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Woods v. Davis

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Newark Vicinage

April 28, 2015

WALTER WOODS, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
MRS. S. DAVIS ET AL., DEFENDANTS

OPINION

STANLEY R. CHESLER, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a civilly committed detainee under New Jersey's Sexually Violent Predator Act, confined at East Jersey State Prison. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff submitted a civil rights Complaint to this Court, and the Court granted Plaintiff's request to proceed without prepayment of fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (Order, ECF No. 2.) This case is now subject to preliminary review by the Court pursuant to § 1915(e) (2) (B).

When a person is proceeding in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the statute requires the court to "dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that" the action is frivolous or malicious; the action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or the action seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

I. THE COMPLAINT

The first defendant named in the complaint is Mrs. S. Davis, identified as "Asst. Supt. of D.O.C.". (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶ 4 (b)). Plaintiff alleged Davis placed residents under prison policies ("10:A-code"), ordered employees to confiscate cigarettes, and locked people up for having cigarettes. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleged Davis authorized corrections officers to destroy residents' cells if they complained of not being a prisoner, overlooked abuse by officers against residents, and stopped families from bringing food packages. (Id.)

The second defendant is Major S. Kaminski, identified as "Admin Major D.O.C.". (Id. at ¶ 4(c)). Plaintiff alleged Kaminski applied a new series of rules under the prison policy (10:A), causing conflicts with treatment and the running of a treatment center. (Id.) The third defendant is Merril Main, identified as the Clinical Director of DHS. (Id. at 4(d)). Plaintiff alleged Main ignored that the D.O.C. "put us residents under prison policy. And signing off on every memo with new prison rules, applying them to us." (Id.)

The fourth defendant is Shantay Adams, identified as "Unit Director - D.H.S."). (Id. at ¶ 4(e)). Petitioner alleged Adams knew that application of the D.O.C. prison policies to persons civilly committed as sexually violent predators violated the Patient Bill of Rights, and that Adams ignored abuse inflicted upon residents and their families by the D.O.C. (Id.)

Specifically, Petitioner alleged that on September 10, 2014, it was brought to "the Administrators['s] attention" that civil residents were not to be treated like prisoners because they were civilly committed under NJSA 30:4-27.24 et seq. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 8.) Petitioner alleged that residents talked to DHS treatment staff eight hours per day, but for the remaining sixteen hours per day, they were treated like problem prisoners because the D.O.C. canceled groups while in session; the D.O.C. refused to allow staff to conduct groups; Unit Correction Officers instituted lock-downs, causing groups to be terminated; and D.H.S. Administrators replied only that they do not get involved in D.O.C. matters, and they had to follow D.O.C. rules on prison grounds. (Id. at 9-10.)

Petitioner alleged that by placing residents under prison policies, residents lost their rights to tobacco products and to food and water packages provided by visitors. (Id. at 10.) Petitioner alleged that when residents exercise their First Amendment rights, the D.O.C. retaliates by having the residents locked up on false charges, with no hearing or investigation. (Id.)

Plaintiff requested the following injunctive relief: (1) reinstate rights of civilly committed residents by not applying D.O.C. prison policies to them; (2) transfer Plaintiff to a federally funded treatment facility with better treatment staff, where D.O.C. does not provide security; (3) appoint a special master to oversee the injunctions.

II. STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis in this civil action. Therefore, this Court must review the complaint and 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, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court must liberally construe the complaint in Plaintiff's favor because he is proceeding pro se. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). The Court must also "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The Court need not, however, credit a pro se plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Id.

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court revisited the standard for summary dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 556 U.S. 662 (2009). The Court examined the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) (2), noting that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. at 677. However, "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. at 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

A complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it does not state a plausible claim for relief. Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679 (citations omitted). "When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. Finally, a court should not dismiss a complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim without ...


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