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Drake v. Muniak

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 7, 2015

KEITH HASSON DRAKE, Plaintiff,
v.
ROSELLEN G. MUNIAK, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff is a state prisoner incarcerated at the South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with an amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

On April 14, 2014, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice after being screened. On September 2, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, which will be granted and the Clerk will be ordered to file the amended complaint. Plaintiff submitted his proposed amended complaint to this Court on the same day, hence the clerk will be ordered to reopen this case. At this time, the Court must review the proposed amended complaint 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 suit. For the following reasons, the amended complaint will be dismissed without prejudice with the exception of Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claim, which will be dismissed with prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

The allegations of the amended complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening. Plaintiff names the following individuals as defendants in his amended complaint: (1) Rosellen G. Muniak - Law Librarian South Woods State Prison; (2) Sergeant M. Sheppard - South Woods State Prison; (3) Lieutenant "John Doe" - South Woods State Prison; (4) Christopher Holmes - Warden South Woods State Prison; (5) Greg Lanoza - Assistant Administrator South Woods State Prison; (6) David Metelow - Education Supervisor South Woods State Prison; and (7) M. Brown[1] - librarian and educator at South Woods State Prison. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from each Defendant.

A. Plaintiff's Original Complaint

In his original complaint, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendants Muniak, Sheppard, and Doe under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his First Amendment rights by reading through his legal materials, confiscating his legal materials, keeping him from the law library, keeping him from assisting other inmates with their legal matters, keeping him from using the legal photocopying service, and deliberately failing to inform him of rules and procedures pertaining to use of the law library. Plaintiff also raised an Eighth Amendment claim pertaining to the confiscation of his legal materials, and a Sixth Amendment claim pertaining to his lack of an attorney. Plaintiff lastly sued Defendants Muniak, Sheppard, and Doe under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (conspiracy to interfere with civil rights), and § 1986 (neglecting to prevent a foreseeable and preventable harm).

Plaintiff also alleged that Defendants Christopher Holmes and Greg Lanoza were similarly liable under § 1983, § 1985, and § 1986 through both respondeat superior and being put on notice of a constitutional violation. Plaintiff also claimed that defendant David Metelow was liable for "inaction" in his supervisory role. Lastly, Plaintiff stated Gary Lanigan was liable for "failure to intervene" in events he knew or should have known were happening.

In response to the original complaint, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Defendants Holmes, Lanoza, Metelow, and Lanigan without prejudice both because a respondeat superior theory is "typically insufficient to state at § 1983 claim, " and because Plaintiff did not state a claim upon which relief could have been granted. See Dkt. Entry No. 5 at 16-17. The court also dismissed Plaintiff's §§ 1985 and 1986 claims against these Defendants, without prejudice, for the same reasons.

As to Defendants Muniak, Sheppard, and Doe, this Court dismissed the following claims without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted: (1) reading Plaintiff's legal materials; (2) confiscating Plaintiff's legal materials and thereby denying him access to the courts; (3) keeping Plaintiff from using the legal photocopying services; (4) failing to inform Plaintiff of the rules and procedures governing use of the law library; and (5) §§ 1985 and 1986 claims for conspiracy and negligence, respectively. Furthermore, the following claims against these Defendants were dismissed with prejudice: (1) Eighth Amendment claim alleging that confiscating his legal materials caused him to do many hours more work than would have otherwise been required; (2) Sixth Amendment right to counsel claim; and (3) keeping Plaintiff from assisting other inmates with their legal matters.

B. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

Plaintiff raises anew many of the allegations from the original complaint that were dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff does not re-raise his §§1985 and 1986 allegations, and he trades Gary Lanigan for M. Brown as his seventh defendant. The allegations from Plaintiff's amended complaint are explained in more detail below.

i. Allegations against Defendants Muniak, Sheppard, and Doe

Plaintiff again raises similar factual allegations against Defendants Muniak, Sheppard, and Doe. First, Plaintiff claims that these Defendants violated his constitutional rights by reading and inspecting his legal materials. He relies on the fact that Defendants stated on a disciplinary report that they reviewed data from a disk. See Dkt. Entry No. 12 at 5. Next, Plaintiff alleges that these three Defendants not only read his legal materials but that they also confiscated them. By confiscating this material, Plaintiff alleges he was unable to petition the courts for redress. Plaintiff also mentions that his post-conviction relief petition was denied on August 31, 2012. By confiscating this material, Plaintiff states that he had to do his legal research and writing "all over again." Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants kept him from using the "legal photocopying services." This then prevented him from sending legal materials to the courts or his attorney. Id. at 6. Thus, Plaintiff claims that confiscating his legal materials and disallowing access to the photocopier deprived him access to the courts. Id.

Plaintiff also contends that these three Defendants deprived him of assisting other inmates with their legal matters. Indeed, as an example, Plaintiff notes that his confiscated disk also contained the legal materials of other prisoners.

Plaintiff adds the contention that these three Defendants deprived him of his Fifth Amendment right to due process of law to his amended complaint.

Lastly, Plaintiff again contends that Defendant Muniak "deprived [him] of the rules and procedures concerning the operation of [the law library], " and therefore Plaintiff should not have received his initial disciplinary report. Id. at 5.

ii. Allegations against Holmes

Plaintiff alleges that he wrote to Warden Holmes on November 9, 2012 and reported that his rights were being violated at South Woods State Prison with respect to his legal materials being confiscated. Holmes responded to Plaintiff on November 13, 2012, and instructed Plaintiff that he needed to use the inmate remedy system to pursue this issue. Plaintiff again claims in his amended complaint that Holmes was put on notice ...


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