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Bryant v. Earling

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 23, 2018

PONTELL BRYANT, Plaintiff,
v.
BARBARA EARLING, et al., Defendants.

          Pontell Bryant, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Pontell Bryant's (“Plaintiff”) submission of a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Complaint, Docket Entry 1. At this time, the Court must review the 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 the complaint shall proceed in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges Senior Officer Barbara Earling “intentionally destroyed noncontraband property” that had been confiscated during a search of his cell at South Woods State Prison (“SWSP”) on March 12, 2017. [1] Complaint at 6. He further alleges she threatened him with physical violence for filing grievances. Plaintiff asserts SWSP Administrator Willie Bonds and Superintendent Kippie Langford witnessed Officer Earling's destruction of Plaintiff's property but did not intervene or stop her misconduct. Id. at 7. Plaintiff also alleges that he has been subjected to retaliatory disciplinary proceedings and misconduct reports since he began filing grievances about defendants' actions. He asserts unnamed officers destroyed his television, and defendants replaced it with a new television. Id.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         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. The Court must 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.

         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).

         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). However, “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).

         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. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ... 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, shall be liable to the ...

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