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Treakle v. Warden, Atlantic County Justice Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 3, 2018

MAURICE TREAKLE, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN, ATLANTIC COUNTY JUSTICE FACILITY, Defendant.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Maurice Treakle, is currently confined at the Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing, New Jersey. He 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) 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 for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The allegations of this complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. Plaintiff seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Geraldine Cohen, the Warden at the Atlantic County Justice Facility (“ACJF”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

         Plaintiff alleges he has endured unconstitutional conditions of confinement in ACJF since December 10, 2016. (Dkt. No. 1 at p. 11). Specifically, Plaintiff states “[t]he conditions in which I'm living in are deplorable (Black Mold in C-Left's showers), the food they are feeding me i[s] not worthy of consumption and the ventilation system is no good.” (See id.). Plaintiff claims that he has notified unidentified correctional officers and sergeants numerous times of “this matter” but nothing has been remedied. (See Id. at p. 10). Plaintiff seeks relief in the form of monetary compensation for “pain and suffering.” (See Id. at p. 11).

         III. STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

         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)). 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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “[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 Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         “[A] court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint.” Id. Legal conclusions, together with threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, do not suffice to state a claim. See Id. Thus, “a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. If a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment. Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).

         Courts must liberally construe pleadings that are filed pro se. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Thus, “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “Court personnel reviewing pro se pleadings are charged with the responsibility of deciphering why the submission was filed, what the litigant is seeking, and what claims she may be making.” See Higgs v. Atty. Gen. of the U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339-40 (3d Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         As an initial matter, it is unclear from the Complaint whether Plaintiff was a convicted prisoner or a pretrial detainee at the time he filed this action. Therefore, it is unclear whether Plaintiff's conditions of confinement claims should be analyzed under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment. See Daniels v. Taylor, No. 13-5510, 2014 WL 3955372, at *4 (D.N.J. Aug. 13, 2014) (“Plaintiff's condition of confinement claim is analyzed under the Eighth Amendment if he is a convicted prisoner, but under the Fourteenth Amendment if he is a pretrial detainee.”); see also Mestre v. Wagner, 488 F.App'x 648, 649 (3d Cir. 2012) (noting distinction of analysis when plaintiff is a convicted prisoner as opposed to a pretrial detainee).

         The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from inflicting “cruel and unusual punishments” on those convicted of crimes. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345 (1981). Conditions of prison confinement violate the Eighth Amendment only if they “deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Id. at 347. To state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must allege both an objective and subjective element. See Ingalls v. Florio, 968 F.Supp. 193, 198 (D.N.J. 1997). The plaintiff must first demonstrate the serious deprivation of a basic human need. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 308 (1991); Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 365 (3d Cir.1992). “[T]he deprivation caused by the prison official's act or omission [must be] sufficiently serious to result in the ...


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