United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MADELINE COX ARLEO, DISTRICT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
matter has been opened to the Court by Plaintiff Brian
Moore's filing of a civil rights action for damages
against Defendants SCO Jesse Colon, SCO Carmen DeBari, SGT.
John Pomponio, Sgt J. Soto, Corrections Officer M. Hahn,
Corrections Officer G. Santana, and Corrections Officer N.
Stanicki ("Defendants"), arising from an
alleged assault that occurred at East Jersey State Prison on
July 11, 2017. (See ECF No. 1, Complaint at 3, 7-8.)
Court previously granted Plaintiffs application to proceed
in forma pauperis. (See ECF No. 3.) Federal law
requires this Court to screen Plaintiffs Complaint for
sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to
dismiss any claim if that claim fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
and/or to dismiss any defendant who is immune from suit.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Court construes Plaintiff to raise civil rights claims
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.(See ECF No. 1,
Complaint at 2.) Specifically, the Complaint alleges that the
individual Defendants named in the Complaint used excessive
force and/or failed intervene in the alleged assault in
violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Complaint further
asserts that the Defendants filed false disciplinary charges,
and that Defendants Colon and DeBari gave false testimony
against him at a disciplinary hearing. (Id. at 7-8.)
This Court has screened the Complaint in this action for
dismissal and has determined that dismissal of the entire
Complaint is not warranted at this time.
extent Plaintiff seeks damages from Defendants in their
official capacities, the Court dismisses such claims with
prejudice, as "neither a State nor its officials
acting in their official capacities are 'persons'
under § 1983." Will v. Michigan Dep't of
State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
Court will also dismiss without prejudice the claim for false
disciplinary charges for failure to state a claim for relief
because the act of filing false disciplinary charges does not
itself violate a prisoner's constitutional rights.
See Mimms v. U.N.I.C.O.R., 386 Fed.Appx. 32, 36 (3d
Cir. 2010) (citing Smith v. Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641,
653-54 (3d Cir. 2002)); Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d
949, 952-53 (2d Cir. 1986) (holding "mere filing of [a
false] charge itself does not constitute cognizable claim
under § 1983 so long as inmate "was granted a
hearing, and had the opportunity to rebut the unfounded or
false charges"); Hanrahan v. Lane, 747 F.2d
1137, 1140 (7th Cir. 1984) (finding that so long as prison
officials provide prisoner with procedural requirements, then
prisoner has not suffered constitutional violation); see
also Wolff v, McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-71 (1974)
(inmate is entitled to (1) written notice of charges and
opportunity to marshal facts and prepare defense for
appearance at disciplinary hearing; (2) written statement by
fact finder as to evidence relied on and reasons for
disciplinary action; and (3) opportunity to call witnesses
and present documentary evidence in defense when to do so
will not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or
correctional goals). Here, Plaintiff has not alleged that he
was not provided with these procedural protections at his
disciplinary hearing. As such, the Court will dismiss
without prejudice the claims of false disciplinary
charges against all Defendants.
also alleges that Defendants Colon and DeBari testified
falsely at the disciplinary hearing; however, a witness
enjoys absolute immunity from damages under § 1983 for
false testimony. See Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325,
330-46 (1983) (officer testifying in criminal trial enjoys
absolute witness immunity for false testimony); Kulwicki
v. Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1467 (3d Cir. 1992) (witness
testifying in judicial proceeding is absolutely immune for
false testimony); Williams v. Hepting, 844 F.2d 138,
143 (3d Cir. 1988) (witness is entitled to absolute immunity
from civil liability under § 1983 for perjured testimony
at preliminary hearing and suppression hearing). As such, the
Court will dismiss with prejudice the claim
regarding false testimony as to Defendants Colon and DeBari.
Court will proceed the remaining Eighth Amendment claims of
excessive force and failure to intervene as to all Defendants
in connection with the July 11, 2017 incident described in
the Complaint. The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,
applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment,
prohibits punishments that are "cruel and unusual."
An Eighth Amendment claim includes both an objective
component, whether the deprivation of a basic human need is
sufficiently serious, and a subjective component, whether the
officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). The
objective component is contextual and responsive to"
'contemporary standards of decency.'" Hudson
v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). The subjective
component follows from the principle that '"only the
unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the
Eighth Amendment.'" See Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S.
at 297 (internal quotation marks, emphasis, and citations
omitted)); Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345
(1981). What is necessary to establish an unnecessary and
wanton infliction of pain varies also according to the nature
of the alleged constitutional violation. Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. at 5. Where the claim is one of
excessive use of force, the core inquiry as to the subjective
component is that set out in Whitley v. Albers, 475
U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986) (citation omitted):
'"whether force was applied in a good faith effort
to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and
sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.'"
(quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6). In addition,
"a corrections officer's failure to intervene in a
beating can be the basis of liability for an Eighth Amendment
violation under § 1983 if the corrections officer had a
reasonable opportunity to intervene and simply refused to do
so." Smith v. Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641, 640 (3d
Cir. 2002). Having reviewed the allegations in the
Complaint, the Court will proceed the Eighth Amendment claims
for excessive force and/or failure to intervene as to all
Defendants in their personal capacities.
IS, THEREFORE, on this 28 day of August,
2019, ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court
shall add Corrections Officer N. Stanicki to the docket as a
Defendant; and it is further
that, pursuant to the Court's screening authority under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Complaint is proceeded in
part and dismissed in part for the reasons stated in this
Memorandum and Order; and it is further
that the official capacity claims for damages under §
1983 are dismissed WITH PREJUDICE as to all
Defendants; and it is further
that the §1983 claims for false disciplinary charges are
dismissed WITHOUT PREJUDICE against all
Defendants; and it is further
that the § 1983 claims regarding false testimony is
dismissed WITH PREJUDICE as to Defendants
Colon and DeBari; and it is further
that the Eighth Amendment claims for excessive force and/or
failure to intervene are proceeded against all Defendants in