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Sullivan v. Rea

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 23, 2018

DEXTER SULLIVAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH L. RHEA, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Dexter Sullivan (“Sullivan”), was a pretrial detainee at the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Institution at the time this action was filed. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court previously granted Sullivan leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 4.)

         The Court must now review the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and 28 U.S.C. § 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 suit. For the following reasons, Sullivan's conspiracy claim against Russell J. Curley will be dismissed with prejudice; however, the malicious prosecution claim against him is dismissed without prejudice. Sullivan's claims against Judge Joseph L. Rhea are dismissed with prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The factual allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for the purposes of this opinion. The complaint names as defendants Judge Joseph L. Rhea of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Criminal Division, Middlesex County and Russell J. Curley, an Assistant Prosecutor in the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office. (Compl., ECF No. 1.)

         It appears that in or around April 2017, Sullivan's attorney filed on his behalf a motion to dismiss Indictment No. 16-10-01566, under which he was charged with crimes unknown to this Court. (Id. ¶ 6.) Sullivan claims that Curley submitted his brief in opposition to that motion on April 27, 2017. (Id.) Thereafter a motion hearing was scheduled before Judge Rhea for June 2017. (Id.) It appears that the motion hearing was adjourned several times during 2017, and, at the time the complaint in this matter was filed, had been scheduled for December 2017. (Id.)

         Sullivan claims that no reason was provided for adjourning the motion hearing and that he objected on the record to the adjournments. (Id.) Sullivan asserts that Judge Rhea adjourned the motion in an attempt to “garner guilty pleas by compromising due process rights to be heard by electing to arbitrarily ignore meritorious motions.” (Id.) Sullivan alleges that Curley conspired with Judge Rhea to deny him his due process rights and further claims that Curley abused the grand jury process by not presenting evidence of probable cause to support the indictment against Sullivan. (Id. ¶ 4.)

         Sullivan seeks an order compelling Judge Rhea to hold a hearing on his motion to dismiss the indictment and removing Judge Rhea and Curley from his case “for their unprofessional conduct.” (Id. ¶ 7.)[1]

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (Apr. 26, 1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review prisoner complaints when the prisoner (1) is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) or (2) seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss claims that are frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c).

         “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) (per curiam); see also Mitchell v. Beard, 492 Fed.Appx. 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (discussing 42 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). 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.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks 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; see also Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and 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, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Glunk v. Noone, 689 Fed.Appx. 137, 139 (3d Cir. 2017) (per curiam). 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).

         IV. ...


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