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Kaplan v. Morano

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 3, 2017

RICHARD P. KAPLAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES R. MORANO, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Claire C. Cecchi, U.S.D.J.

         Pro se Plaintiff Richard P. Kaplan ("Plaintiff'), a convicted prisoner confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York, files the instant Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated by a single defendant, James R. Morano ("Morano"). Because Plaintiff is proceeding under in forma pauperis status, at this time, the Court must review the 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 such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). For the reasons stated below, the Court dismisses the Complaint.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         At the outset, the Court notes that the Complaint is sparse and contains very little factual allegations; indeed, Plaintiffs "Statement of Facts" is a one-page recitation of Plaintiff s claims, comprised mostly of bare conclusory statements. (See ECF No. 1 at 2.) As such, the Court provides a very minimal background for the purposes of this Opinion.

         Sometime in 2006, Plaintiff pled guilty to unspecified federal crimes. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4.) While in jail, Plaintiffs then-wife, Margherita A. Pitale, appears to have sought a divorce from Plaintiff. See Id. at 19; (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that Morano, Ms. Pitale's son, conspired with the government and Ms. Pitale to unlawfully "set him up." (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff further alleges that Morano was responsible for Plaintiff losing his marital assets during the divorce proceedings. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that Morano concealed documents which show that Morano assisted Ms. Pitale in illegally using campaign funds. Id. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Morano concealed illegal activities of New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie, James Cahill, and other government officials. Id. at 2. Plaintiff purportedly has attached exhibits showing that Morano "has fraudulent (sic) concealed evidence that has contributed to my false imprisonment." Id. at 2. However, the attached exhibits comprise of nothing more than proofs of service of certain lawsuits Plaintiff has filed against Ms. Pitale;, a letter from Plaintiffs attorney to Plaintiff regarding his guilty plea; a memorandum concerning the law on fraudulent concealment; and various letters between Plaintiff and Ms. Pitale, and friends/family of Ms. Pitale, including one letter that may have been written by Morano to Plaintiff, asking Plaintiff to stop all contact with Ms. Pitale. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 15.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Every complaint must comply with the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."' Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted).

While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do ... . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level....

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).

         That is, a complaint must assert "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The determination of whether the factual allegations plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief is '"a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). Thus, a court is "not bound to accept as, true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, " and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted).

         In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to accept its factual allegations as true, see James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 679 (3d Cir. 2012), and to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); U.S. v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992).

         In general, where a complaint subject to statutory screening can be remedied by amendment, a district court should not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but should permit the amendment. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 34 (1992); Grayson v. Mayview StateHosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002) (noting that leave to amend should be granted "in the absence of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, unfair prejudice, or futility of amendment").

         III. DISCUSSION

         A plaintiff can pursue a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights. ...


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