Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bullock v. Cohen

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 12, 2018

THOMAS L. BULLOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN GERALDINE D. COHEN, et al., Defendants.

          Thomas L. Bullock Plaintiff Pro se

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Thomas L. Bullock (“Plaintiff”) seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) Based on his affidavit of indigence (ECF No. 4), the Court previously granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint. (ECF No. 5.)

         At this time, the Court must review Plaintiff's Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), 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 such relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice as against Defendant State of New Jersey and will be dismissed without prejudice as against all other defendants.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff brings this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: (1) Geraldine D. Cohen, Warden of Atlantic County Justice Facility (“ACJF”); (2) Atlantic County Freeholder Frank Formica; (3) Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson; and (4) the State of New Jersey.[2]

         Plaintiff asserts that ACJF's lack of a law library has hindered his ability “to adequately contest [his] court proceedings” in a pending criminal matter in which Plaintiff is represented by counsel, [3] and that this has resulted in “the deprivation of [Plaintiff's] constitutional right to access [the] court[s].” (See Compl. at ¶ 5; see also id. at ¶ 3 (detailing the procedure at ACJF for inmates to request and obtain case law and other legal information and discussing, in general terms, the adverse effects of this system on ACJF inmates who wish to prepare for pending criminal matters).)

         Plaintiff further alleges the he has been detained at ACJF since June 4, 2016.[4] (Id. at ¶ 4.) On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff received a flash drive from his attorney, Kevin S. Smith, containing pertinent “discovery” related to his pending criminal matter. (Id.) On November 2, 2016 - before Plaintiff had the opportunity to use a computer to review those discovery files - an ACJF official, Sgt. Montanya, confiscated Plaintiff's flash drive. (Id.) Plaintiff sought to have the flash drive returned to him through ACJF's formal grievance procedure and by sending letters to, inter alia, Warden Cohen. (Id.)

         Ultimately, the flash drive was returned to Plaintiff after Plaintiff met with another ACJF official, Sgt. Robinson, on December 12, 2016. (Id.) When Plaintiff thereafter obtained access to a computer to review the discovery materials purportedly uploaded to the flash drive, there were no data or files available on that drive for Plaintiff to review. (Id.)

         Plaintiff made a direct complaint about this problem to a different ACJF official, Officer Wallace. (Id.) Plaintiff also made his attorney and Warden Cohen aware of this issue. (Id.) Plaintiff never received a response from Warden Cohen and now asserts that “it is obvious” that Warden Cohen's failure to respond “is a form of retaliation because she [is] named” as a defendant in several lawsuits filed by Plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff further claims that Warden Cohen has “intentionally ignor[ed] the fact that [ACJF] does not provide prisoners with a law library where [they] can conduct [their] own independent research.” (Id. at ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff makes no specific factual allegations against any of the other defendants named in this lawsuit, i.e., Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, Atlantic County Chairman Frank Formica, and the State of New Jersey. Plaintiff nonetheless asserts - in wholly conclusory fashion - that each of these defendants has intentionally ignored ACJF's lack of “a law library where independent research can be conducted.” (Id. at Attached Sheet.)

         Plaintiff seeks $2, 000, 000.00 “for the deprivation of [his] constitutional right to access to court.” (Id. at ¶ 5.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         1. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         District courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a person is proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This statute 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. Id. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding as indigent.

         According to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim, [5] the complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. 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.” Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”).

         Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, “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).

         2. Section 1983 Actions

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


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.