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Wilcox v. Martinez

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 18, 2019

RAHEEM WILCOX, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. J. MARTINEZ, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Kevin McNulty United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Raheem Wilcox, is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at East Jersey State Prison, in Rahway, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with an amended civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court previously granted Mr. Wilcox's leave to proceed in forma pauper is. (DE 8.) This Court must now review the amended 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, Mr. Wilcox's amended complaint will be dismissed.

         II. BACKGROUND AND ALLEGATIONS

         The amended complaint names as the sole defendant Sergeant J. Martinez. (DE 17-1, at 4.) Mr. Wilcox is suing Sergeant Martinez in both his individual and official capacities for alleged violations of Mr. Wilcox's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. at 1.) Mr. Wilcox explains that on July 10, 2017, while he was employed as a wing barber at East Jersey State Prison, he filed a grievance requesting a pay increase for all wing barbers. (DE 17-2, at 12.) Mr. Wilcox requested wing barbers be paid the same amount as "down under school barbers." (Id.) Initially, the administration informed Mr. Wilcox that wing barbers would be given a raise to match that of the other barbers. (Id.) However, the administration later issued a correction advising Mr. Wilcox that wing barbers would not receive a pay increase, but rather that the administration would decrease the other barbers' salaries to match the pay rate of wing barbers. (Id.) On September 9, 2017, Mr. Wilcox filed another grievance requesting that the administration permit all barbers to work seven days a week, rather than five, in order to accommodate individuals who "may not get a hair cut during the week or get a visit because of extenuating circumstances." (Id. at 21.) On October 11, 2017, the administration informed Mr. Wilcox that there were no seven-days-a-week jobs in the prison, but that "all efforts will be made to accommodate those [prisoners] due to 'extenuating circumstances."' (Id.) Mr. Wilcox asserts that Sergeant Martinez would have been aware of these grievance requests because Sergeant Martinez was the supervisor of the wing barbers. (DE 17-1, at 8.)

         Several months later, on January 23, 2018, Mr. Wilcox asked Sergeant Martinez for a refill of Barbicide disinfectant and plastic gloves in order to clean the clipper guards. (DE 17-2, at 1.) He also requested that the clipper guards be inspected because they had been pulling on the inmates' hair. (Id.) Sergeant Martinez instructed Mr. Wilcox direct his requests to another inmate, Wali Watlington. (Id.) Mr. Wilcox informed Sergeant Martinez he already requested these items from Watlington several times, but Watlington had repeatedly ignored his requests. (Id.) Later that same day, Sergeant Martinez instructed Watlington to pick up the barber toolbox, including the clipper guards, to be serviced. (Id. at 2.) When Mr. Wilcox retrieved the toolbox on January 24, 2018, Sergeant Martinez accused Mr. Wilcox of not keeping the clipper guards clean. (Id.) Sergeant Martinez told Mr. Wilcox that the clipper guards had shown signs of corrosion and contained traces of hair. (Id.) On January 25, 2018, Sergeant Martinez fired Mr. Wilcox from his position as barber. (Id.)

         On January 26, 2018, Mr. Wilcox filed a grievance regarding his firing with Superintendent Calvin Spires. (Id.) Mr. Wilcox stated that he was unfairly terminated in retaliation for his request for a pay increase and asked to be reconsidered for his job. (Id.) Mr. Wilcox separately filed a grievance with Major Jones, asserting the same allegations. (Id. at 10.) On February 14, 2018, Major Jones instructed Mr. Wilcox to reapply for the wing barber position if the position had not yet been filled. (Id.) Mr. Wilcox states that prior to Major Jones's response, the position had been open, but that after receiving Major Jones's response, Mr. Wilcox informed Jones that it had already been filled. (Id.) On April 13, 2018, Mr. Wilcox's request to Mr. Spires for reinstatement was denied. (Id. at 1.)

         Mr. Wilcox also indicates that, as a result of not having been provided with gloves to clean the clipper guards, he contracted a skin lesion on his hand. (Id.) Mr. Wilcox states that he was treated for this skin lesion on January 3, 2018. (Id.)

         In April 2018, Mr. Wilcox filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. <DE 1.) Upon an initial screening, I dismissed Mr. Wilcox's complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (DE 10, 11.) Shortly thereafter, Mr. Wilcox filed his first amended complaint. (DE 12, 13, 14.) I again dismissed the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim and provided Mr. Wilcox with one final opportunity to amend. (DE 15.) Mr. Wilcox filed this, his second amended complaint. (DE 17.)[1] In his second amended complaint, Mr. Wilcox alleges that Sergeant Martinez violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He requests a declaration that the acts or omissions described within his second amended complaint violated his rights under the Constitution; $10, 000 in compensatory damages against Sergeant Martinez; $10, 000 in punitive damages against Sergeant Martinez; recovery costs; and "any additional relief this Court deems just, proper and equitable." (DE 17-1, at 5-10.)

         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 pauper is. 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, "[t]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 All. 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).

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Pro se pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed. See Haines v. Kemer,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 ...


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