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Gardner v. Lanigan

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 18, 2013

GARY M. LANIGAN, et al., Defendants.

FRANKLIN GARDNER, #383187C, New Jersey State Prison, Trenton, NJ, Plaintiff Pro Se.


FREDA L. WOLFSON, District Judge.

Franklin Gardner, an inmate confined at New Jersey State Prison ("NJSP"), seeks to file a Complaint without prepayment of the filing fee. This Court will grant his application to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons expressed in this Opinion and, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court will dismiss the federal claims raised in the Complaint, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint asserting a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court will decline supplemental jurisdiction over claims arising under state law.


Franklin Gardner brings this action against Gary Lanigan, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections; NJSP Warden Charles Warren; classification officer Marshal Fleicher; and the Department of Classification. He seeks to assert several unrelated claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. First, he claims that defendants "depriv[ed] and divest[ed] the plaintiff, of approximate[ly] (7) seven years of qualified restoration of comp[utation] time." (Complaint, ECF No. 3 at 4.) He maintains that Warden Warren and Commissioner Lanigan, "in congruity, implicit[]ly allowed the[ir] subordinates to inac[c]urate[]ly use a faulty technique to improper[ly] tally the plaintiff['s] owed but deprived comp[utation] credits." Id. at 6. Although Gardner refers to several exhibits in the body of the Complaint, no exhibits were attached to the Complaint.[1]

Second, Gardner asserts that in November 2011, Warden Warren and Commissioner Lanigan implemented a "diabolical and very inhumane food program... that rescinded the plaintiff[, ] who[] is a vegetarian that does not consume any [r]ed meat[, ]' the privil[]ege to purchase from [the] canteen" vitamins, salmon, tuna, mackerel, rice and protein drinks. Id. at 5. Gardner alleges that the only food items he can purchase are cookies, potato chips, candy bars, and crackers, which contain high levels of sugar and salt. He asserts that, within six months of the implementation of this new policy, his weight dropped from 210 to 180 pounds, and that his present weight is 175 pounds. Third, he alleges that he "was subjected to harsh conditions, " false disciplinary infractions, threats of bodily harm, "a cell with no light nor toilet nor drinking water, " "sleeping on a cold floor, " and "not being able to attend famil[]y funerals." Id. For violation of his rights, he seeks damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief directing defendants to restore his computation credits and to cease evading his grievances and subjecting him to brutal conditions.


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, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 28 U.S.C. § 1997e. 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. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

"[A] pleading that offers labels or conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim[2], 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). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, " 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) (emphasis added).


A. Federal Claims

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a cause of action for violation of constitutional rights by a person acting under color of state law.[3] To recover under § 1983, a plaintiff must show two elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

As an initial matter, this Court will dismiss the Department of Classification as defendant with prejudice because neither a state nor a state agency or department is a "person" within the meaning of § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989); McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands, 618 F.3d 232, 241 (3d Cir. 2010); ...

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