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Clauso v. Bonds

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 3, 2019

WARDEN WILLIE BONDS, et al., Defendants.

          THOMAS JAMES CLAUSO Plaintiff, Pro Se


          Noel L. Hillman, United States District Judge.

         Currently before the Court is the complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order of Plaintiff Thomas James Clauso. (ECF No. 1). As Plaintiff is a convicted prisoner who has previously been granted in forma pauperis status, this Court is required pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to screen Plaintiff's complaint and dismiss it if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks damages from a party immune to suit.

         For the following reasons, this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's false charge and destruction of property claims as to all relevant Defendants, will dismiss Rutgers Correctional Health Care from this matter without prejudice, will permit Plaintiff's remaining claims to proceed, and will deny Plaintiff's motion seeking a temporary restraining order (ECF No. 1 at 29-31) without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Thomas James Clauso, is a convicted state prisoner who is currently incarcerated at South Woods State Prison. Plaintiff is elderly, and suffers from unspecified health issues which require that he use either a cane, walker, or wheelchair to move around. (ECF No. 1 at 11). According to the complaint, at some point in May 2018, Plaintiff was charged by Sergeant Chard with threatening to stab another guard named Martinelli with a screwdriver Plaintiff kept in his cell, a threat Plaintiff denies having made. (Id. at 1, 12). Plaintiff asserts that these charges were later dropped. (Id. at 18). Regardless, following these false charges, Chard, Martinelli, and two other guards named Hanson and Goldsborough began to harass Plaintiff apparently both because of the false charge and because Plaintiff “gets along to[o] well with black people.” (Id. at 12, 4, 24).

         According to Plaintiff, all three guards are racists who frequently make use of racial epithets against black people, and at least one - Chard - told Plaintiff that he was an avowed Nazi. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Chard has frequently threatened to put him in his “iron maiden” - which the complaint suggests[1] may actually be a term used by the guards for one of the mental health watch cells which Plaintiff refers to as the “rubber room, ” and claims that he has used this “iron maiden” to kill black inmates in the past. (Id. at 12). Chard apparently also told Plaintiff that he learned unspecified torture techniques “from Apartheid.” (Id. at 12).

         In addition to these allegations of harassment and racial epithets, Plaintiff's complaint also alleges various claims related to the conditions of his confinement. According to Plaintiff, Plaintiff was for a period of a few weeks confined to his cell, denied access to a shower, denied exercise time, denied his walking equipment or a wheelchair, and was essentially left to fester in his cell by Chard, Hansen, and Martinelli. Plaintiff further alleges that the guards refused to turn on the lights in his cell. (Id. at 12-21).

         These conditions have led to him suffering from a rash, for which he was eventually given a cream by the medical department that proved ineffective without proper cleaning, and various other physical and mental health issues. (Id.). Throughout this period, Plaintiff was also threatened by the three named guards, and in one incident Plaintiff was physically assaulted by Goldsborough during a handcuffing which resulted in Plaintiff's arm being dislocated without reason. (Id. at 24).

         At some point during this period of maltreatment, in late May 2018, Plaintiff placed a sick call slip seeking mental health treatment. (Id. at 12-13, 25). Mental health nurses, including nurse Amanda Williams, thereafter came to see him to ask him questions about his request, which Plaintiff refused to answer with the above named guards present. (Id.). Apparently unhappy with this refusal, Williams summoned the guards, but Plaintiff continued to refuse to answer the questions. (Id.).

         Chard and Williams thereafter had plaintiff placed in the “rubber room” without first seeking proper authorization from a doctor. (Id.) During this time in the “rubber room”, Plaintiff was left naked in the room without his walking equipment and thus was forced to endure the dirt, mess, and biological material that was on the floor of that room while the guards and Williams watched. (Id. at 25-26). Plaintiff remained in that room until he was seen by a doctor several days later who released him as there was no basis for this confinement to the rubber room. (Id.). Plaintiff was thereafter returned to his cell, where the above referenced maltreatment continued. Plaintiff's period of time without yard time or a shower apparently went on for at least twenty-one total days. (Id. at 31).

         Plaintiff further alleges that throughout this time period, the four named guards destroyed many of his possessions and several hundred pages of documents he had copied. (Id. at 12-25). Plaintiff also claims that Goldsborough began intercepting his legal mail, forging Plaintiff's signature on documents, and sending them back to various courts without ever delivering the mail to Plaintiff. (Id. at 24). Goldsborough apparently also prevents legal mail from being delivered to Plaintiff in those instances in which he does not engage in this alleged forgery. (Id.).

         In addition to the above-named individuals, Plaintiff also seeks to bring claims against the warden of South Woods State Prison, Willie Bonds, based on his having filed grievances and other letters seeking to raise these issues to Bonds' attention. (Id. at 22-23). Plaintiff alleges that Bonds, however, fully approved of the situation and told Goldsborough to tell Plaintiff to cease his complaints or he would have Chard “finish [him] off.” (Id.). Plaintiff also seeks to raise a claim against Rutgers Medical based on its running of the prison medical department, but Plaintiff provides scant detail about this claim other than to assert that he believes Rutgers Medical runs the facility poorly and overcharges the state. (Id. at 11). Plaintiff identifies no policy or practice of Rutgers Medical which resulted in the alleged violations of his rights.

         II. ...

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