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Brown v. Rauth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 2, 2017

STEVEN BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES RAUTH et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          KEVIN MCNULTY. U.S.D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Steven Brown, was a pretrial detainee at the Passaic County Jail in Paterson, New Jersey when he commenced this action. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986. This Court previously granted Mr. Brown leave to proceed in forma pauperis, (ECF No. 2.)

         This Court must now review the 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 following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for the purposes of this opinion. The complaint names five defendants: (1) James Rauth; (2) Steven Tallard; (3) Alexander J. Falbo; (4) David Thomas; and (5) James Plousis. All five defendants are officers, supervisors, or executives with the New Jersey State Parole Board.

         Mr. Brown claims that the defendants violated his constitutional rights between June 7, 2012 and June 15, 2012. Mr. Brown was previously convicted of a sexual offense and was arrested for violating the terms of his supervised release. Mr. Brown alleges that the defendants conspired to violate his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection by illegally searching some of his items, specifically several computer devices. Mr. Brown's complaint also seems to assert state-law claims for infliction of emotional distress. Mr. Brown seeks compensatory and punitive damages from defendants, as well as attorneys' fees.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights. That section provides,

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.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim 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).

         A separate cause of action for a conspiracy to deprive a person of constitutional or legal rights exists under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Stating such a claim requires a plaintiff to plead four elements:

(1) a conspiracy; (2) for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunity under the laws; and (3) an act in furtherance of the conspiracy; (4) whereby a person is either injured in his person or property or deprived of any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States.

United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am. v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825, 828-29 (1983); see 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). To establish that the conspiracy's purpose was to deprive a person of equal protection of the laws, the plaintiff must show that it was motivated by discriminatory animus as to race, gender, or some other class. Griffin v. Breckenridge,403 U.S. 88, 102 (1971). Under 42 U.S.C. § 1986, a plaintiff may assert a distinct action against a defendant who knew of a § 1985 conspiracy, had the power to prevent it, and failed to do so. 42 U.S.C. § 1986; see also Adickes v. S ...


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