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Brown v. Cantineri

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 13, 2015

STEVEN BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
MELISSA CANTINERI, Defendant.

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff, Steven Brown, is a pretrial detainee at the Passaic County Jail in Paterson, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with an amended civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court previously administratively terminated this case because Mr. Brown had neither paid the filing fee nor had he submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Subsequently, Mr. Brown submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis. That application is granted, and the Clerk will be ordered to reopen this case.

After he filed his application to proceed in forma pauperis, Mr. Brown submitted an amended complaint. I will review that amended 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, in part without prejudice and in part with prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

Mr. Brown filed his initial complaint in this matter in October, 2014. He filed an amended complaint in November, 2014. The allegations of the amended complaint are construed as true for purposes of this Opinion. The amended complaint names Melissa Cantineri - Senior Parole Officer, as the sole defendant in this case.

The amended complaint alleges that on May 2, 2012, Ms. Cantineri prepared a knowingly false report. She allegedly is responsible for the narrative of facts on an arrest report filed against Mr. Brown for violating his supervised release. The entirety of the narrative section of the arrest report reads: "Steven Brown was arrested for violation of community supervision for life. Specifically by possessing/owing a computer with internet capability." (Dkt. No. 5 at p. 28.) The amended complaint further alleges that on March 13, 2013, Ms. Cantineri made false statements about Mr. Brown to a grand jury. Brown alleges that these falsehoods violated his constitutional rights, and he seeks compensatory and punitive damages against Ms. Cantineri.

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).

Under 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 dismiss sua sponte 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. See 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 v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), as explicated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. To survive the court's screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. See Fowler v. UPMC 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). "[A] pleading that offers labels or conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

Pro se pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed. Nevertheless, " pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 ...


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