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Drury v. Debellis

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 12, 2017

JEFFREY DRURY, Plaintiff,
v.
M. DEBELLIS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Jeffrey Drury, is proceeding pro se with an amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against several defendants. One of the defendants, M. Debellis, filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim. Mr. Drury did not file a response to that motion to dismiss. On June 28, 2017, this Court granted M. Debellis' motion to dismiss.[1] (See Dkt. Nos. 51 & 52) Mr. Drury's claims of equal protection and retaliation against M. Debellis were dismissed without prejudice. The remaining claims against M. Debellis were dismissed with prejudice.

         On July 10, 2017, this Court received a letter from Mr. Drury. (See Dkt. No. 53) Mr. Drury states that he never received a copy of M. Debellis' motion to dismiss. While M. Debellis attached a certificate of service to his motion to dismiss stating that he served Mr. Drury with the motion by certified mail, it appears as if M. Debellis may have mailed it to the incorrect address. Indeed, the certificate of service indicates that M. Debellis served Mr. Drury at Bayside State Prison. However, at the time the motion to dismiss was filed, Mr. Drury's place of incarceration and address of record in this case was at South Woods State Prison. (See Dkt. No. 28) Therefore, the motion to dismiss may have in fact never been properly served on Mr. Drury.

         This Court will treat Mr. Drury's letter as a request for reconsideration of the June 28, 2017 opinion and order. Motions for reconsideration are filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and are governed by Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) which allows a party to seek reconsideration by the Court in matters in which the party believes the judge has “overlooked.” See Carney v. Pennsauken Twp. Police Dep't, No. 11-7366, 2013 WL 4501454, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug. 21, 2013) (citations omitted). “The standard for reargument is high and reconsideration is to be granted only sparingly.” Yarrell v. Bartkowski, No. 10-5337, 2012 WL 1600316, at *3 (D.N.J. May 7, 2012) (citing United States v. Jones, 158 F.R.D. 309, 314 (D.N.J. 1994)). To be successful on a motion for reconsideration, a petitioner has the burden to demonstrate: “(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [issued its order]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citation omitted); see also Berry v. Jacobs IMC, LLC, 99 Fed.Appx. 405, 410 (3d Cir. 2004). Additionally, Rule 59(e) requires that it be filed within twenty-eight days after the entry of judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e).

         Mr. Drury claims that he never received notice of M. Debellis' motion to dismiss. The certificate of service attached to M. Debellis' motion to dismiss lists Mr. Drury's old address that was no longer his address of record at the time M. Debellis filed his motion. In light of these circumstances, this Court will grant Mr. Drury's request for reconsideration of its June 28, 2017 opinion and order. The June 28, 2017 opinion and order granting M. Debellis' motion to dismiss will be vacated in light of this purported lack of proper service of the motion.

         However, this does not necessarily mean that Mr. Drury can proceed with his claims against M. Debellis. Indeed, this Court still must screen the amended complaint as it pertains to M. Debellis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A to determine whether Mr. Drury's claims against M. Debellis are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief against him if he is immune from suit. For the following reasons, Mr. Drury's claims against M. Debellis do not merit proceeding past this screening. Accordingly, M. Debellis' motion to dismiss the amended complaint that was served on Mr. Drury at his old address will be denied as unnecessary.

         II. FACUTAL BACKGROUND OF AMENDED COMPLAINT

         This Court previously laid out the factual background of the amended complaint as it relates to Mr. Drury's allegations against M. Debellis as follows:

M. Debellis is a senior correctional officer at Bayside State Prison (“BSP”) where Mr. Drury was previously incarcerated.[2] Mr. Drury had to go to the medical department while incarcerated at BSP at various times due to the fact that he has multiple sclerosis. Mr. Drury had a job as a pot washer at BSP. He worked the 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. shift. Defendant M. Debellis did not like the fact that Mr. Drury had to leave work sometimes during his shift to attend medical appointments. M. Debellis harassed Mr. Drury verbally. On January 30, 2015, Mr. Drury had a 10:00 am medical appointment of approximately one hour. This appointment was longer than his other appointments. Mr. Drury returned to work after this appointment. The next day, Mr. Drury was fired by M. Debellis from his pot washing job. M. Debellis told him that he had not come back to work the previous day. M. Debellis further told Mr. Drury that he was sick of all of his medical appointments and that Mr. Drury could take his “sick ass to whatever medical appointments you want to now[.]” (Dkt. No. 37 at p. 38)
Mr. Drury brings his amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act and the New Jersey Administrative Code. He sues M. Debellis in both his official and individual capacities. He seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages in his amended complaint.

(Dkt. No. 51 at p.2)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         As previously stated, this Court must screen the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. 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 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. 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.App'x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F.App'x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F.App'x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).

         Pro se pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). 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 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

         A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of 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).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         As indicated above, this Court applies the same standard when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) as it does when screening the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A. Mr. Drury ...


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