United States District Court, D. New Jersey
February 4, 2014
ROBERT L. HAYES, JR., Plaintiff,
BARACK H. OBAMA, Defendant.
Robert L. Hayes, Jr., Middlesex County Adult Correction Center, New Brunswick, NJ, Plaintiff pro se.
ANNE E. THOMPSON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Robert L. Hayes, Jr., a prisoner confined at Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents , 403 U.S. 388 (1971), 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.
The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this review.
Plaintiff asserts that President Barack H. Obama has violated his constitutional rights "by allowing the Governor of New Jersey and the Old Bridge police station in Old Bridge, New Jersey to violate [his] rights with [an] illegal tactic law called the inevitable discovery doctrine." (Complaint, ¶ 4.b.) By way of further explanation, Plaintiff alleges that, on April 8, 2010, officers of the Old Bridge police department conducted a search of Plaintiff and his home without a warrant and took Plaintiff's cell phone, clothes, and other property. Plaintiff alleges that the officers conducted this allegedly illegal search and seizure because they anticipated being able to use the "inevitable discovery" doctrine to use the evidence against him in a criminal proceeding, despite its having been obtained illegally.
Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of $500, 000, 000.00.
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 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis against a governmental officer.
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,  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 complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting the predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former § 1915(d)), cited in Credico v. Milligan, No. 13-3629, 2013 WL 6167878, *2 (3d Cir. Nov. 22, 2013). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint is "frivolous" is an objective one. Deutsch v. United States , 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995).
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. Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents
In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics , 403 U.S. 388, 389 (1971), the Supreme Court held that a violation of the Fourth Amendment by a federal agent acting under color of his authority gives rise to a cause of action against that agent, individually, for damages. Plaintiff's claim, here, is similarly based upon an alleged violation of the Fourth Amendment proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.
It has long been the rule in American criminal jurisprudence that evidence obtained illegally, or which is the tainted "fruit" of illegal government conduct, must be excluded from use by the government in a criminal trial. See, e.g., United States v. Wade , 388 U.S. 218 (1967); Wong Sun v. United States , 371 U.S. 471 (1963); Mapp v. Ohio , 367 U.S. 643 (1961); Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States , 251 U.S. 385 (1920); Weeks v. United States , 232 U.S. 383 (1914). The "core rationale" for the exclusion of such illegally-obtained evidence is "that this admittedly drastic and socially costly course is needed to deter police from violations of constitutional and statutory protections." Nix v. Williams , 467 U.S. 431, 442-43 (1984).
In Nix v. Williams , however, the Supreme Court adopted an "inevitable discovery" exception to the exclusionary rule.
If the prosecution can establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the information ultimately or inevitably would have been discovered by lawful means -...then the deterrence rationale has so little basis that the evidence should be received. Anything less would reject logic, experience, and common sense.
467 U.S. at 444 (footnote omitted).
Plaintiff's suggestion here that the President of the United States is liable to him for an allegedly unlawful search and seizure by local police officers, on the theory that the judicially-created "inevitable discovery" exception to the exclusionary rule induced the police to violate Plaintiff's rights, is utterly devoid of any factual or legal basis. This Court will dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as frivolous.
For the reasons set forth above, the Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice as frivolous, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 1915A(b)(1). It is not conceivable that Plaintiff could cure the defects in this Complaint by amendment.
An appropriate order follows.