United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Mcnulty United States District Judge
pro se, Robert Washington, filed a civil rights complaint
with the Court on December 1, 2014. (DE 1.) Mr. Washington
subsequently filed what was labeled an "Amended
Complaint," an addendum which contained a prayer for
damages. (DE 3.) After mail to Mr. Washington was returned as
undeliverable, the Court administratively terminated the case
on November 6, 2015. (DE 5; 6.) The case was
reopened on April 28, 2016 (DE 8, 9), and then dismissed upon
initial screening for failure to state a claim upon which
relief could be granted (DE 18, 19). The Court subsequently
granted a motion to amend the complaint. (DE 22, 23.) Mr.
Washington thereafter submitted a second amended complaint
(DE 24), and the Court now undertakes an initial screening of
that pleading under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.
Washington's original complaint named as defendants the
Essex County Sheriffs Department, Detective James Bradley,
Detective Noel Mendez, Detective Caicedo Fabian, Detective
Eduardo Moreno, and Sergeant Nicolas Vinci. (DE 1-1; see
also DE 3.) He alleged that Bradley arrested him on
September 5, 2014 and filed a false police report
"stating [Mr. Washington] was arrested with evidence
that was clearly not on [his] person." (DE 1-1 at 4.) He
contended that the defendant detectives "came together
and discussed possible methods of conjuring and manipulating
the legal process to come up with trumped up charges, that
evidence had to be planted to substantiate such a
crime." (Id.) He thus alleged a conspiracy
among the defendants. (Id.) Mr. Washington also
alluded to medical problems that allegedly went untreated
while he was detained. (Id.)
screening the original pleading, I dismissed it without
prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted. (DE 18.) Specifically, regarding the claim
that Bradley filed a false police report, I found that Mr.
Washington had not included sufficient factual detail and
that '"the filing of a false police report is not
itself a constitutional violation.'" (Id.
at 3 (quoting Ellis v. Vergara, No. 09-2839, 2009 WL
4891762, at *5 (D.N.J. Dec. 15, 2009)).) I found that Mr.
Washington had failed to state a claim for malicious
prosecution, as he did not plead favorable termination of
criminal proceedings. (Id. at 4.) I dismissed the
conspiracy allegation as it was conclusory and as there was
no adequately pleaded predicate constitutional violation.
(Id. at 5.) I additionally dismissed any potential
claim for inadequate medical treatment and any claim against
the Essex County Sheriffs Department as insufficiently
pleaded. (Id. at 6-8.) I declined to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over any potential state-law
claims. (Id. at 8.)
Washington has now submitted a second amended complaint
against the same defendants, alleging similar
claims. (DE 24, cited herein as "2AC".)
He again alleges that Bradley arrested him and "filed a
false police report stating I was arrested with evidence that
was clearly not on my person." (2AC ¶ 5.) As in the
original pleading, Mr. Washington contends that the defendant
detectives "came together and discussed possible methods
of conjuring and manipulating the legal process to come up
with false charges that evidence had to be planted to
substantiate such a crime." (Id. ¶ 6.)
More specifically, Mr. Washington alleges that the defendant
detectives "tampered with evidence to file false claims
that I sold one bag of heroin .. . for $10."
(Id.) He urges that the police "never recovered
$10" and that this interaction was, anyway,
"impossible being heroin doesn't cost $10 in
Newark." (Id.) He contends that the defendants
falsely manipulated police reports and failed to report this
misconduct. (Id.) Mr. Washington indicates that,
"[d]ue to [his] prior record [he] was forced to take a
probationary term in order for [him] to be released from
these charges." (Id.) The Court now undertakes
a screening of the second amended complaint under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e) and 1915A.
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).
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 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 dements of a cause of action
will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
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).
plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights:
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 ...