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Castro v. Perth Amboy Police Dept.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 21, 2014

DAMIEN CASTRO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PERTH AMBOY POLICE DEPT., et al., Defendants.

DAMIEN CASTRO, Plaintiff pro se, # 93518, Middlesex County Jail, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

OPINION

MICHAEL A. SHIPP, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Damien Castro, a state inmate confined at the Middlesex County Jail in New Brunswick, New Jersey, at the time he filed this Complaint, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Based on his affidavit of indigence and prison account statement, the Court will grant Plaintiffs 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 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 stayed via administrative termination pending conclusion of Plaintiffs related state criminal proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Damien Castro ("Plaintiff'), alleges that on August 4, 2011, Detectives Mohammed and Ralph Dinero of the Perth Amboy Police Department entered Plaintiffs residence without a "valid search warrant" or consent. (ECF No. 1, Complaint at ¶ 6, Statement of Claims.) Plaintiff further alleges that other named Defendants also "unlawfully entered Plaintiffs house destroying Plaintiffs property and violating Plaintiffs constitutional rights." ( Id. ) Plaintiff identifies these Defendants as John Doe Defendants 1-5 of the U.S. Marshal's Service, Officer Doe Grasso and Officer Kuster of the New Jersey State Police, and Tim Savage, Sgt. Schroeder and John Does 1-5 of the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, Criminal Division. ( Id., Caption, ¶4b-4d.)

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages of $2.5 million from each named Defendant. He also asks for "injunctive relief' but does not indicate the nature of the injunctive relief sought. ( Id., ¶ 7.)

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires a district court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis or seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. Specifically, the PLRA directs the district court to screen the complaint for cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, 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. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A.

The Supreme Court refined the standard for summary dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Citing its opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) for the proposition that "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, '" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), the Supreme Court held that, to prevent a summary dismissal, a civil complaint must now allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)(citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676). See also Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) ("The touchstone of the pleading standard is plausibility.... "[A]llegations that are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth;... [a court should] "look for well-pled factual allegations, assume their veracity, and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'") (citations omitted). In short, "[a] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiffs entitlement to relief. A complaint has to show' such an entitlement with its facts." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79). Thus, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Higgs v. Atty. Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 20011), "prose 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. International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

III. SECTION 1983 ACTIONS

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, ...


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