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Stokelin v. A.C.J.F. Warden

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 11, 2018

GORDON STOKELIN, Plaintiff,
v.
A.C.J.F. WARDEN, Defendant.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Gorden Stokelin, is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey. At the time of the filing of this complaint, the plaintiff was incarcerated at the Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing, New Jersey. The plaintiff is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         At this time, this Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit. For the following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. Plaintiff seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the warden at the Atlantic County Justice Facility for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

         During his period of incarceration, Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to live in "deplorable" conditions. (Dkt. No. 1 at pg. 4) Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that there was black mold in the showers and possibly "underneath the paint in the dayroom," that the ventilation system was poor, and that the food was “not worthy of consumption." (See id.) Plaintiff contends that he informed an unidentified correctional sergeant multiple times about these undesirable circumstances, however, no remedial actions occurred. Plaintiff now seeks relief in the form of monetary damages for the “pain and suffering” he endured living in these conditions. (See Id. at 5).

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Under the Prisoner 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 person 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).

         “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)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 Fed.Appx. 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States, 287 Fed.Appx. 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). That standard is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), as explicated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. To survive the court's screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must allege ‘sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible. See Fowler v. UPMC 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). “[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Pro se pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). Nevertheless, “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).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         At the outset, this Court notes that it is unclear from Plaintiff's Complaint whether he was a pretrial detainee or a convicted prisoner at the time he filed the instant complaint. If Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee, then his claims must be analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Mestre v. Wagner, 488 Fed.Appx. 648, 649 (3d Cir. 2012). If, however, Plaintiff was a convicted prisoner at the time of filing, then his claims must be analyzed under the Eighth Amendment. Id.

         Under the Eighth Amendment, the government is prohibited from inflicting “cruel and unusual punishment” upon those convicted of crimes. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345 (1981). In prison, correctional officers are under a duty to provide “humane conditions of confinement.” Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev. Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 256 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994)). For conditions of confinement to violate the Eighth ...


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