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Ali v. Jenkins

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 28, 2019

HOSSAM A ALI, Plaintiff,
v.
M.S.O. JENKINS et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Hossam A Ali (“Ali” or “Plaintiff”), is proceeding pro se with this Complaint asserting violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) On October 24, 2018, the Court granted Ali leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 2.) The Court now screens the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Also before the Court is a motion by Ali for appointment of pro bono counsel. (ECF No. 4.) For the reasons stated herein, Ali's claim against defendant M.S.O. Jenkins (“Jenkins”) is permitted to proceed, but the remainder of his claims are dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Ali's motion for appointment of pro bono counsel is denied.

         II. THE COMPLAINT

         Ali is, apparently, a patient confined at the Ann Klein Forensic Center, a state psychiatric hospital. He alleges that, on January 22, 2017, Jenkins, a hospital employee, “was cursing at [Ali's] religion” and then grabbed Ali by the neck, choked him, and shoved him against a wall. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Ali claims that Jenkins choked him until he “almost passed out” and that other officers had to come to help Ali. (Id.) Ali explains that the attack caused him severe bruising and left him with difficulty moving his neck and swallowing, but he alleges that “no medical treatment had been done.” (Id. at 4.) He seeks “appropriate charges” and compensatory 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 is proceeding in forma pauperis. 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).

         “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). 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 F.3d 606, 609 (3d Cir. 2011); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         The Substantive Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment bars State punishment of persons who are not convicted of a crime, including those who are civilly committed. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979); Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150, 166 (3d Cir. 2005). (See ECF No. 1.) Whether a condition of civil confinement is unconstitutional thus turns on whether it is imposed for the purpose of punishment or whether it is incidental to a legitimate government purpose. Bell, 441 U.S. at 435-39. Here, Ali sufficiently pleads that Jenkin's attack on him was an ...


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