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Gardner v. Lanigan

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 30, 2018

GARY M. LANIGAN, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court is the Amended Complaint of Plaintiff, Franklin Gardner (“Plaintiff”). (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff has previously been granted in forma pauperis status in this matter. (ECF No. 4.) Therefore, this Court is required to screen Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Under this statute, the Court must dismiss Plaintiff's claims if they are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons set forth below, and for good cause appearing, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety, without prejudice, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed his initial complaint in November 2013. (ECF No. 1.)[1] Because the complaint was illegible, Plaintiff filed a new complaint, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 3.) In that complaint, he alleged that his “computation time” was inaccurately calculated, that the prison food program was “inhumane, ” and that he was “subjected to harsh conditions” and threats of bodily harm. (ECF No. 3 at 3-4.) Following a grant of in forma pauperis status, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and dismissed the claim related to computation time with prejudice, and dismissed the remaining claims without prejudice. (ECF Nos. 4, 5). Plaintiff was given thirty days to amend his complaint. (Id.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in which he asserts facts nearly identical to those in his original complaint. (ECF No. 7). He claims that, while incarcerated, Defendants exhibited a “flawed method of calculation” related to his incarceration. (ECF No. 7 at 3.) Plaintiff asserts he submitted remedy forms for the miscalculation but no remedy was administered. (Id.) In addition, Plaintiff claims he was “threaten[ed] and assaulted by prison guards, ” “escorted and held in a cell without running water, light, nor a bed[, ] but laid on a cold cement floor” with smells of urine. (Id.) Plaintiff further asserts that, while in prison, he was “deprived and stripped of nutritions [sic], ” “because he is a vegetarian and relig[i]ous purpose do[es] not allow the eating of red meat nor pork, ” and that the “only reliable nutrition was purchase[sic] by canteen.” (Id. at 4.) Finally, Plaintiff states that, as a result of the foregoing, he lost weight, his vision worsened, and he began to have higher blood pressure. (Id.)

         While it appears that Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint while still incarcerated in New Jersey (ECF No. 7-1 at 2), Plaintiff stated in a letter sent one month later, “I am maxing out on my sentence on March 10, 2014.” (ECF No. 8.) In a follow-up letter in 2016, Plaintiff submitted notice for a change of address listing a Brooklyn detention center.[2] (ECF No. 10, 13.)

         II. Standard of review

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts are required to review civil actions in which a prisoner proceeds in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). When reviewing such actions, the PLRA instructs courts to dismiss cases that are at any time frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune. Id. “The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Schreane v. Seana, 506 Fed.Appx. 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)).

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the applicable provisions of the PLRA apply to the screening of his Amended Complaint. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id. In order to survive a dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially plausible.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A Plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that “each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Id. at 676. Furthermore, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, they “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).

         III. Decision

         The Court considers Plaintiff's claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 . . . .

         To recover under this provision, two elements must be shown. First, a plaintiff “must establish that the defendant acted under color of state law, ” and second, that the plaintiff has been deprived of “a right secured by the Constitution.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)). Here, the Court construes Plaintiff to raise § 1983 claims against Defendants related to his conditions of confinement, excessive force, and claims pertaining to the prison food.

         a. Mootness

         First, the Court notes that Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief as well as damages for all his claims. Because Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison (see ECF No. 10), his claims for injunctive relief are now moot. “In general, an inmate's claim for injunctive and declaratory relief becomes ...

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