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Kearney v. Bayside State Prison Administration

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 21, 2018





         Plaintiff, 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.


         Plaintiff 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 screening only.

         Plaintiff 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.).

         Following 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 id.).

         Plaintiff 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 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. 8-9).

         Furthermore, 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).


         Under 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).

         In 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)).


         Section 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 under ...

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