United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Mr. Kaseem Ali-X, N.J.S.P., Trenton, NJ, Pro Se Plaintiff.
Alex Joseph Zowin, Esq., Lucy Elizabeth Fritz, Esq., State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Trenton, NJ, Attorneys for Defendant Christopher Holmes.
JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff Kaseem Ali-X, who is representing himself, asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that mail room employees in South Woods State Prison ("SWSP") opened his properly-marked incoming legal mail outside of his presence and that SWSP administrators allowed subordinates to discard his written complaints about the opening of his mail. This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Christopher Holmes' motion to dismiss [Docket Item 18], Plaintiff's motion to stay [Docket Items 22] adjudication of the motion to dismiss until he can conduct discovery, and Plaintiff's motion to stay/amend his complaint [Docket Item 25].
Claims against Defendant Holmes in his official capacity will be dismissed with prejudice because, in his official capacity, he is not a person amenable to suit under § 1983 and is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Claims against Defendant Holmes in his individual capacity will proceed because Plaintiff has satisfied the pleading standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint will be granted.
A. Plaintiff's Allegations
Plaintiff Kaseem Ali-X, who is currently incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison, brought this action against Defendants Christopher Holmes, Karen Balicki, and All the Employees of Mail Room Staffs. Balicki and Holmes are sued in their individual and official capacities. The mail room employees are sued in their individual capacities. The Defendants are employees of Southwoods State Prison ("SWSP"), where Plaintiff was previously incarcerated, and Plaintiff's allegations describe events that occurred while he was at SWSP.
Plaintiff alleges that mail room employees opened his properly marked, incoming legal mail outside his presence on May 24, 2010; June 12, 2010; July 9, 2010; July 23, 2010; August 13, 2010; March 27, 2011; July 11, 2011; September 27, 2011; and September 30, 2011. [Docket Item 11 (Am. Compl.) ¶ 6(a).) He also alleges that mail room employees took his legal papers on April 2, 2011; July 11, 2011; September 27, 2011; and September 30, 2011. (Id. ¶ 6(b).)
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Balicki, a SWSP administrator, allowed the unlawful mail-opening to occur because her subordinates had a known and customary practice of discarding Inmate Remedy System Forms ("IRSFs"). (Id. ¶ 6(c).) Plaintiff also alleges that Balicki failed to intervene when Plaintiff mailed her copies of the unprocessed IRSFs and informed her about the unlawful conduct during wing representative meetings. (Id. ¶ 6(c).)
Defendant Holmes, also a SWSP administrator, allegedly allowed subordinates' known practice of processing certain ISRFs and discarding others. (Id. ¶ 6(d).) Plaintiff alleges that he mailed copies of the unprocessed ISRFs to Defendant Holmes and informed Holmes of the problems when Holmes toured the prison. (Id. ¶ 6(d).)
Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages for each instance of unlawfully opened mail and costs of suit. (Id. ¶ 7.)
B. Procedural History
The Court issued an order on June 8, 2012 [Docket Item 2] allowing, inter alia, Plaintiff's First Amendment claims against the mail room employees to proceed past an initial screen pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The June 8, 2012 Order mandated that "within 180 days after entry of this Order, Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint identifying by name the fictitious defendants who are alleged to have engaged in a pattern and practice of opening his properly-marked legal mail outside of his presence...." [Docket Item 2 at 4.]
Because Plaintiff could not identify the mail room employees despite his reasonable efforts, the Court issued an Order [Docket Item 8] permitting Plaintiff to file an amended complaint naming the Administrator of South Woods State Prison as a nominal Defendant and ...