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Cooper v. Sharp

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 13, 2013

ELY COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH SHARP, et al., Defendants.

ELY COOPER, Plaintiff pro se, # 193, East Jersey State Prison/Special Treatment Unit, Avenel, New Jersey.

LUCY ELIZABETH FRITZ, ESQ., OFFICE OF THE N.J. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Department of Law & Public Safety - Division of Law, Trenton, New Jersey, Counsel for Defendants.

OPINION

FAITH S. HOCHBERG, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court pursuant to a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), (ECF No. 19), filed on behalf of the remaining Defendants, Steven Johnson, Merrill Main, Jennifer Velez, Shantay Adams, and Jacquelyn Ottino, officials and employees of the New Jersey Department of Human Services ("NJDHS") and the Department of Corrections ("NJDOC"). Plaintiff has not filed any opposition or response to Defendants' motion. This motion is decided on the papers, without oral argument, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion and dismiss the Amended Complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint in this matter on October 12, 2010. (ECF No. 1.) In an Opinion and Order issued on March 23, 2011, this Court dismissed the Complaint without prejudice, as to all named defendants, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(II). (ECF Nos. 3, 4.) Plaintiff thereafter filed an Amended Complaint on April 4, 2011. (ECF No. 6.) On January 31, 2012, the Court re-opened the case and dismissed with prejudice the Amended Complaint in its entirety as against named Defendants, Marc Singer and David DaCosta.[1] (ECF Nos. 7, 8.) The Court also dismissed with prejudice, as against all named Defendants, Plaintiff's claims asserting unconstitutional conditions of confinement and unconstitutional strip searches. ( Id. ) However, Plaintiff's claim alleging denial of all group and therapy treatment from May 12, 2010 to April 30, 2011, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, was allowed to proceed against the remaining Defendants, Steven Johnson, Merrill Main, Jennifer Velez, Shantay Adams, and Jacquelyn Ottino.

Defendants requested and were granted several extensions to file an answer or otherwise respond to the Amended Complaint. On May 10, 2013, Defendants filed this motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff has not filed any response or opposition to Defendants' motion.

B. Statement of Facts

Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint against the remaining Defendants, as follows: Merrill Main, NJDHS Clinical Director at East Jersey State Prison/Special Treatment Unit ("EJSP/STU"); Shantay Adams, NJDHS Unit Director at EJSP/STU; Jacquelyn Ottino, NJDHS Program Director at EJSP/STU; Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of the NJDHS; and Steven Johnson, NJDOC Assistant Superintendent at EJSP/STU. (ECF No. 6, Amended Complaint at ¶ 4.) The Amended Complaint generally alleges that Plaintiff "was denied all group/therapy" from May 12, 2010 to April 30, 2011. ( Id. at ¶ 7.) The Amended Complaint further alleges that Plaintiff had complained to NJDHS and NJDOC administrators about the cancelation of group sessions and the NJDOC officers dictating therapy group movements, but nothing was done. ( Id. )

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir.2008) ("[S]tating... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.") (internal quotations omitted).

When considering a motion to dismiss under Iqbal, the Court must conduct a two-part analysis. "First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not ...


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