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Ferguson v. Isabella

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 21, 2014

RAYMOND FERGUSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH ISABELLA, et al., Defendants.

Raymond Ferguson Southern State Correctional Facility Delmont, NJ, Plaintiff pro se.

OPINION

DICKINSON R. DEBEVOISE, Sr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Raymond Ferguson, a prisoner confined at Southern State Correctional Facility in Delmont, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint 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.

I. BACKGROUND

This matter was originally opened to the Court by Plaintiff's submission of a Complaint [1] challenging the length of his sentence and the conduct of the prosecutor at his criminal trial. He named as Defendants Judge Joseph V. Isabella, prosecutor Christopher J. Ruzich, the Essex County Correctional Facility, the Central Reception and Assignment Facility, Bayside State Prison, and an unnamed Superior Court Clerk. By Memorandum and Order [2] entered October 14, 2012, this Court denied Plaintiff's application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and administratively terminated this action. Thereafter, Plaintiff applied to re-open this matter, and submitted a new application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis[1] and an Amended Complaint [4].

In the Amended Complaint, including later supplements, Plaintiff names as Defendants only the New Jersey State Parole Board and the Classification department of Southern State Correctional Facility.[2] Although the pleading is rambling, it appears that Plaintiff is challenging his classification and override, as a result of which he was denied "full minimum" status, on the basis that prison and parole officials have obtained inaccurate information regarding his criminal history.[3] He seeks injunctive relief in the form of help to obtain accurate copies of his judgments of conviction.

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, 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 42 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 all of the aforementioned provisions.

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)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim[4], 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).

Where a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment. Denton v. Hernandez , 504 U.S. 25, 34 (1992); Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital , 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002) (dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)), cited in Thomaston v. Meyer, No. 12-4563 , 2013 WL 2420891, *2 n.1 (3d Cir. June 5, 2013); Shane v. Fauver , 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000) (dismissal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Urrutia v. Harrisburg County Police Dept. , 91 F.3d 451, 453 (3d Cir. 1996).

III. SECTION 1983 ACTIONS

A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights. 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 ...

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