United States District Court, D. New Jersey
LAQUAN L. KEARNEY, Plaintiff,
BAYSIDE STATE PRISON ADMINISTRATION, et al., Defendants.
B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
LaQuan Kearney, is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at
Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey. He is proceeding
pro se with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has also submitted a motion for
the appointment of pro bono counsel. For the reasons set
forth below, the complaint will be permitted to proceed in
part. In addition, the Court will deny the motion for pro
bono counsel without prejudice at this time.
filed this complaint against the Bayside State Prison
Administration (the “Administration”) and several
employees and corrections officers at Bayside State Prison
(“Bayside”), including Courtline Hearing Officer
Ms. Ralph, Corrections Officer T. Morey, Corrections Officer
Y. Brown, Corrections Officer Thomas, and Corrections Officer
Robinson, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights.
The following factual allegations are taken from the
complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this
alleges that he was assaulted by Officer Morey while he was
incarcerated at Bayside on or about June 14, 2017. (ECF No. 1
at p. 7). Plaintiff claims that on that morning, during the
8:00 a.m. movement, he went to F-Unit to leave his JP5 tablet
with a tier-unit porter. (See id.). Plaintiff alleges that
Officer Morey approached him and ed him to return his tablet
to his cell. (See Id. at p. 8). After putting his
tablet back in his cell, as instructed, Plaintiff went to the
Officers' Station and asked to speak with a sergeant
about changing his unit. (See id.). While at the
Officers' Station, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Morey
came up behind him, made threatening comments, and began
spraying OC pepper spray in his eyes, nose, mouth, and face.
(See id.). Plaintiff claims that he was then slammed to the
ground and handcuffed from behind. (See id.). Plaintiff
alleges that Officer Morey climbed on top of him and began
choking him for fifteen to twenty minutes, nearly killing
him. (See Id. at p. 9). Plaintiff also claims that
Officers Brown, Thomas, and Robinson were present during the
assault, failed to intervene, and assisted Officer Morey by
holding Plaintiff down with their knees and boots. (See id.).
the assault, Plaintiff was sent to administrative segregation
and was charged with a disciplinary violation. (See
id.). During his disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff
requested video footage from the security cameras in F-Unit
showing the assault. (See Id. at p. 4). Plaintiff
alleges that after viewing the video surveillance footage,
Hearing Officer Ralph found him guilty of the disciplinary
charge of refusing an order from Officer Morey, which
violated his constitutional right to due process. (See
Id. at pp. 4, 9). Plaintiff further alleges that Hearing
Officer Ralph also violated his constitutional rights by
failing to notify higher authorities of the assault. (See
states that he filed numerous grievances through the inmate
remedy system and requested to be transferred out of Bayside
due to unprofessionalism, racism, and discrimination.
(See id.at p. 4). Plaintiff claims that he suffered
severe injuries as a result of the assault for which he
continues to require medical treatment and physical therapy.
(See Id. at p. 8). Plaintiff requests that this
Court grant him relief in the form of compensatory damages
and the firing of each defendant. (See Id. at pp.
Plaintiff has filed a motion for the appointment of pro bono
counsel. (See ECF No. 7). In support of his motion,
Plaintiff states that he has very limited resources, is below
the poverty line, and has limited legal knowledge. (See
Id. at p. 3).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (Apr. 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. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
determining the sufficiency of a complaint, the court must be
mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff.
See United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir.
1992). The court should “accept as true all of the
allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences
that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Morse v. Lower Merion
School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Thus,
“[a] pro se complaint may be dismissed for failure to
state a claim only if it appears ‘beyond doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief.'” Milhouse
v. Carlson, 652 F.2d 371, 373 (3d Cir. 1981) (quoting
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)).
1983 generally provides a federal cause of action against any
person who, “under color of” state law,
“subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of
the United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws[.]” 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Consequently, in order to prevail under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must prove that he: (a)
suffered the deprivation of a right secured by the United
States Constitution or federal law, (b) by a person acting