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Riggins v. Banos

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 30, 2019

CALVIN RIGGINS, Plaintiff,
v.
GRIFFIN BANOS et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          FREDA L. WOLFSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Calvin Riggins (“Riggins” or “Plaintiff”), is a pretrial detainee presently held at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He seeks to proceed pro se with a Complaint asserting violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Court now screens the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. For the reasons stated herein, the Complaint is dismissed.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Underlying Circumstances

         Riggins asserts that, on the morning of July 3, 2018, he and his fiancée, Elvia Torres (“Torres”) were at her residence, located at 384 Hoffman Station Road, in Monroe Township. (ECF No. 1 at ECF p. 6.) He alleges that, around 5:30 a.m., officers Griffin Banos (“Banos”), Jabazz Spence, and Sgt. Sloan (“Sloan”), of the Monroe Township Police Department, entered the house and “terrorize[d], unlawfully arrested and physically ass[au]lted” him. (Id.) Riggins contends that the officers were executing warrants obtained by Banos and signed by Judge Dennis Nieves, including “body warrants” for Riggins and Torres and a “no-knock warrant” for the second-floor apartment at 384 Hoffman Station Road. (Id. at ECF p. 7.) Riggins alleges that Banos and another officer improperly questioned Torres about her relationship with Riggins and performed a Terry frisk of her without the presence of a female officer. (Id. at ECF p. 8.) Riggins asserts that Torres consented to a search of her second-floor bedroom “out of fear of being ‘terrorized.'” (Id.) He claims that the officers never told Torres that they had a warrant for her. (Id.) Riggins asserts that Banos and Sloan ordered that he be stripped of his clothes and gave him some “over-sized shorts” to wear. (Id.)

         Riggins was apparently taken to the emergency room at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, where, he alleges, he was “handcuffed next to a male patient who[] sounded awfully ill and tempered.” (Id. at ECF p. 9.) Riggins claims he was injured when that other patient fell on him, and that Sloan and another officer “laughed and asked was I okay.” (Id.) He explains that he begged the officers to take him to a different hospital, but was apparently ignored. (Id.) He further contends that emergency medical workers advised that he should be taken to a medical care facility after determining that he had “been exposed to high levels of phytenol, ”[1] but that “the defendants did not follow Monroe EMT workers instructions instead plaintiff was returned to Monroe Police Department for processing.” (Id. at ECF pp. 9, 11.)

         B. The Complaint

         Riggins commenced this action by filing a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on August 16, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) I construe the Complaint as seeking to assert constitutional claims, on behalf of both himself and Torres, for unlawful search and seizure and excessive force under the Fourth Amendment, failure to provide a Miranda warning under the Fifth Amendment, inadequate medical care under the substantive Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, selective enforcement under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, failure to protect, and supervisory liability, as well as tort claims under state law for assault and sexual harassment. (See id.) He seeks injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at ECF pp. 11-12.)

         The action was initially administratively terminated, as the Complaint included neither the required filing fee nor an application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 3.) Riggins subsequently submitted a proper in forma pauperis application, and the case was reopened. (ECF Nos. 4 & 5.) The Complaint now must be screened under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 (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).

         “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); see also Courteau v. United States, 287 Fed.Appx. 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court has explained that, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). “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 ...


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