forma pauperis ("IFP") status was deficient. (See Wheeler v. Farrier, et al., Civil No. 12-7845 (MAS); Wheeler v. Baylor, et al., Civil No. 12-7860 (MAS); Wheeler v. Baylor, et al., Civil No. 13-160 (MAS).) In a consolidated Order signed by this Court on March 12, 2013 as to these matters, the two complaints in Civil Nos. 12-7860 and 12-7845 were dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim. (Wheeler v. Baylor, et al., Civil No. 13-160 (MAS), March 12, 2013 Order, Dkt. # 3 at ¶ 1.) The most recent case, Civil No. 13-160 (MAS) was administratively terminated due to a deficient IFP application, and Plaintiff was permitted to re-open the case within 30 days if he submitted either a complete IFP application or paid the full filing fee. ( Id., ¶¶ 3-6.)

On April 16, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an amended Complaint in Civil No. 13-160 (MAS), (Dkt. # 4), but did not otherwise comply with the Court's March 12, 2013 Order. Accordingly, Civil No. 13-160 (MAS) was never re-opened. Instead, on May 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant matter. The Court observes that the Complaint filed in this matter is identical in all respects to the amended Complaint submitted by Plaintiff in Civil No. 13-160 (MAS). In the Complaint in this matter, however, Plaintiff scribbles out the last sentence fragment in the Statement of Claims, ¶ 6, that reads "when probable cause was illegally found, in the police station handcuffed to a wall." (Wheeler v. Baylor, et al., Civil No. 13-160 (MAS), Amended Complaint, Dkt. # 4 at ¶ 6.)

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, because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis in this matter, this action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§ 1915A.

"The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under [the PLRA] is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Aruanno v. Green, ___ F.Appx. ___, 2013 WL 2350169, *2 (3d Cir. 2013) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F.Appx. 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). According to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, "a pleading that offers labels or conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Rather, to prevent summary dismissal, the complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Moreover, while prose pleadings are liberally construed, Higgs v. Atty. Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011), "pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Nonetheless, courts must be cognizant that the Iqbal standard "is not akin to a probability requirement." Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (internal quotation marks omitted).

III. SECTION 1983 ACTIONS

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 ...


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