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Farrell v. Ortiz

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 22, 2019

JAMES MICHAEL FARRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN ORTIZ, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Robert B. Kugler, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, James Michael Farrell, is a federal inmate currently incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix, in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Previously, this Court dismissed the portion of this action where plaintiff sought habeas corpus relief with prejudice. Furthermore, this court dismissed plaintiff's claims against the United States and the individual defendants in their official capacities with prejudice. Plaintiff's due process claim was also dismissed with prejudice. The remaining claims were dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff was given the opportunity to file a proposed amended complaint that addressed the deficiencies of the original complaint. Plaintiff has now submitted a proposed amended complaint such that the Clerk will be ordered to reopen this case.

         This Court must screen the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to determine whether the complaint is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or whether it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit. For the following reasons, the amended complaint will proceed in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The allegations of the amended complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening opinion. The amended complaint names two defendants: (1) Warden David Ortiz; and (2) Lieutenant Atkinson. Both defendants are being sued in their individual capacity.

         Plaintiff was a member of the food service warehouse while incarcerated at F.C.I. Fort Dix. On November 21, 2017, Atkinson, along with other officers conducted a search of the warehouse which resulted in cellphones and other contraband being found. Ultimately, plaintiff was placed in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) or “the hole.”

         Plaintiff alleges that for the first two-and-one-half weeks he was in the SHU, he was housed in a freezing two-man cell with walls that were covered with mold and mildew. There was no heat and cold air was rushed into the cells. Inmates were given two sheets and two thin blankets and were only clothed in short sleeve jumpers. Plaintiff states that it was so cold that he could not leave his bed except to retrieve food and go to the bathroom. Plaintiff states that Ortiz and Atkinson visited the SHU almost weekly and that plaintiff personally complained to these two defendants. According to plaintiff, “Ortiz acknowledged the [f]reezing conditions and cell wall mold but did nothing.” (ECF No. 5 at 5).

         Plaintiff states that he put in requests to visit the law library on November 22, 2017 and for “legal call.” However, his requests were ignored.

         Plaintiff also alleges he was denied social visits, access to property, access to phones and recreation time while housed in the SHU. Furthermore, plaintiff states that he was taken to showers in shackles and handcuffs three times a week. He states he suffered injuries to his wrists due to the handcuffs.

         Plaintiff states that he spent fifty days in the SHU. (See ECF No. 5 at 19).

         Plaintiff brings three claims in his amended complaint. First, he asserts a Fifth Amendment due process claim. Second, he brings an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim against both defendants. Finally, plaintiff brings a First Amendment access to courts claim. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in his amended complaint.

         III. LEGAL 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 complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon ...


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