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Santa Maria v. City of Elizabeth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 20, 2015

FRED SANTA MARIA, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ELIZABETH (N.J.), et al., Defendants.

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff, Fred Santa Maria, Jr., is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the Union County Jail in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Santa Maria's application to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted based on the information provided therein and the Clerk will be ordered to file the complaint.

The Court must now review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) 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 suit. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint will be dismissed as against the Elizabeth Police Department but otherwise permitted to proceed.

II. BACKGROUND

The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this Opinion. The complaint names four defendants: (1) City of Elizabeth; (2) Elizabeth Police Department; (3) Detective Jose Martinez - Elizabeth Police Department; and (4) Detective Raul Delaprida - Elizabeth Police Department.

The allegations of the Complaint are taken to be true for purposes of screening only. The Complaint alleges that on April 8, 2014, Officers Martinez and Delaprida, undercover detectives, were chasing Mr. Santa Maria in his automobile. After Mr. Santa-Maria was involved in an auto accident, Martinez and Delaprida pulled him out of his car, shoved him to the ground and handcuffed him behind his back. They allegedly kicked and punched his face and body. Mr. Santa Maria sustained a broken nose, a deep laceration to his upper lip, an injured hand and several "broken/bruised" ribs. While detained for over twenty-four hours in a holding cell, he was denied medical attention despite his pleas for help.

Mr. Santa Maria alleges that the Elizabeth Police Department is responsible for continuing to employ Detectives Martinez and Delaprida, who had had "frequently been involved in illegal activities." He also claims that the City of Elizabeth bears ultimate responsibility for their acts. He seeks compensation for his medical bills and for his pain and suffering.

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.

Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and second, that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. See Harvey v. Plains Twp. Police Dep't, 635 F.3d 606, 609 (3d Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (Apr. 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

"The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)." Schreane v. Seana, 506 F.Appx. 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F.Appx. 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (discussing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F.Appx. 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). That standard is set forth in Ashcroft ...


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