United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
pro se, Ronald Jones, commenced this action on December 23,
2013, by filing a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
("Cplt", DE 1) The action was initially
administratively terminated, as the complaint included a
defective application to proceed in forma pauperis.
(DE 2.) Mr. Jones subsequently filed a proper in for ma
pauperis application, and the action was reopened. (DE
3, 5.) Thereafter, the action was again administratively
terminated because Mr. Jones failed to update his address
with the Court in compliance with Local Civil Rule 10.1 and
could not be contacted. (DE 6, 7.) Thereafter, Mr. Jones
provided the Court with an updated address. (DE 8.) The Court
now reopens this action and undertakes a screening of the
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B). For the
reasons explained herein, the action is dismissed in part but
will be permitted to proceed in part.
bulk of Mr. Jones's 342-paragraph complaint is a
recitation of his interactions with officials of Northern
State Prison ("NSP") between August 2008 and his
ultimate release from prison on September 28, 2012. From this
intricate chronology of events, I extract six distinct types
of wrongs that Mr. Jones alleges he suffered: (1) erroneous
withholding of portions of Mr. Jones's wages and work
credits for his prison job; (2) improper extensions of Mr.
Jones's release date; (3) assignments to top bunks and
upper prison tiers despite a medical directive that he be
assigned a bottom bunk in a ground-level cell; (4) denial of
adequate access to the prison law library; (5) transfers to
undesirable prison units; and (6) unjustified searches of his
cell. (See Cplt. ¶¶ 23-323.) Mr. Jones
also raises a number of allegations surrounding discipline
that he was subjected to in August-September 2011, including
claims that he was falsely accused and convicted of
threatening a corrections officer; moved to another cell
pending charges, during which time he was deprived for two
weeks of his eyeglasses, toothbrush, and toothpaste; tahtboth
his hearing and the resulting decision were delayed beyond
permissible timelines; and that some of his personal
belongings went missing while his charges were
pending. (See Cplt. ¶¶ 101-208.)
Jones asserts against the defendants, who are all corrections
officers or prison administrators, claims under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for deprivation of due process, violation of his
equal-protection rights, cruel and unusual punishment,
inadequate medical treatment, retaliation, false
imprisonment, denial of access to the courts, and
conspiracy. (Cplt. ¶¶ 324-39.) He seeks a
declaratory judgment that his rights were violated,
injunctive relief against the defendants barring further
harassment or retaliation, and compensatory and punitive
damages. (Id. ¶¶ 340.)
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 is proceeding in
forma pauper is. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 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).
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). 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).
pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed. See
Raines 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.
That section provides as follows:
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 Dep7, 635 F.3d 606, 609 (3d Cir.
2011); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42,
assess the timeliness of Mr. Jones's Complaint.
"Although the running of the statute of limitations is
ordinarily an affirmative defense, where that defense is
obvious from the face of the complaint and no development of
the record is necessary, a court may dismiss a time-barred
complaint sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)
for failure to state a claim." Ostuni v. Wa Wa's
Mart, 532 Fed.Appx. 110, 111-12 (3d Cir. 2013); see
also Hunterson v. Disabato, 244 Fed.Appx. 455, 457 (3d
Cir. 2007). Causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are
subject to the same two-year statute of limitations as claims
for other personal injuries under New Jersey state law.
See Patyrak v. Apgar, 511 Fed.Appx. 193, 195 (3d
Cir. 2013) (citing Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603
F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010)); Evans v. Gloucester
Twp., 124 F.Supp.3d 340, 349 (D.N.J. 2015) (citing
Pitiman v. Metuchen Police Dep 't, 441 Fed.Appx.
826, 828 (3d Cir. 2011)). The accrual of a cause of action is
a matter of federal law and generally coincides with the time
that the plaintiff suffers injury. See Kach v. Hose,
589 F.3d 626, 634-35 (3d Cir. 2009).
Jones filed his complaint with the court on December 23,
2013. (DE 1) Thus, any claims that accrued prior
to December 23, 2011 are facially untimely. I will consider,
however, whether the limitations period may have been
suspended or tolled. '"State law, unless
inconsistent with federal law, also governs the concomitant
issue of whether a limitations period should be
tolled."' McPherson v. United States, 392
Fed.Appx. 938, 944 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Dique,
603 F.3d at 185). Statutory tolling under New Jersey law must
be based on a specifically identified basis. See,
e.g., N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:14-21 (minority or
insanity); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A: 14-22 (non-residency of
persons liable). Nothing in the complaint, however, supports
any statutory basis for tolling.
tolling under New Jersey law may arise "where 'the
complainant has been induced or tricked by his
adversary's misconduct into allowing the deadline to
pass,' or where a plaintiff has 'in some
extraordinary way' been prevented from asserting his
rights, or where a plaintiff has timely asserted his rights
mistakenly by either defective pleading or in the wrong
forum." Cason v. Arie St. Police Dep't, No.
10-497, 2010 WL 2674399, at *5 n.4 (D.N.J. June 29, 2010)
(quoting Freeman v. State, 347 N.J.Super. 11, 31
(Super. Ct. App. Div. 2002)). Again, the complaint does not
articulate any basis for equitable tolling. Accordingly, I
will dismiss as untimely all claims that accrued before
December 23, 2011. This includes all of Mr. Jones's
claims concerning the disciplinary charge against him and his
related punitive confinement in August and September 2011.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment and Inadequate Medical
Eighth Amendment claim under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Clause includes both a subjective and an objective component:
(1) that the defendant prison official acted with a culpable
state of mind and (2) that the conduct in question was
sufficiently harmful to become a constitutional violation.
See Ricks v. Shover,891 F.3d 468, 473 (3d Cir.
2018). Cruel and Unusual Punishment claims may be divided
into those alleging excessive force and those concerning the
conditions of confinement. See Hudson v. McMillian,503 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1992). AS to the latter, the Eighth
Amendment requires prison officials to "provide humane
conditions of confinement," but it "'does not
mandate comfortable prisons.'" Farmer v.
Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Rhodes v.
Chapman,452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981)). "[E]xtreme
deprivations are required to make out a
conditions-of-confinement claim. Because routine discomfort
is a part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for
their offenses against society, only those ...