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Hagan v. New Jersey State Parole Board

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 10, 2019

DARNELL HAGAN, Plaintiffs,


          Madeline Cox Arleo, District Judge


         This matter has been opened to the Court by Plaintiffs filing of a civil rights complaint and an application to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). At this time, the Court will grant Plaintiffs IFP application and screen the Complaint for dismissal. For the reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss Plaintiffs claims for relief, as described in this Opinion, as to all Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Unless otherwise stated, the dismissal is without prejudice, and Plaintiff may file an amended complaint within 30 days to the extent he can cure the deficiencies in his claims.


         The Court begins by noting that parts of Plaintiff s submission are illegible or blank, see ECF No. 1, at 5-8, and the Court screens the Complaint based on the "Statement of Claims" portion of the Complaint. The Complaint alleges that Defendant Parole Officer Robert Wall arrested Plaintiff at parole headquarters in June 2017 for parole violations, which consisted of "use of social media, leaving the state without prior approval, and a music video with a prop firearm." ECF No. 1, Compl. at 9. It is not clear from the Complaint if Plaintiff contests or concedes that he committed these parole violations. After his arrest on these parole violations, Plaintiff was hand cuffed, and his cell phone, wallet, and keys were confiscated by Parole Officer Wall. Id. Wall and the other parole officers named in the Complaint searched Plaintiffs car and took Plaintiff to his residence, which Plaintiff rents from his mother and sister. Id. at 9-10. At the apartment, Plaintiff observed Parole Officer Wall retrieve a book bag from the trunk of Wall's car before entering the apartment for approximately four minutes. Id. at 9. Parole Officer Wall returned from the apartment and read Plaintiff his Miranda rights. Id. According to Plaintiff, his room in the apartment was locked and Parole Officer Wall used the keys he confiscated from Plaintiff to gain entry to the room. Id. Parole Officer Wall then "allegedly" found a bag with heroin at the bottom in Plaintiffs room. Id. Parole Officer Wall also found a set of keys that he used to unlock three safes in Plaintiffs room. Id. It is not clear if anything was found in the safes. According to the Complaint, other law enforcement officers, including state troopers, also participated in the search. Id.

         The Complaint states that the search was conducted with "no warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances." Id. at 10. During the search, Plaintiff was instructed to sit in the living room with his mother and sister. Id. The Complaint also appears to allege that the search violated his mother's Fourth Amendment rights and exacerbated her health conditions. Id. Plaintiff seeks damages for the violations of his civil rights and various forms of injunctive relief. Id. at 11. It is not clear from the Complaint whether Plaintiff pleaded guilty to the parole violations or other crimes related to the search, but he states that he is serving the remainder of his sentence. See id., Compl. at 2.


         Under the 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. "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) (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)).

         Here, Plaintiffs Complaint is subject to screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), courts first separate the factual and legal elements of the claims, and accept all of the well-pleaded facts as true. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). All reasonable inferences must be made in the plaintiffs favor. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Complaint must also allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (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).

         Courts are required to liberally construe pleadings drafted by pro se parties. Tucker v. Hewlett Packard, Inc., No. 14-4699 (RBK/KMW), 2015 WL 6560645, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 29, 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Such pleadings are "held to less strict standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Id. Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his filings will be liberally construed, but he is still required to allege sufficient facts in his complaint to support a valid claim. See Gibney v. Fitzgibbon, 547 Fed.Appx. 111, 113 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 244-45 (3d Cir. 2013)). To do so, Plaintiff must plead enough facts, accepted as true, to plausibly suggest entitlement to relief. Id. (citing Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         The Court construes Plaintiff to seek relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and to allege violations of his and his mother's Fourth Amendment rights.[1] Section 1983 provides in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

         Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 ...

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