United States District Court, D. New Jersey
G. SHERIDAN United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Defendants Melonie Burak,
Officer David Sisnetsky, and Special Investigation Division
("SID") Officer Matthew Schlusselfeld's motion
to dismiss Plaintiff Juan Ibn-Don Mumit Turner's
complaint. (ECF No. 34). For the following reasons, the
motion is granted. The complaint will be dismissed without
prejudice to Plaintiffs ability to file an amended complaint
seeking injunctive relief within 45 days of this Opinion and
is currently incarcerated in New Jersey State Prison
("NJSP") Trenton, New Jersey. On May 5, 2017, he
filed a complaint alleging defendants violated his First
Amendment right of access to the courts by reading and
confiscating his legal mail, specifically three affidavits in
support of a motion for a new trial.
to the Complaint, Plaintiff sent an inmate paralegal to the
NJSP law library to make copies of Plaintiff s motion for a
new trial and supporting documents on January 18, 2017.
Compl. ¶ 6. Plaintiff states that Ms. Burak read his
brief and gave it to Officer Sisnetsky, who gave it to SID
Officer Schlusselfeld. Id.; see also Compl.
Exhibit 2a. Officer Schlusselfeld came to Plaintiffs cell on
January 19 and began asking Plaintiff questions about the
appendix, such as how he obtained the affidavits from other
inmates. Compl. ¶ 6. Officer Sisnetsky later sent
Plaintiff a confiscation notice for three affidavits in
support of Plaintiff s motion as being "suspected
[security threat group] material." Compl. Exhibit 3a.
Plaintiff filed grievances, but did not receive any relief.
argues the affidavits were the "focal point in [his]
motion for a new trial based on newly discovered
evidence." Id. ¶ 6. He states that Officer
Schlusselfeld admitted to him that the Essex County
Prosecutor's Office was involved with seizing the
material. Compl. ¶ 7; Exhibit la. He asserts his brief
is "no longer useful to [his] defense because it has
been obtained by [his] adversary before [he] got the chance
to file it." Compl. ¶ 7. He asked for punitive
damages and compensatory damages in order to hire a private
investigator to obtain new affidavits. Id. ¶ 7.
filed the instant motion to dismiss on December 15, 2017.
Plaintiff filed opposition to this motion. ECF No. 35. He
included a proposed amended complaint purporting to address
the deficiencies alleged by defendants, as well as adding new
defendants. The Court conducted oral argument on January 24,
2018, at which time Plaintiff appeared by telephone.
considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to
state a claim, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must accept
all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and
view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. A motion to dismiss may be granted only if the
plaintiff has failed to set forth fair notice of what the
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests that make such a
claim plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Although Rule 8 does not
require "detailed factual allegations, " it
requires "more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombfy, 550 U.S. at 555).
reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must
"tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead
to state a claim. Second, it should identify allegations
that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, [w]hen there
are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should
assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief."
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d
Cir. 2016) (alterations in original) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). "[A] complaint's
allegations of historical fact continue to enjoy a highly
favorable standard of review at the motion-to-dismiss stage
of proceedings." Id. at 790.
argue Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege an access
to the courts claim.Access to the courts claims fall into two
general categories. "In the first are claims that
systemic official action frustrates a plaintiff or plaintiff
class in preparing and filing suits at the present
time." Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403,
413 (2002). "In cases of this sort, the essence of the
access claim is that official action is presently denying an
opportunity to litigate for a class of potential plaintiffs.
The opportunity has not been lost for all time, however, but
only in the short term; the object of the denial-of-access
suit, and the justification for recognizing that claim, is to
place the plaintiff in a position to pursue a separate claim
for relief once the frustrating condition has been
removed." Ibid. See also Estate of Smith v.
Marasco, 318 F.3d 497, 511 (3d Cir. 2003)
("[P]refiling conduct that either prevents a plaintiff
from filing suit or renders the plaintiffs access to the
court ineffective or meaningless constitutes a constitutional
violation."). A plaintiff must be able to plead that
"a nonfrivolous legal claim had been frustrated or was
being impeded." Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343,
second category covers claims not in aid of a class of suits
yet to be litigated, but of specific cases that cannot now be
tried (or tried with all material evidence), no matter what
official action may be in the future. The official acts
claimed to have denied access may allegedly have caused the
loss or inadequate settlement of a meritorious case."
Christopher, 536 U.S. at 413-14. "The ultimate
object of these sorts of access claims, then, is not the
judgment in a further lawsuit, but ...