United States District Court, D. New Jersey
THOMAS L. BULLOCK, Plaintiff,
WARDEN GERALDINE D. COHEN, et al., Defendants.
L. Bullock Plaintiff Pro se
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
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.)
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
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.
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,  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).)
further alleges the he has been detained at ACJF since June
4, 2016. (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.)
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.
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
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
seeks $2, 000, 000.00 “for the deprivation of [his]
constitutional right to access to court.” (Id.
at ¶ 5.)
Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
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.
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,
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.”).
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).
Section 1983 Actions
plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights.