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Guille v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 13, 2019

STEVEN JOHNSON, et al, Defendants.


          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff is proceeding, in forma pauperis, with an amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 7). At this time, the Court must review the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit. Having completed this screening, the Court will permit the complaint to proceed in part.

         1. Plaintiff raises a variety of claims against prison officials at New Jersey State Prison ("NJSP") in Trenton, New Jersey including excessive force, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, retaliation, and denial of medical care.[1]

         2. Plaintiff attempts to bring certain claims on behalf of all prisoners at NJSP. Plaintiff lacks standing to assert claims on behalf of other prisoners. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975) (a "plaintiff generally must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties"). Plaintiff also has not demonstrated that he would be an adequate "class representative" under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. ("Class Actions"). "When confronting such a request from a prisoner, Courts have consistently held that a prisoner acting pro se 'is inadequate to represent the interests of his fellow inmates in a class action.'" Maldonado v. Terhune, 28 F.Supp.2d 284, 288 (D.N.J. 1998) (quoting Caputo v. Fauver, 800 F.Supp. 168 (D.N.J. 1992)). Accordingly, any claims brought on behalf of the class shall be dismissed without prejudice. (ECF No. 7 at 48 1.15).

         3. Plaintiffs first claim alleges that Officers Martini, Piazza, and Sgt. Smith used excessive force against him in his cell. (Id. at 44 1.14). Accepting the facts alleged in the complaint as true for screening purposes only, the Court will permit this claim to proceed.

         4. Plaintiff next alleges Sgt. Smith and unknown officers used excessive force against him in an elevator. (Id. at 44 1.19). The Court will permit this claim to proceed as well.

         5. The Court will also permit Plaintiffs allegations that Sgt. Smith and others violated Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment rights when they refused to permit him to "decontaminate" from the pepper-spray and forced him to remain in the dirty clothing. (Id. at 44 1.22; 45 at 1.1). Plaintiff also alleges various conditions of confinement claims against various defendants, but the Court will only permit the claim to proceed against Mr. Johnson, Sgt. Patterson, Sgt. Smith, Officer Martini, Officer Piazza, Officer Brodzinski, Officer Pedre, and Officer Jenkins. Plaintiff has not stated how the other named defendants participated in the alleged wrongdoings. "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A complaint is insufficient "if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement."' Ibid, (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (alteration in original).

         6. The Court will permit Plaintiffs retaliation claim against Sgt. Smith to proceed. (ECF No. 7 at 45 1.16).

         7. The Court will permit Plaintiffs claims against Sgt. Smith and Steven Johnson arising out of the allegedly contaminated drinking water to proceed. (Id. at 46 11.1-11).

         8. The Court will dismiss Plaintiffs claims regarding the lighting, volume of announcements, and being housed with "psychotics." (Id. at 46 1.13). "The Eighth Amendment prohibits the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Stewart v. Beard, 417 Fed.Appx. 117, 119 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)). "Prison conditions may amount to cruel and unusual punishment if they cause 'unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic human needs .... [that] deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities."' Tillman v. Lebanon Cty. Corr. Facility, 221 F.3d 410, 417-18 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)) (omission and alteration in original). "To demonstrate a deprivation of his basic human needs, a plaintiff must show a sufficiently serious objective deprivation, and that a prison official subjectively acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind, i.e., deliberate indifference." Id. at 418.

         9. "Conditions such as prison lighting will be acceptable where they are reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest." Randolph v. Wetzel, 987 F.Supp.2d 605, 616 (E.D. Pa. 2013) (citing Stewart, 417 Fed.Appx. at 120), affd, No. 17-2855, 2019 WL 949220 (3d Cir. Feb. 26, 2019). There are no facts in the complaint suggesting that NJSP's twenty-four hours a day lighting, volume of announcements, and housing assignments were motivated by anything other than legitimate penological concerns.

         10. The Court will permit Plaintiffs conditions of confinement claim alleging failure to remedy the vermin situation to proceed against Steven Johnson, David Richards, Raymond Royce, and Amy Emrich. (ECF No. 7 at 47 1.4).

         11. The Court dismisses Plaintiffs claim for failure to implement a confidential hotline in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA"). (Id. at 47 1.10). "The Act authorizes funding for various prison rape prevention programs, including for protecting inmates by 'investigating incidents of prison rape' and 'prosecuting incidents of prison rape.'" Walsh v. N.J. Dep't of Corr., No. 17-2442, 2017 WL 3835666, at *3 (D.N.J. Aug. 31, 2017) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 15605(b)(1)(B)-(C)). "There is no provision in the PREA for an individual prisoner to enforce these standards ...." Ibid.

         12. "The Supreme Court has held that where the language of a funding statute 'provide[s] no indication that Congress intend[ed] to create new individual rights, there is no basis for a private suit, whether under § 1983 or under an implied right of action.'" Ibid, (quoting Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe,536 U.S. 273, 286 (2002)) (alteration in original). Plaintiff therefore cannot bring a cause of action based on NJSP's alleged failure to comply with PREA by implemental a confidential reporting system, etc., without further facts as to how non-compliance with the statute created unconstitutional conditions of confinement. In other words, the mere fact that NJSP may not have ...

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