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Edwards v. Billmeier

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 19, 2018

MACK EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT BILLMEIER, et al, Defendants.

          Mack Edwards, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          ANNE E. THOMPSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Mack Edwards' ("Plaintiff”) 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) 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, the Court concludes that the complaint will be dismissed. Plaintiff shall be granted leave to file an amended complaint.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier, Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Michael Grillo, Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Michelle Gasparian, Detective Mercello Masseroni, Mercer County Correctional Center ("MCCC") Warden Charles Ellis, and MCCC Deputy Warden Phyllis Oliver. The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the truth of Plaintiffs allegations.

         Plaintiff states he was arrested by the Trenton Police on murder charges in January 2011. Complaint ¶ 18. He was placed in the MCCC in approximately March 2011. Id. According to Plaintiff, Judge Billmeier ordered Plaintiff to be removed from general population on October 4, 2016 as the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office had charged him with witness tampering. Id. Plaintiff alleges Judge Billmeier ordered him to be placed in solitary confinement and for his phone communications, visits, and incoming and outgoing mail to be suspended. Id. ¶ 19.

         Plaintiffs cell was searched by a Mercer County Prosecutor's Office detective pursuant to a warrant on October 6 and 16, 2016. Id. ¶ 20. The detective seized discovery material from Plaintiffs criminal case in addition to all of Plaintiff s personal effects. Id. Plaintiff complained to Judge Billmeier, and the judge ordered the return of the discovery material. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff states he never received any of the material back from the prosecutor's office or the MCCC. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Judge Billmeier's order only permitted visits from Plaintiffs daughter. The order did not permit any other family member to accompany her. Id. ¶ 22. He further alleges he was only afforded limited access to his attorney and all phone calls and visits had to be conducted in Deputy Warden Oliver's presence. Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

         He also makes various allegations about being denied access to the courts due to insufficient legal supplies, access to his attorney, and interference with his legal mail. Id. ¶¶ 26-28. He asserts Warden Ellis and Deputy Warden Oliver confiscated his mail and did not comply with prison procedures regarding confiscated mail. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. He further claims personal items were seized from his cell and were used as evidence in his trial. Id. ¶¶ 30-32.

         Plaintiff raises claims of malicious prosecution, unlawful search and seizure, interference with his access to the courts, perjury, and negligent failure to protect. In addition to monetary damages, he asks the Court to order the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office to "[r]emove all perjured testimony from the records of the Grand Jury Proceeding in the Tampering with a Witness case" and "[r]emove tampered evidence and all derivative evidence that was recovered for the violation involving defendants Grillo, and Gasparian." Id. at 13(B)(2) & (4)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         Per 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) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

         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, [1] 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). Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, plaintiffs "still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints ...


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