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Aruanno v. Davis

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 4, 2014

JOSEPH ARUANNO, Plaintiff,
v.
SARAH DAVIS, Defendants. JOSEPH ARUANNO, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Defendants

JOSEPH ARUANNO, Plaintiff, Pro se, Avenel, New Jersey.

OPINION

WILLIAM J. MARTINI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Presently before this Court are two civil complaints which Joseph Aruanno, who is civilly committed to the Special Treatment Unit (" STU" ) under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act, seeks to file

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without prepayment of the filing fee, and Aruanno's apparent request to file a petition for mandamus without prepayment of the filing fee. For the reasons expressed below, this Court will direct Aruanno to show cause why this Court should not deny his applications to proceed in forma pauperis in these cases because he has abused the privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and his submissions do not show that he is in imminent danger of serious physical injury.

I. BACKGROUND

Aruanno has filed over 39 civil actions in this Court, while proceeding in forma pauperis, and 45 appeals in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. At this time, he seeks permission to proceed in forma pauperis and to thereby file two civil rights complaints without payment of the $400 filing and administrative fees. He also apparently seeks to file a petition for mandamus against the State of New Jersey, but he did not prepay the filing fee or submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis in that matter. Specifically, he seeks to bring Aruanno v. Davis, Civil Number 14-3413 (WJM), against Sarah Davis, the Assistant Superintendent of the Special Treatment Unit. Aruanno complains that " certain staff refuse to close our cell doors as needed[, which] permits other residents/patients to watch us using the toilet [that] is right in the doorway where some masturbate, etc." (Civ. No. 3413, ECF No. 1 at 6.) Aruanno asserts that officials allow residents to shield themselves with a four-foot curtain, but he cannot afford to buy a curtain. He further claims that " when sleeping, coming from the shower, etc., there are many female staff members who[] see us changing, etc., then say we were exposing ourselves to them, which then keeps us here longer." Id. He alleges that " curtains are not necessary if the doors were fixed to slide closed, as we were told when we moved in here, but defendant Sarah Davis just informed me in writing that the doors will not be adjusted and that curtains are a 'PRIVILEGE' that will be taken away, which has happened, which has forced this submission, and others, requesting that this court address our PRIVACY RIGHTS and how they apply to a therapeutic existence here." Id. at 7. Aruanno seeks injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and damages of ten million dollars. In Aruanno v. Yates, Civil Number 14-5100 (WJM), Aruanno seeks to sue Administrator Yates, Assistant Superintendent Davis, and John/Jane Does 1-20 for Aruanno's " being denied legal access such as a law library," research material, forms, envelopes, typewriters, photocopies, and paralegals. (Civ. No. 14-5100, ECF No. 1 at 6.) He claims that " the injury inflicted as a result is such as the U.S. Supreme Court denying petition No. 12-9040 by way of letter dated 7/3/2013 because I could not obtain PHOTOCOPIES in time." [1] Id. He further claims that " the state, JOHN/JANE DOES, et al., fail/refuse to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Rehabilitation Act; the Law Against Discrimination, etc., where they have held, and upheld, for years that I am an incompetent person lacking intellectual cognitive abilities,

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need certain medications to be able to gain reality, etc., but then, as an involuntarily civilly committed person, fail/refuse to APPOINT A 'GUARDIAN,' etc., to assist me in properly and fairly accessing the court[s]." [2] Id. In addition to these actions, wherein Aruanno submitted applications to proceed in forma pauperis, on July 17, 2014, Aruanno submitted a " Petition for Writ of Mandamus" in a matter captioned Aruanno v. State of New Jersey, Civil Number 14-5099 (WJM). Aruanno states that he is submitting the petition for mandamus " in reply to the letter I just received from the Clerk of the U.S. Court of Appeals dated 8/10/14 which was in reply to my request about the outcome of my Petition for Rehearing En Banc" (Civ. No. 14-5099 (WJM), ECF No. 1 at 2.) Aruanno did not include an application to proceed in forma pauperis with his mandamus petition or prepay the $400 filing and administrative fees.

II. PRIVILEGE OF PROCEEDING IN FORMA PAUPERIS

The federal in forma pauperis statute, enacted in 1892 and codified as 28 U.S.C. § 1915, " is designed to ensure that indigent litigants have meaningful access to the federal courts." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989). Toward this end, § 1915(a) provides that courts of the United States, " may authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit . ., without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit" stating, inter alia, that he or she is unable to pay the costs of the lawsuit. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a); see also Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 324. " Congress recognized, however, that a litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits." Id. To curtail such abuse, the provision of the statute in effect before (and after) passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA" ), Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), required the court to sua sponte dismiss a claim filed in forma pauperis if the court determined that the action was frivolous or malicious. Id.

In 1996, " Congress concluded that the large number of meritless prisoner claims was caused by the fact that prisoners easily obtained I.F.P. status and hence were not subject to the same economic disincentives to filing meritless cases that face other civil litigants." Abdul-Akbar v. McKelvie, 239 F.3d 307, 312 (3d Cir. 2001); see also 141 Cong. Rec. S7498-01, S7524 (daily ed. May 25, 1995) (statement of Sen. Kyl) (" Filing frivolous civil rights lawsuits has become a recreational activity for long-term residents of prisons." ); 141 Cong. Rec. S7498-01, S7524 (daily ed. May 25, 1995) (statement of Sen. Dole) (" [P]risoners will now 'litigate at the drop of a hat,' simply because they have little to lose and everything to gain." ). To accomplish this, Congress curtailed the ability of prisoners to take advantage of the privilege of filing in forma pauperis by enacting a " three strikes rule," which provides: " In no event

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shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). " In stark terms, [the three strikes rule in § 1915(g)] declared that the I.F.P. privilege will not be available to prisoners who have, on three occasions, ...


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