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Prather v. Bundy

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 6, 2013

REGINALD PRATHER, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. BUNDY, et al., Defendants.

Reginald Prather, New Jersey State Prison, Trenton, NJ, Petitioner Pro Se.

Christine H. Kim Office of the Attorney General State of New Jersey Trenton, NJ, Attorney for Defendant Sgt. Bundy.

OPINION

JOEL A. PISANO, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon a motion [ECF No. 17] by Defendant Sgt. Bundy to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Also before the Court are Plaintiff's motions for default judgment [ECF No. 20], cross motion [ECF No. 24], and for temporary restraining order [ECF No. 41]. The Court decides these matters without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss the Complaint and deny Plaintiff's motions.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an inmate currently incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey initially filed his complaint against Defendants Sgt. Bundy and Officer R. Defazio in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County. Defendant Sgt. Bundy later filed a Notice of Removal [ECF No. 1] to this Court since the complaint alleges constitutional violations. Plaintiff's motion challenging the removal [ECF No. 6] was denied [ECF No. 42]. Defendant Sgt. Bundy filed a motion to dismiss [[ECF No. 17] and Plaintiff subsequently filed three motions: a motion for default judgment [ECF No. 20], a cross motion [ECF No. 24], and a motion for temporary restraining order [ECF No. 41]. Defendant Officer R. Defazio was never served. This Court issued a notice of call for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) [ECF No. 47] and thereafter Defendant Officer R. Defazio was dismissed [ECF No. 48].

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendants Sgt. Bundy and Officer R. Defazio, senior Corrections Officers employed by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, retaliated against Plaintiff after he assisted inmate Starr in writing a grievance complaint which was dated September 13, 2011. After subsequent disciplinary action against inmate Starr, Starr submitted Plaintiff's name as a witness on his behalf.

Plaintiff alleges that on October 4, 2011, he was locked in a mop and broom room for approximately one and a half hours during a search of his cell by Defendant Defazio. He states that during this time the cells of two other inmates were searched, however he alleges that those searches were less thorough and that those two inmates were locked in the mop and broom room for less time than Plaintiff. Plaintiff argues that this was an act of retaliation because in the thirteen months prior (September 9, 2010 until October 4, 2011), Defendant Defazio never conducted a routine search of Plaintiff's cell. Plaintiff states that he did not file a grievance regarding the search.

Plaintiff was assigned to the inmate job of Unit 2 Left Unit Runner on October 18, 2011. Plaintiff alleges that, in retaliation for his support of inmate Starr, on October 24, 2011, Sgt. Bundy transferred Plaintiff from Unit 2 Left to Unit 6 Left under the guise of an emergent situation. Plaintiff states that the transfer placed him in a smaller cell and resulted in the loss of his Unit 2 Left Unit Runner job. Plaintiff asserts that there was a standing practice to not select for transfer inmates who held the job of unit runner. Plaintiff did file a grievance complaint regarding the transfer.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." As here, when a complaining party comes to this court pro se, the Court must construe the complaint liberally in the favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). In such cases, the Court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all 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). Thus, a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss if it contains sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009).

When reviewing a motion to dismiss, courts must first separate the factual and legal elements of the claims, and accept all of the well-pleaded facts as true. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).

In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must provide "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This standard requires the plaintiff to show "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A "plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations and citations omitted). When assessing the sufficiency of a civil complaint, a court must distinguish factual contentions and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Any legal conclusions are "not entitled to the assumption of truth" by a reviewing court. Id. at 679. Rather, "[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. See also Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (explaining that "a complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief").

Therefore, when reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a district court must use a three-part analysis. Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010). First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Second, the court "should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 131 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). Lastly, the court should assume the veracity of any well-pleaded ...


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