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Pittman v. Middlesex County Probation Department

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 24, 2017

WILLIAM PITTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
MIDDLESEX COUNTY PROBATION DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON, U.S.D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter has been opened to the Court by William Pittman's (“Plaintiff's”) filing of a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an application for pro bono counsel. (ECF Nos. 1, 1-1.) The Court previously granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1-2, 2.) For the reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss the entire Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court dismisses the claims against Middlesex County Probation Department and Criminal Case Management with prejudice, as these entities are not persons under §1983. The Court dismisses the personal capacity claims against the individual Defendants without prejudice as barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In light of the dismissal of the Complaint, the application for pro bono counsel is likewise denied.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was not incarcerated at the time he filed the instant Complaint and has sued the Middlesex County Probation Department, Evelyn Cruz Carofilis, Kathie DeFuria, Bruce Morgan, Jeffrey Israel, Janine Abdalla, Andrea Poland, “Criminal Case Management, ” and “all known and unknown” for violations of his civil rights in connection with the use of a sealed psychiatric report or evaluation (“Psychiatric Report”) in his presentence report (“PSR”).[1] (ECF No. 1, Compl. at ¶¶ 1-2, 8.) The individual Defendants appear to be employees at the Middlesex County Probation Department, Criminal Case Management Unit, which has responsibility, in relevant part, for the preparation of presentence reports for the state court.[2] According to Plaintiff, the Psychiatric Report at issue was “ruled illegal” and “sealed by [a state court judge] in the Middlesex County Superior Court [] on May 27, 2003. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff states that he sues the individual Defendants in their individual capacities. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

         Plaintiff alleges that he was interviewed by Defendant Abdalla, then Janine Khale, in 2005 while he was incarcerated at Bayside State Prison, and Abdalla improperly questioned him about the Psychiatric Report. Plaintiff told Abdalla that the report was sealed and could not be used, but Abdalla allegedly used the psychiatric report for an unspecified purpose. (Id.) Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion in the Middlesex County Superior Court, and a state court judge allegedly ruled again that the matter was sealed. (Id.)

         On May 27, 2012, “[P]laintiff was ordered by the state court to report to criminal case management[.]” (Id.) During an intake evaluation, Defendant Bruce Morgan allegedly asked Plaintiff about the Psychiatric Report. (Id.) Plaintiff told Defendant Morgan that the report was sealed and that it could not be used against him. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Morgan “would still use the report, [k]nowing it was a sealed matter.” (Id.) Later in the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly told Defendant Morgan that the Psychiatric Report was sealed and that two judges had ruled that it could not be used against him. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Plaintiff appears to allege that the Psychiatric Report was used by Morgan to get Plaintiff “medical help” and to harass him. (Id.)

         On November 6, 2013, Plaintiff was ordered by a judge to report to Criminal Case Management in order to “have a [PSR] done” in a then-pending case against him.[3] (Id.) At that time, Defendant Abdalla once again interviewed and questioned Plaintiff about the Psychiatric Report. (Id.) Plaintiff told Abdalla that the Psychiatric Report was “ruled illegal[.]” (Id.) Plaintiff appears to allege that the PSR included or incorporated information from the Psychiatric Report and states that he would not sign the consent form or the PSR. (Id.) Plaintiff subsequently wrote to the sentencing judge about the matter, and the judge “stated the court has not relied on the prior psychiatric evaluation and the probation department should also disregard the same.” (Id.)

         According to Plaintiff, Defendants Abdala, DeFuria, and “[C]riminal [C]ase [M]anagement” “assisted with the preparation of the [PSR] in order “to paint a bad picture of [Plaintiff], knowing that the Sentencing Judge [] would review it” and that it would also be reviewed by the state prison, classification[, ] a[nd] parole. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-15.) Plaintiff appears to allege that Defendants included the Psychiatric Report in the PSR so that Plaintiff would be treated “harshly” by the sentencing judge, and receive harsher treatment from prison, classification, and parole officials. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-17.)

         According to the Complaint, the Middlesex County Probation Department “is responsible for its staff and their actions and [d]id nothing to assist in the matter[.]” (Id. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff also states that “[t]he actions of [C]riminal [C]ase [M]anagement were totally against policy.” (Id. at ¶ 10.) Several of the individual Defendants are sued in their supervisory capacities. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kathie Defuria was “the supervisor and did nothing to assist in the matter” after the state courts ordered that the psychiatric report was a sealed matter and was to be disregarded. Defendant Defuria also allegedly “read the [PSR] and still signed it in order to harass Plaintiff. (Id. at 11.) The Complaint also identifies Defendant Jeffrey Israel as “the team leader” who “signed the [PSR].” (Id. at ¶ 23.) Finally, Defendant Evelyn Cruz Carolfilis is described in the Complaint as the “supervisor at the time of [Defendant] Bruce Morgan [sic] actions.” (Id.)

         In addition to receiving harsh treatment by the sentencing court, Plaintiff has allegedly experienced “prolong[ed] worry” as a result of Defendants' inclusion of the Psychiatric Report in his PSR. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 17.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for alleged violations of his civil rights. (Id.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 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). “While much of the language in Section 1915 addresses ‘prisoners, ' section 1915(e)(2) applies with equal force to prisoner as well as nonprisoner in forma pauperis cases.” Stamos v. New Jersey, No. CIVA095828 (PGS), 2010 WL 457727, at *2 (D.N.J. Feb. 2, 2010), aff'd, 396 F.App'x 894 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Jayne v. Pike County Correctional Facility, Civil No. 3:CV-07-1113, 2009 WL 4906520, at *1 n. 1 (M.D. Pa. Dec.15, 2009)). 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.

         A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his or her constitutional ...


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