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Scheffler v. State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 10, 2014

JOHN BRIAN SCHEFFLER, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ESTHER SALAS, District Judge.

Plaintiff John Brian Scheffler ("Plaintiff"), a pre-trial detainee confined at Warren County Correctional Center in Belvidere, New Jersey at the time of filing, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Based on his affidavit of indigence, the Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and order the Clerk of the Court to file the complaint.

At this time, the Court must review the complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) 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 in part pending conclusion of Plaintiff's related state criminal proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint, and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the veracity of Plaintiff's allegations.

Plaintiff names the State of New Jersey, County of Union, City of Elizabeth, Elizabeth County Police Department and Officer Francisco Croban as defendants in this action. Plaintiff alleges that on August 11, 2011, Officer Francisco Croban arrested him without probable cause at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth, New Jersey. (D.E. No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ 6). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Croban swore to an arrest warrant that he knew contained false statements. ( Id. ).

Plaintiff submitted several documents attached to his complaint, including Officer Croban's Investigation Report from the night of Plaintiff's arrest. (Compl. at 7). According to the report, Defendant Croban and Officer Arias were called to a restaurant based upon a report of a disorderly person. ( Id. ). Once they arrived, they saw Plaintiff's brother shaking on the ground, with a heroin crack pipe in his hand. ( Id. ). Plaintiff's brother was taken to Trinitas Hospital to be treated for his overdose. ( Id. at 8). Trying to find identification for him, Defendant Croban took Plaintiff's brother's car keys and went to the parking lot. ( Id. at 7). After locating the car but before entering the vehicle, Defendant Croban observed two rifles in plain view. ( Id. ). The vehicle was then towed back to police headquarters. ( Id. at 8). The car was registered to an individual in Blairstown, New Jersey and when officers went to the address, it was clear that the house had been burglarized. ( Id. ). After he received a call from hospital personnel, Plaintiff arrived at the hospital. ( Id. ). After the officers confirmed that Plaintiff had been with his brother at the restaurant prior to his brother's shaking incident, they arrested Plaintiff for receiving stolen property. ( Id. ).

Plaintiff also attached the arrest warrant to his Complaint. In the arrest warrant signed by Defendant Croban, he stated that Plaintiff was in possession of the stolen vehicle at the time of his arrest. ( Id. at 9). Plaintiff is seeking monetary damages. (Compl. ¶ 7).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

1. 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 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) and 1915A because Plaintiff is a prisoner who is proceeding as an indigent.

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. 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 ...


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