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Lewis v. Roberts

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 2, 2018

TIMOTHY LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL B. ROBERTS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          HON. BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before this Court is pro se pre-trial detainee Timothy Lewis's (“Plaintiff”) civil rights complaint, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1, 3.) Having reviewed Plaintiff's affidavit of indigence (ECF No. 3), Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED and the Clerk of the Court shall file the Complaint.

         At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, 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, and for good cause appearing, Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff's court-appointed private attorney, defendant Michael B. Roberts (“Roberts”), is “in collusion with the Criminal Court Middlesex County Superior Division and he is violating [Plaintiff's] rights by not allowing [him] to represent [himself].” (ECF No. 1 ¶ 4(b).)[1] Roberts no longer allows Plaintiff to come to court for appearances. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Defendant John H. Johnson (“Johnson”), the Supervisor of the Middlesex County Public Defender's Office, is, according to Plaintiff, allowing Roberts to prevent Plaintiff from representing himself in his criminal proceeding. (Id. at ¶ 4(c).) Plaintiff seeks unspecified injunctive relief. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Standard for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         Pursuant to 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(e)(2)(B) and 1915A because Plaintiff is a prisoner who is proceeding as indigent.

         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, 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.” Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir. 2012) (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).

         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 party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

         Therefore, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

         III. ...


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