United States District Court, D. New Jersey
TIMOTHY A. HORNE, Plaintiff,
SCO COTTRELL, Defendant.
D. WIGENTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the complaint (ECF No. 1) and application
to proceed in forma pauperis (Document 1 attached to
ECF No. 1) of Plaintiff Timothy A. Horne. Based on
Plaintiff's application, leave to proceed in forma
pauperis is warranted in this matter, and the Court will
therefore grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in
forma pauperis. As the Court is granting Plaintiff
in forma pauperis status in this matter, this Court
is required to screen his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Pursuant to the statute, this Court
must dismiss Plaintiff's claims if they are frivolous,
malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek damages
from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons set forth
below, this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint
without prejudice in its entirety.
complaint, Plaintiff seeks to raise a claim pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Cottrell, the property
officer of Northern State Prison. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff
contends that Defendant engaged in an “unlawful
taking” of Plaintiff's “commissary purchased
TV.” (Id. at 4). Specifically, Plaintiff
asserts that he purchased the television while incarcerated
at South Woods Sate Prison and still possessed it when he
arrived at Northern State Prison in February 2018.
(Id. at 7). Plaintiff was then sent to East Jersey
State Prison in May 2019, but did not receive his television
there. (Id.). Plaintiff was then “sent
back” to administrative segregation at Northern State
Prison for thirty days. (Id.). On June 12, 2018,
Plaintiff received all of his property except for the TV,
which he believes was taken by Defendant Cottrell while his
property was held in the prison's possession under
Cottrell's supervision. (Id.). Plaintiff was
moved back to East Jersey State Prison, where he complained
about the loss of the television, and was apparently told in
August 2018 that “Northern State prison was at fault
for not sending [his] TV” to East Jersey State Prison.
(Id. at 8). Plaintiff was then told in October 2018
that he would receive a new television, but apparently has
not yet received it. (Id.).
Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26,
1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review
complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is
proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B), or seeks damages from a state employee,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The PLRA directs
district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that
is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is
subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff has been
granted in forma pauperis status.
to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'” 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua
sponte 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) (citation
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.” Fair Wind Sailing,
Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while
pro se pleadings are liberally construed,
“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) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).
seeks to bring a claim against Defendant Cottrell based on an
alleged violation of his constitutional rights arising out of
the loss of his television at Northern State Prison.
“To establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
plaintiff must demonstrate a violation of a right protected
by the Constitution or laws of the United States that was
committed by a person acting under the color of state
law.” Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d
Cir. 2000); see also Woodyard v. Cnty. of
Essex, 514 Fed.Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013) (section
1983 provides “private citizens with a means to redress
violations of federal law committed by state
[actors]”). “The first step in evaluating a
section 1983 claim is to ‘identify the exact contours
of the underlying right said to have been violated' and
to determine ‘whether the plaintiff has alleged a
deprivation of a constitutional right at all.'”
Nicini, 212 F.3d at 806 (quoting County of
Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841 n. 5 (1998)).
complaint, Plaintiff essentially seeks to assert a claim that
Defendant Cottrell deprived him of his property in the form
of his television without Due Process. As this Court has
To assert a Due Process claim for the deprivation of
one's property by a public official, a plaintiff must
assert that he possessed a property interest, that he was
deprived of that interest by a state actor, and that he was
not provided notice and an opportunity to be heard in
relation to the taking of his property interest. See
Rusnak v. Williams, 44 Fed.Appx. 555, 558 (3d Cir.
2002). “Where a state actor deprives an individual of
property without authorization, [however, ] either
intentionally or negligently, that deprivation does not
result in a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment so long as
a meaningful post deprivation remedy for the loss is
available. See Hudson v. Palmer, [468 U.S. 517');">468 U.S. 517,
530-36] (1984); Parratt v. Taylor, [451 U.S. 527');">451 U.S. 527,
543-44] (1981); overruled in part on other grounds,
Daniels v. Williams, [474 U.S. 327] (1986).”
Love v. New Jersey Dep't of Corr., Civil Action
No. 14-5629, 2015 WL 2226015, at *5 (D.N.J. May 12, 2015);
see also Miller v. Fraley, No. 12-4470, 2015 WL
511296, at *11 (D.N.J. Feb. 6, 2015). The State of New Jersey
has provided a proper post-deprivation remedy to plaintiffs
for the unauthorized deprivation of their property through
the New Jersey 14-1641, 2015 WL 2131073, at *14 (D.N.J. May
5, 2015), - nor any racial or class based animus. Plaintiff
thus fails to plead either a § 1983 conspiracy claim nor
a viable claim under § 1985(3). Thus, to the extent
Plaintiff sought to raise any such claims, those claims are
dismissed without prejudice. Tort Claims Act. See N.J.
Stat. Ann. § 59:1-1, et seq.;
Love, 2015 WL 2226015 at *5; Miller, 2015
WL 511296 at *11.
v. New Jersey Dep't of Corr., No. 15-4404, 2016 WL
2757738, at *8 (D.N.J. May 12, 2016). In his complaint,
Plaintiff contends that Defendant unlawfully took his
television, and thus has asserted that Defendant took his
property without authorization. His deprivation of property
claim must therefore fail as the State of New Jersey has
provided Plaintiff with a meaningful form of post-deprivation
process through which he can address the loss of property -
the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. Id. Indeed,
Plaintiff has sought and received some process regarding his
property loss - he has filed grievances addressing the loss,
and been told he will eventually receive a new TV. Because
meaningful post-deprivation process is available, and because
the alleged taking was not authorized or “lawful,
” Plaintiff fails to state a claim for which relief may
be granted in his current § 1983 claim, and his
complaint must therefore be dismissed. Id.