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Cooper v. Atlantic County Justice Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 20, 2015

MORRIS COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
ATLANTIC COUNTY JUSTICE FACILITY et al., Defendants.

Morris Cooper, Plaintiff Pro Se, Atlantic County Justice Facility, Mays Landing, NJ.

OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Plaintiff Morris Cooper's ("Plaintiff"), submission of a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee currently confined at Atlantic County Justice Facility ("ACJF"), Mays Landing, New Jersey. By Order dated March 17, 2015, this Court granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and ordered the Clerk to file the Complaint. (Docket Entry 2). 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 will be permitted to go forward in part, and will be dismissed in part.[2]

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against Defendants ACJF, Freeholders of Atlantic County, Medical Staff of Atlantic County Justice Facility, Atlantic County Correctional Officers, CFG Health Systems, LLC, ("CFG") and Warden Geraldine Cohen. 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 alleges that he was beaten and sexually assaulted by Officer Buonsante, Sgt. Gill, Sgt. Montoya, D.t. Geiger J., Ofc. Grey, and other John Doe ACJF officers. According to the complaint, Plaintiff was escorted to the medical area of ACJF. While he was waiting, he began talking with some of the women in the area. (Docket Entry 1 at 5). Officer Buonsante yelled at Plaintiff to stop talking to them, and Plaintiff responded that Officer Buonsante did not have to yell at him like a child. (Docket Entry 1 at 5). Officer Buonsante then left his post and told Plaintiff he was "goin back." (Docket Entry 1 at 5). Thereafter, he pushed Plaintiff to the door and punched Plaintiff in the face. (Docket Entry 1 at 5). Plaintiff began to bleed from his lip and nose. (Docket Entry 1 at 5, 7). Officer Buonsante called for the other officers, who began kicking and punching Plaintiff. (Docket Entry 1 at 7). Plaintiff says that as a result of the confrontation, his left hand pinky and ring fingers were broken. (Docket Entry 1 at 7). The officers next forcefully grabbed Plaintiff's penis and testicles. (Docket Entry 1 at 7). Plaintiff "started yelling I'm not resisting help me." (Docket Entry 1 at 7). The officer then handcuffed Plaintiff, "put [his] face down and force[d] [him] to walk backwards to medical." (Docket Entry 1 at 7). As the result of the alleged conduct by the officers, Plaintiff asserts he is suffering "internal and external complications, " his "sex life is tainted, " he feels "violated, " and he cannot "take showers properly or do any normal activities with [his] hand" (Docket Entry 1 at 7). He was thereafter taken to solitary confinement (Docket Entry 1 at 7).

Plaintiff further claims he was provided improper medical treatment by various, unnamed medical staff as well as ACJF's healthcare provider, CFG Health Systems, LLC. After the incident with the officers as described above, Plaintiff was escorted to the medical facility where his right hand was xrayed instead of the left hand that was broken by the officers. (Docket Entry 1 at 7).[3] He states he "can't feel [his] hand" and has not been given any kind of antibiotics or pain medication. (Docket Entry 1 at 8). He also cites their failure to take him to a hospital for treatment or stitch his lip. (Docket Entry 1 at 4).

Plaintiff has also named Warden Geraldine Cohen as a defendant, stating he sent her a grievance regarding the actions of the officers and medical staff. (Docket Entry 1 at 9). He also seeks relief against the Freeholders of Atlantic County as the operators of ACJF and Warden Cohen's "supervisor." (Docket Entry 1 at 6).

Plaintiff seeks relief in the amount of "$500, 000, 000 or between $2, 000, 000" (Docket Entry 1 at 11).

II. DISCUSSION

A. 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(e)(2)(b) and 1915A because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis.

In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992).

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, [4] 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." Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings ...


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