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Alford v. Camden County Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 9, 2018

CHARLES ALFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          Charles Alford, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Charles Alford's (“Plaintiff”), submission of a civil rights complaint. Docket Entry 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.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against the Camden County Police Department, Officer Brian Razzi, Officer Ramelia Villegas-Diaz, and the City of Camden. The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the truth of Plaintiff's allegations.

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee presently confined at the Camden County Correctional Facility. Complaint ¶ 6. He alleges that on June 27, 2013, Officer Villegas-Diaz arrested him without probable cause. Id. He alleges that on October 30, 2013, Officer Razzi charged Plaintiff with possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose and arrested him without probable cause. Id. He further alleges Officer Razzi put his hand down Plaintiff's pants and touched Plaintiff's penis after Plaintiff had been handcuffed. Id.

         In an amendment to the complaint, Plaintiff alleges the City of Camden is responsible for Officers Razzi's and Villegas-Diaz's actions because Officer Razzi allegedly testified “it is procedure to charge someone with unlawful possession even without probable cause.” Amendment to Complaint, Docket Entry 2, ¶ 6.[1]

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 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. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis.

         In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). 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, [2] the 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 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). 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) (emphasis added).

         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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