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Roman v. DeMarco

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 5, 2019

JESUS E. ROMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
J. DeMARCO et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Jesus E. Roman (“Roman” or “Plaintiff”), is presently held at the Ocean County Jail, in Toms River, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with this Complaint asserting violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Court now screens the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. For the reasons stated herein, Roman's claim against defendant J. Haberbush is dismissed without prejudice, but the remainder of the Complaint is permitted to proceed.

         II. THE COMPLAINT

         Roman initially filed his Complaint on April 18, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) Roman alleges that defendants Sergeant E. Clark (“Clark”) and Sergeant J. Donato (“Donato”) left him overnight in a cell that had been flooded with raw sewage. (ECF No. 1 at ECF p. 5.) He contends that defendant Sergeant J. DeMarco (“DeMarco”) refused to move him out of the cell flooded with sewage when Roman received breakfast, and that Roman “was forced to eat in my cell flooded with human wast[e] with no running water in my cell to wash the raw sewage off my hands.” (Id.) Roman further alleges that defendant Lieutenant K. Stuart (“Stuart”) refused to move him to another cell when Roman complained of the “constant illumination in [his] cell for weeks, ” even after he filed a grievance in this regard. (Id.) Roman explains that “lights never dimmed at night time was enduring torture for weeks.” (Id.) Finally, Roman alleges that, despite his grievances, Captain J. Haberbush (“Haberbush”) “sat back and did nothing to prevent these cruel and unusual punishments and reckless neglectments [sic] his co-workers subjected me too [sic].” (Id.)

         Roman raises all of his claims under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. (See ECF No. 1.) He asserts that these incidents occurred on November 12, 2016. (Id. at ECF pp. 6, 8.) Roman alleges that exposure to the sewage caused him to contract Hepatitis A and that the constant illumination in his cell resulted in sleep deprivation, migraine headaches, and stress. (Id. at ECF p. 8.) He seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id.)

         III. THE SCREENING STANDARD

         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), (2) seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or (3) asserts a claim concerning prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). 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); see also Mitchell v. Beard, 492 Fed.Appx. 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (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); Glunk v. Noone, 689 Fed.Appx. 137, 139 (3d Cir. 2017). 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. ANALYSIS

         A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights. That section provides,

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, 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, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim 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. See Harvey v. Plains Twp. Police Dep't, 635 ...


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