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Graves v. State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 11, 2018

DEION GRAVES, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MADELINE COX ARLEO, U.S.D.J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Deion Graves, currently confined at the Special Treatment Unit ("STU") in Avenel, New Jersey, has filed an Amended Complaint, alleging violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act ("NJCRA"). The Court previously granted his IFP application and dismissed his original Complaint at screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. ECF Nos. 2-3. The Court dismissed the Complaint against the State of New Jersey with prejudice and dismissed the Complaint against Gary Lanigan and Jennifer Velez without prejudice. Id. Plaintiff subsequently submitted an Amended Complaint naming Gary Lanigan and Jennifer Velez in their individual supervisory capacities.[1] See ECF No. 4 at ¶¶ 7, 11. For the reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted under § 1915(e)(2)(B), administratively terminate this action, and provide Plaintiff with a final opportunity to amend to the extent he can cure the deficiencies in his Amended Complaint.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Amended Complaint is substantially similar to his original complaint. He has sued two high-level supervisory state officials - Gary M. Lanigan, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections ("NJDOC") and Jennifer Velez, the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services ("DHS") -- for alleged violations of his civil rights at the STU. Plaintiff alleges he was targeted for assault and retaliation by unidentified subordinates of Lanigan and/or Velez on August 21, 2012 while he was confined in the STU, and was subsequently placed in Temporary Close Custody ("TCC") for a two-year period. ECF No. 4, Compl. At ¶ 2. He further alleges Defendants and their subordinates conspired to assault him and have him placed TCC in retaliation for a conflict that Plaintiff had with a correctional officer while he was incarcerated at East Jersey State Prison.[2] Id. Petitioner also alleges that his living conditions while in TCC were "hazardous and unsanitary" and that he was "locked behind an 8' x 12' cage that was to remained [sic] locked at all times per DOC Supervisor." Id. Plaintiff alleges in the Amended Complaint that his confinement to the 8 x 12 caged cell for a two-year period, from August 21, 2012 until June 2, 2014, violated the Fourteenth Amendment. See Id. at ¶ 22

         The Amended Complaint provides the following additional facts:

On June 4, 2014, an Administrative decision was made to move the PLAINTIFF off of the West Unit where he was housed and locked in the 8" x 12" caged in cell, to the south unit 3rd floor lock up where other residents on (TCC) Temporary Closed Custody and Cell (MAP) Modified Activities Program are housed, Department of Corrections officials including officers from internal affairs division with video cameras came to the west unit to this caged cell where the PLAINTIFF was locked accompanied by (25) officers in full riot gear and tear gas, only five officers plus the PLAINTIFF could fit in the cell, after the proceeded to spray tear gas into the cell for 8 to 10 minutes before going in, they then proceeded to go in and extract the PLAINTIFF from the cell handcuffing him and forcing him out of the room around the day room area and outside across the court yard to the south unit 3rd floor lock up, the PLAINTIFF is currently still on the south unit but is now in general population.

Id. at ¶ 2.

         As he did in the original Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his confinement in TCC was the result of policies and/or procedures and/or regulations established and/or maintained by Defendants Lanigan and Velez. With Respect to Defendant Lanigan, Plaintiff states as follows:

Mr. Lanigan knew or should have known about an approved or indeed promulgated and directed the various restrictive custodial policies, practices, and procedures including training of DOC personnel and security practices and uses of restraint concerning the manner and scope of the abusive treatment of the PLAINTIFF, that created the punitive environment and excessively restrictive conditions under which the PLAINTIFF is presently confined. Mr. Lannigan [sic] knew or should have known about and approved or failed to supervise subordinates operating under his authority and take steps to prevent or correct each of these violations of the PLAINTIFF'S Constitutional rights, as alleged more specifically below.

Id. at ¶ 7. Similarly, with respect to Defendant Velez, Plaintiff alleges as follows:

Ms. Velez was complicit in and along with the actions of [Defendant Lanigan], Ms. Velez knew or should have known about and approved or indeed herself promulgate and direct the various policies, practices and procedures concerning the matter and scope of the unconstitutional treatment of the PLAINTIFF that created the punitive environment and excessive restrictive conditions under which the PLAINTIFF is presently confined. Ms. Velez knew or should have known about and approved or failed to take steps to prevent or correct each of these violations of the PLAINTIFF'S Constitutional rights as alleged more specifically below.

Id. at ¶ 11. With respect to both Defendants, Plaintiffs Complaint states that

Defendants, together have written, adopted, imposed, enforced, maintained and are responsible for a number of written and unwritten rules, regulations, policies, practices, and procedures that makes the conditions of PLAINTIFF'S segregation behind a special 8x12 cage at the Special Treatment Unit punitive and excessively restrictive ...

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