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Fisher v. Hollingsworth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 10, 2019

TONY FISHER, Plaintiff,
JORDAN HOLLINGSWORTH, et al., Defendants.


          ROBERT B. KUGLER, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Tony Fisher, also known as Kellie Rehanna (hereinafter referred to in the feminine at Plaintiff's request), a prisoner confined at Elkton-Federal Correctional Institution, Elkton, Ohio, is proceeding pro se with a proposed amended civil rights complaint (“Amended Complaint”) and motion to appoint counsel. (ECF Nos. 8, 9). For the reasons stated in this Opinion, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim, deny Plaintiff's motion to amend as futile, and deny without prejudice her motion to appoint counsel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court will construe the allegations of the Amended Complaint as true for the purpose of this Opinion. Plaintiff names the United States of America, Jordan Hollingsworth, Warden Doe, Unit Doe, Ms. Fischer, Mr. Williams, N. Watkins Ward, Anna Morfe, and Stacie D. Marantz-Tattersdi as Defendants in this matter.

         This case arises from a number of incidents in which Plaintiff was the victim of sexual assaults from a fellow inmate, during her incarceration at FCI Fort Dix, on July 11 and 13, 2013. (ECF No. 9-1, at 6). Prior to transferring Plaintiff to FCI Fort Dix, officials improperly assessed Plaintiff's risk of victimization. (Id. at 12).

         Plaintiff arrived at FCI Fort Dix on July 2, 2013. (Id.). Shortly after her arrival, Defendant Ward evaluated Plaintiff for her risk of victimization, but erroneously assessed Plaintiff as having only one risk of victimization factor. (Id.). Upon entry into general population, Plaintiff began receiving verbal invitations, demands, and threats for sex from other inmates. (Id.). In particular, “inmate C” made a number of these threats and informed Plaintiff that he “was incarcerated because of a high profile, violent, sexual assault charge.” (Id.).

         On or about July 9, 2013, Plaintiff reported these threats to the unit counselor, Defendant Fischer, who indicated that she would “look into it.” (Id. at 13). The day after, a staff psychologist evaluated Plaintiff and identified five risk of victimization factors but concluded that it was not necessary to raise Plaintiffs “at-risk” level “significantly above any other inmates.” (Id.).

         Despite identifying these risk factors, officials did not separate Plaintiff from potentially dangerous inmates, and on July 11 and 13, 2013, “inmate C” sexually assaulted Plaintiff on three separate occasions. (Id. at 15-16). Plaintiff reported the sexual assaults, on July 24, 2013. (Id. at 16). Thereafter, Plaintiff received medical and psychological treatment, as well as a transfer to FCI Forrest City in Arkansas. (Id. at 17).

         In September of 2017, Plaintiff requested her psychological records and received them on October 3, 2017. (Id. at 9). After receiving those records, Plaintiff realized “that her rapes were substantiated.” (Id.). Plaintiff then filed administrative remedies regarding these sexual assaults, seeking monetary and injunctive relief, and appeals thereof, on October 8, 2017, November 3, 2017, and December 13, 2017. (ECF No. 9-6. at 79-87). Plaintiff received a denial at each institutional level and received the last of which on January 17, 2018. (ECF No. 9-1, at 17-18).

         On December 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint in this matter, and then on February 19, 2019, filed the instant Amended Complaint, raising Eighth Amendment claims against all Defendants. Plaintiff seeks monetary compensation and nationwide injunctive relief to address a number of issues related to vulnerable inmates. (ECF No. 9-1, at 19).


         A. Standard for Sua Sponte Dismissal

         District courts must review complaints in civil actions in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). District courts may 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. See Id. According 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, [1] the complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. See 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 [alleged] misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Moreover, while courts liberally construe pro se pleadings, “pro se litigants still must ...

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