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Smith v. Cohen

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

October 25, 2018

MARK T. SMITH, Plaintiff
v.
GERALDINE COHEN, et al., Defendants

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Mark T. Smith, also known as Mark El, is a pretrial detainee who was confined at Atlantic County Justice Facility at the time he filed this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) (ECF No. 1-1), which establishes his eligibility to proceed without prepayment of fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         When a prisoner is permitted to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee or when the prisoner pays the filing fee for a civil action and seeks redress from a governmental entity, officer or employee of a governmental entity, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), § 1915A(b) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) require courts to review the complaint and sua sponte dismiss any claims that are (1) frivolous or malicious; (2) fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim.

         I. Sua Sponte Dismissal

         Courts must liberally construe pleadings that are filed pro se. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Thus, “a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to ‘less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “Court personnel reviewing pro se pleadings are charged with the responsibility of deciphering why the submission was filed, what the litigant is seeking, and what claims she may be making.” See Higgs v. Atty. Gen. of the U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339-40 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Jonathan D. Rosenbloom, Exploring Methods to Improve Management and Fairness in Pro Se Cases: A Study of the Pro Se Docket in the Southern District of New York, 30 Fordham Urb. L.J. 305, 308 (2002)).

         A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “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) (quotingll Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.) Legal conclusions, together with threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, do not suffice to state a claim. Id.

         Thus, “a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. If a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. The Complaint

         Plaintiff alleged the following facts in his complaint.

Geraldine Cohen is the Warden of the Atlantic County Justice Facility. Defendant is responsible for the safety of the orderly running of the institution as well as being responsible for my health an[d] well being, while incarcerated in this county jail. …

(Compl., ¶3B, ECF No. 1.)

Warden Geraldine Cohen of her order of [illegible] Pod (B.Right) with mold growing on the walls of the shower is subjecting me to breathing mold, which is not just hazardous to my health but dangerous to my health because mold is an airborne contagious breathing dust. I'm starting to notice I'm becoming short of breath, coughing more than usual. On Wednesday the 30th of November, I put in for sick call, I was seen on Friday the 1st for sick call, an[d] was told by the doctor that she could only prescribe me cough medicine even after I explain to her I was exposed to the mold that is growing on the inner ...

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