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Winters v. State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 6, 2018

MICHAEL WINTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.

          Michael Winters, Plaintiff pro se

          OPINION

          HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Michael Winter's (“Plaintiff”) submission of a civil rights Complaint. [Docket Item 1.] At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, 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 the Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against the State of New Jersey, City of Camden, Camden Police Department, The Trentonian, the Courier Post, the Press of Atlantic City, Philadelphia Inquirer, South Jersey Times, Warren W. Faulk, Scott Thomson, Terry King, and Brian Razzi (collectively, “Defendants”). The following factual allegations are taken from the Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the truth of Plaintiff's allegations.

         Plaintiff is currently an inmate at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey. (Compl. at 1, ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that starting on or about November 2012, and continuing to the present day, the Courier Post, The Trentonian, the Press of Atlantic City, and the South Jersey Times printed false articles which defamed him. (Compl. at ¶¶ 2-6.) Plaintiff further alleges Defendant Terry King appeared before the Grand Jury and provided false testimony and tampered with a witness, while Warren W. Faulk, Scott Thomson, Terry King, and Brian Razzi “engaged in creative behavior and made false and fraudulent allegations against Plaintiff Winters and the news media Defendants ran with the false information.” (Compl. at ¶¶ 8-9.) Specifically, Plaintiff avers that “[D]efendants and in particular the State of New Jersey, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, Camden Police Department, Warren W. Faulk, Scott Thomson, Terry King and Brian Razzi alleged that Plaintiff Michael Winters and Andrew Alford attacked and beat Gregory Holder near Broadway and Berkley Street, ” which resulted in Plaintiff's arraignment on murder charges in the Camden County Superior Court. (Compl. at ¶¶ 10-11.)

         Plaintiff brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action pursuant to the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and New Jersey's Constitution. (Compl. at ¶ 13.) As relief, Plaintiff requests: (1) a declaratory judgment that the conduct outlined in his Complaint violated his constitutional rights; (2) compensatory and punitive damages against Defendants, together with costs of the suit; (3) appointment of pro bono counsel; and (4) an injunction enjoining Defendants from further violating his constitutional rights.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires district courts to 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. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. [See Docket Item 4.] Under Section 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must 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.

         To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim, a complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMS 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)).

         B. Section 1983 Actions

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


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