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Davis v. Slaughter

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 19, 2019

DARRYL DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
J___ SLAUGHTER et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          KEVIN McNULTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Darryl Davis, is subject to commitment under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act at the Special Treatment Unit ("STU"), in Avenel, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint. This Court previously granted Mr. Davis leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (DE 2.)

         This Court must now review the complaint, under 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. For the following reasons, portions of the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim, and the remainder of the complaint will be permitted to proceed at this time.

         II. BACKGROUND AND ALLEGATIONS

         The complaint lists as defendants STU Administrator J___ Slaughter, STU Associate Administrator Keisha Fisher, STU Assistant Superintendent C___ Raupp, STU search-plan coordinator, Major Colm Gamba, Sergeant T___ Orange, Senior Corrections Officer ("SCO") ___ Scatino, and Lieutenant John Doe. (Compl., DE 1, ¶¶ 7-27.) Mr. Davis explains that he is suing all defendants in their individual capacities, and is suing Administrator Slaughter, Associate Administrator Fisher, and Assistant Superintendent Raupp for injunctive relief in their official capacities. (Id. ¶¶ 28-29.)

         Mr. Davis alleges that, on September 26, 2018, STU staff found contraband, which Mr. Davis identifies as a small amount of tobacco, in his cell. (DE 1 ¶ 32 & n.1.) He explains that he was immediately "pat searched" and then taken to the STU medical department, where a "BOSS chair" was used to conduct a non-intrusive search.[1] (Id. ¶ 33-34.) Mr. Davis was then taken to a different cell, where Sergeant Orange, accompanied by SCO Scatino, and another, unidentified officer, ordered Mr. Davis to strip for another search. (Id. ¶¶ 34-39.) He contends that, while he was compelled to completely disrobe for the strip search, he was in view of other STU residents. (Id. ¶ 39.)

         Mr. Davis remained in that cell on temporary close custody ("TCC")[2] status for the next several days. Mr. Davis explains that, while he was in the TCC cell, he was deprived of all possessions except a change of clothes and set of sheets and was not allowed to shower, make telephone calls, or receive his prescribed sex-offender treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 41-43.) Mr. Davis alleges that he was informed on September 28, 2018, that he was cleared to return to general population and assigned specific programming to address inappropriate behavior. (Id. ¶ 45 & n.3.) Mr. Davis alleges that TCC status is not supposed to last more than 72 hours, and that, as he approached that duration, around lunch time on September 29, 2018, he asked an unidentified sergeant when he would be released, but was told, '"[M]oves are up to the Lieutenant.'" (Id. ¶¶ 46-47.) He alleges that, around 5:30 p.m. the same day, he inquired again as to the timing of his release and that non-party Sergeant T___ Walker "emphatically responded that 'no one is moving today.'" (Id. ¶ 48.) Sergeant Orange apparently ordered Mr. Davis released from TCC at 8:00 a.m. the following day, 91 hours and 20 minutes after he was placed there. (Id. ¶ 50 & n.4.) Mr. Davis alleges that, around the same time, other STU residents were properly released from TCC within the 72-hour period. (Id. ¶ 51.)

         Mr. Davis subsequently commenced this civil rights action. He alleges that Orange, Scatino, Gamba, and Lieutenant Doe violated his Fourth Amendment rights by submitting him to an improper strip search. (DE 1 ¶¶ 54-69.) He further contends that Gamba, Orange, and Doe violated various constitutional provisions by subjecting him to unduly prolonged TCC placement in contravention of facility regulations and while other, similarly situated residents were timely released. (Id. ¶¶ 81-103.) Mr. Davis alleges that Administrator Slaughter, Associate Administrator Fisher, and Assistant Superintendent Raupp should have known of these acts, yet failed to intervene, and thus claims they bear supervisory liability. (See Id. ¶¶ 70-80, 104-115.) He contends that these events additionally violated his rights under the New Jersey Constitution and the statutorily established rights of mental patients. (See Id. ¶¶ 116-125.) The complaint demands declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. (Id.¶ 135.)

         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 when the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 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. Id.

         "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). The Supreme Court has explained that, "[f]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 claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013).

         IV. ...


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