United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff, Jesse Goodman, is currently civilly committed to
the East Jersey State Prison Special Treatment Unit (STU) in
Avenel, New Jersey, pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually
Violent Predator Act. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 30:4-27.24 et
seq. The plaintiff is proceeding pro se with a civil
rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
time, this Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) 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 claim against John Doe #2 for
excessive force and the claim against John Doe #3 for
conducting an illegal strip search will be permitted to
proceed. All claims against Gary Lanigan, Sherry Yates, Ryan
O'Day, and John Doe #1 will be dismissed without
prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for
purposes of this screening opinion. The complaint names six
defendants: (1) Gary Lanigan, Commissioner of the New Jersey
Department of Corrections; (2) Sherry Yates, Administrator of
the East Jersey State Prison Special Treatment Unit; (3) Ryan
O'Day, Assistant Administrator of the East Jersey State
Prison Special Treatment Unit; (4) John Doe #1, Special
Operations Group Supervisor; (5) John Doe #2, Special
Operations Group Officer; and (6) John Doe #3, Special
Operations Group Officer. Plaintiff is suing each of these
defendants in their individual capacities.
January 4, 2017 at 3:30 a.m., Plaintiff was awoken from his
sleep when officers from the Special Operations Group
(S.O.G.) stormed into the dorm in which Plaintiff is housed
at the STU. The officers screamed at the residents, "Get
on your stomachs, faces down towards the wall, hands behind
your heads!" (Dkt. No. 1 at pg. 6). Plaintiff alleges
that the officers were cursing at the residents, harassing
them, and threatening them with physical violence. Plaintiff
states that as soon as he awoke and lifted his head to see
what was occurring, one officer, John Doe #2, was screaming
into his ear, and forcefully pushed Plaintiffs head down into
his bed. John Doe #2 then proceeded to aggressively
"yank" both of Plaintiffs arms behind his back and
then forced Plaintiffs hands over his head. John Doe #2
yelled at Plaintiff to keep his hands on his head in what
Plaintiff calls a "painful, stressful" manner for a
"long period of time." (Dkt. No. 1 at pg. 3).
time later, John Doe #2 returned to Plaintiffs dorm area and
yelled at Plaintiff to get out of his bed and line up behind
the other STU residents for a strip search. Plaintiff states
that he was forced to stand in this line that was "so
tight and without proper space in between persons that it was
embarrassing." (Dkt. No. 1 at pg. 1). Plaintiff and the
other residents were then taken to the STU's dining area,
where they were compelled by direct orders, demeaning
comments, and threats of physical violence by S.O.G. Officer
John Doe #3 to strip. Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to
"strip, touch, and expose" himself in front of
S.O.G. officers and the other residents. Plaintiff asserts
that John Doe #3 at no time had probable cause to conduct
this strip search. After the strip search was over, Plaintiff
states, he and the other residents were taken to another
building on the STU compound where they were forced to remain
for hours against their will. Plaintiff claims that this
confinement deprived him of a good night's sleep and a
healthy breakfast. Just after 9:00 a.m., Plaintiff and the
other residents were permitted to return to their dorms.
states that the events of January 4, 2017 have caused him to
have ongoing flashbacks to a traumatic brain injury he
suffered from a car accident in 1997. Plaintiff alleges that
he has suffered mentally and emotionally and that the
incident in 2017 brought him back to "that other time of
great and emotional suffering." (Dkt. No. 1 at pg. 4).
Plaintiff has also alleged that as a result of the January 4,
2017 incident, he has suffered from difficulty sleeping,
recurring headaches, and concentrating in his therapy groups.
Plaintiff remains in daily fear that the events of January 4,
2017, will recur.
Complaint, Plaintiff claims that the January 2017 incident
violated his federal and New Jersey state constitutional
rights. He is now seeking monetary relief in the amount of
$500, 000 for the physical, mental, and emotional trauma he
suffered from the incident, as well as injunctive relief in
the form of a prohibition against the S.O.G. officers'
ever again using the "prison-type riot tactics"
they used on January 4, 2017 in the STU. (Dkt. No. 1 at pg.
is specifically suing six individuals. He sues Gary Lanigan
as the individual in charge of the totality of daily
operations of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the
training of the officers, and the promulgation of the rules
and regulations for the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
He sues Sherry Yates for her role in overseeing the
operations at the STU, in training of the officers at the
STU, and in promulgating the rules and regulations for the
STU, as well as overseeing the safety and special needs of
the residents located there. He sues Ryan O'Day as the
individual responsible for seeing that the officers at the
STU are properly trained to deal with the special needs and
safety of the residents, promulgating the rules and
regulations at the STU, and overseeing the daily operations.
He sues John Doe #1 as the individual responsible for the
daily operations of the S.O.G., promulgation of the rules and
procedures for the S.O.G., and for the training of the S.O.G.
officers. He sues John Doe #2 as the individual who
physically and verbally assaulted him and who was directly
responsible for holding Plaintiff "hostage" in a
building on the STU compound for hours, thereby depriving
Plaintiff of "a good night's sleep and a healthy
breakfast." (Dkt. No. 1 at pg. 3). He sues John Doe #3
for conducting the "illegal strip search" of
Plaintiff. Finally, he sues all six defendants for creating a
"hostile restrictive environment." (Dkt. No. 1 at
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). 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. Id. "
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).
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).