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Washington v. Essex County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 23, 2017

ROBERT WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ESSEX COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          KEVIN MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Robert Washington, who was a pretrial detainee, is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At this time, this Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) 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 following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. Mr. Washington names as defendants (1) Essex County Sheriffs Department; (2) Detective James Bradley[1]; (3) Detective Noel Mendez; (4) Detective Caicedo Fabian; (5) Detective Eduardo Moreno; and (6) Eduardo Moreno. At the time he submitted his complaint, Mr. Washington was a pretrial detainee housed at the Essex County Correctional Facility.

         Mr. Washington's allegations center on the aftermath of his arrest by the Essex County Sheriffs Department on September 5, 2014. Bradley, the lead arresting officer, filed a police report which contained the allegedly false statement that Mr. Washington had certain evidence on his person at the time of his arrest. (Dkt. No. 1 at p. 4) Later on in the complaint, Mr. Washington states that the allegations against him were that he sold drugs in Essex County. (See id.) The detectives named in the complaint allegedly conspired to plant evidence, manipulate the legal process, and pursue trumped up charges. Mr. Washington also alludes generally to medical problems for which he did not get attention while he was detained.

         The complaint seeks monetary damages. In a separate filing that the Clerk has labeled an amended complaint, Mr. Washington seeks $100, 000 from each defendant. (See Dkt. No. 3)

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         "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 Fed.Appx. 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)). 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. See Haines v. Kermr, 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 as follows:

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, ...


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