United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
pro se Antoine Sealy (“Plaintiff”) filed
this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit alleging that he was falsely
arrested and subjected to excessive force. Since Plaintiff
seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis, the
Court has an obligation to screen the Complaint under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court finds as follows:
Background and Standard of Review.
filed the instant Complaint with an application to proceed
in forma paupuris. [Docket Item 1.] Based on the
information in Mr. Sealy's financial affidavit, his
application to file this matter without prepayment of fees
shall be GRANTED pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915. The Complaint will be filed with the Clerk of
Where a Complaint is filed in forma pauperis under
28 U.S.C. § 1915, the assigned Judge must review the
Complaint to determine whether the case may proceed. Pursuant
to Section 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court, upon a preliminary
screening, “shall dismiss the case at any time if the
court determines that . . . (B) the action or appeal - (i) is
frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against
a defendant who is immune from such relief.” The Court
also has “a continuing obligation to assess its subject
matter jurisdiction” and may “dismiss a suit
sua sponte for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
at any stage in the proceeding.” Zambelli Fireworks
Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 420 (3d Cir.
2010). The Court draws the facts of this case from the
Complaint and, for the purposes of this screening, accepts
the factual allegations as true.
Pleadings by a person unrepresented by an attorney are to be
construed liberally, but “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). Nonetheless, any complaint must serve the function
of presenting a statement of the grounds upon which relief is
sought, which includes alleging facts such as the place and
approximate dates of the alleged misconduct on which the
claim is based and other facts that would make the claim
the present case, the Complaint asserts that Plaintiff was
“walking down the street from coming from the store and
police walked up on [him] and arrested [him] for no reason,
” and that, while arresting Plaintiff, police slammed
him on the floor. (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff avers that he was
injured by the encounter and the police never took him to the
hospital after he was arrested. (Id. at 4.) As
“relief” - i.e., “what you want
the Court to do for you and the amount of monetary
compensation, if any, you are seeking, and the basis for such
compensation” - the Complaint states: “elgal
[sic] search, Harassment, injurys [sic], and mental and
fisical [sic] abuse.” (Id.)
claims must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted for several reasons.
Here, the Complaint states that Plaintiff was arrested on
Federal Street in Camden, New Jersey on November 15, 2004,
but the Complaint does not indicate the outcome of his arrest
- for example, whether he was formally charged with and/or
convicted of a crime, the status of any appeal, etc. This
information is necessary for the Court to determine whether
Plaintiff can state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
If there are ongoing criminal proceedings in state court,
this federal court would be barred from deciding
Plaintiff's claims by the Younger doctrine of
abstention. See Sprint Comm., Inc. v. Jacobs, 571
U.S. 69, 73 (2013). If, on the other hand, Plaintiff was
ultimately convicted of any charges, he may not bring a
federal action to challenge the fact or duration of his
confinement by means of an action under § 1983; rather
he must exhaust his state remedies and then, if appropriate,
file a federal habeas application. See Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973). Nor can Plaintiff seek
relief under § 1983 if this Court's adjudication
would call into question the validity of his criminal
conviction, unless his conviction first has been overturned
on appeal or in state or federal collateral proceedings.
See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
Moreover, the Complaint does not indicate
who falsely arrested him, as the
only Defendant named in the Complaint is the Camden County
Hall of Justice, which is a courthouse, not a person. In
other words, the Complaint does not name a proper Defendant,
who must be a person acting under color of state law.
Plaintiff also does not indicate the relief that he is
seeking from this Court, and instead only states the injuries
he claims to have suffered on page four of the Complaint.
(Compl. at 4.) The Court is, therefore, unable to discern at
this time what Plaintiff is asking this Court to do and
against whom Plaintiff requests any such relief. Accordingly,
the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
is also possible that Plaintiff is attempting to state a
claim for excessive force by a law enforcement officer in
making the arrest. The Complaint, as noted, states that
“police walked up on me and arrested me for no
reason” and “police slammed me on the floor
causing [scrapes] and [bruises], ” and that despite the
injuries “police never took me to the hospital.”
(Compl. at 3-4.) To state a claim for excessive force during
arrest, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff
must have a factual basis to allege that: (1) a law
enforcement officer acted intentionally; (2) to apply force
in making an arrest; and (3) the use of force was
unreasonable under the circumstances that the defendant
officer reasonably believed to be true leading up to the
arrest. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989);
Rivas v. City of Passaic, 365 F.3d 181, 198 (3d Cir.
2004). The present Complaint sheds little light on these
circumstances. If Plaintiff believes that the officer's
use of force was excessive and unreasonable, he may set forth
those grounds in an Amended Complaint as described below.
Statute of Limitations: Was This Complaint
federal law, an individual must file any claim for
deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 within two years of the occurrence at issue. See
Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Dique v.
New Jersey StatePolice,603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d
Cir. 2010). “Claims for false arrest . . . typically
accrue on the date of the arrest . . . because, at that
point, the plaintiff has reason to know of the injury.”
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