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Cooper v. Formica

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 28, 2014

DASHAWN COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK D. FORMICA, et al. Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted based on the information provided therein and the Clerk will be ordered to file the complaint.

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 suit. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

II. BACKGROUND

The allegations of the complaint will be accepted as true for purposes of this screening. Plaintiff names ten defendants in this action; specifically: (1) Frank D. Formica - Chairman; (2) Joseph J. McDevitt - Vice Chairman; (3) Colin G. Bell - At-large; (4) James A. Bertino - District 5; (5) Richard R. Dase - District 4; (6) Charles T. Garrett - District 1; (7) Alexander C. Marino - At-large; (8) John W. Risley - At-Large; (9) Frank Sutton - District 3; and Juan Reyes - Inmate. Plaintiff states that he was admitted to Atlantic County Justice Facility on June 6, 2012 for "violation of I.S.P." (Dkt. No. 1 at p. 7.) He claims that defendant Formica, et al. violated his rights by not placing him in a safe area separate from county inmates. Formica is allegedly the chairman of the agency responsible for failing to classify him as a state inmate. He alleges this improper classification led him to being assaulted by county inmate defendant Juan Reyes. According to plaintiff, Reyes assaulted him with a deck scrubbing brush by hitting him in the face and head. This caused plaintiff to be hospitalized and resulted in permanent damage and scars to his face and head. Plaintiff alleges that defendants McDevitt, Bell, Bertino, Dase, Garrett, Marino Risley and Sutton conspired with defendant Formica to act in concert. Plaintiff requests monetary damages as well as a reprimand order against the defendants to ensure the safety of inmates in the future.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Standard for Sua Sponte Dismissal

Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (Apr. 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.

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[1], the complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC 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).

B. 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 or the District of Columbia, 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, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.

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. See Harvey v. Plains Twp. Police Dep't, 635 F.3d 606, 609 ...


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