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Kaplan v. Holder

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 18, 2015

ERIC HOLDER, et al., Defendants.


JOSEPH E. IRENAS, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is the complaint of Richard Kaplan ("Plaintiff") alleging that Defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy to violate his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, (ECF No. 1), and Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 3).[1]


Plaintiff is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at FCI Otisville in Otisville, New York. (ECF No. 3, at 1). In 2007, Plaintiff pled guilty to a one-count information charging him with violating 18 U.S.C. § 666 by receiving corrupt cash payments and other services in exchange for official action on his part as a rehabilitation construction inspector in New Brunswick, New Jersey. ( See United States v. Kaplan, Criminal Action No. 08-581, Information at ECF No. 12). While in prison following his guilty plea, Plaintiff attempted to engage the services of a hit man to commit murder for hire with the help of a fellow inmate. (Id. at 1-2). This fellow inmate contacted authorities and acted as a cooperating witness, introducing Plaintiff to an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a hit-man. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff then attempted to hire this undercover officer to murder Plaintiff's spouse. (Id. at 2-3). As a result, Plaintiff was charged with and pled guilty to a one-count information for murder for hire. (Id. at 1-4, See United States v Kaplan, Criminal Action No. 08-581, ECF No. 14, Plea Agreement at ECF No. 15). Plaintiff was thereafter sentenced and remains in prison. (ECF No. 1).

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants; including the Attorney General of the United States, the Governor of New Jersey, several FBI agents, HUD investigators, prison officials, the cooperating witness, his former attorney, and his ex-wife; engaged in a convoluted civil conspiracy with the end result of keeping Plaintiff imprisoned. (ECF No. 1 at 2-4). Plaintiff alleges that these individuals conspired to conceal exculpatory evidence related to his first conviction, and ultimately to deprive him of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by placing the cooperating witness into prison as Plaintiff's cellmate in order to entrap him into the murder for hire charge. (ECF No. 1 at 3-6).

Plaintiff's complaint does not specify how, when, or why the various defendants entered into or engaged in the alleged conspiracy, nor alleges any specific actions other than the "fraudulent concealment" of documents related to his corruption conviction and the placement of the cooperating witness as his cellmate to "entrap" Plaintiff. (ECF No. 1 at 3-6). Indeed, Plaintiff's complaint instead concludes by asking the various Defendants to identify how, when, and why they became involved in the alleged conspiracy, and whether they concealed any documents/discovery from Plaintiff. (ECF No. 1 at 7-11).

Although Plaintiff did not initially pay the filing fee for a civil complaint, he has since filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis accompanied by a certified prison account statement. (ECF No. 3). Petitioner has also filed motions for change of venue (ECF No. 2), appointment of counsel (ECF No. 4), a motion requesting a criminal investigation against defendants (ECF No. 5, 7), requests for the production of documents (ECF No. 6), a motion for a judgment of acquittal as to Plaintiff's criminal conviction (ECF No. 11), a motion for entry of default judgment (ECF No. 12), and several motions to amend his complaint.[2] (ECF Nos. 8-10, 13, 15).


Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in this matter in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915 permits prisoners to bring a civil action in forma pauperis without the prepayment of fees or provision of security. Under the statute, a prisoner must submit an affidavit, including a statement of all assets, which states that the prisoner is unable to pay the fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The prisoner also must submit a certified copy of his inmate trust fund account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). The prisoner must obtain this statement from the appropriate official of each prison at which he was or is confined. Id.

Plaintiff has submitted a complete application to proceed in forma pauperis, including a six-month certified account statement as required by § 1915(a). Based on the information provided in his application, leave to proceed in this Court without prepayment of fees is authorized. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The Court therefore will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis. Because Plaintiff is a prisoner who has filed a complaint seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer or employee, the granting of in forma pauperis status triggers sua sponte screening by the Court, to which the Court now turns. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).


A. Legal Standard

Pursuant to 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, 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[3], 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 ...

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