KIETT v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/19/2014. (nz, )N.M.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
RALPH KIETT, JR.,
STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
Civil No. 13-5650 (JBS)
Ralph Kiett, Jr., Pro Se
South Woods State Prison
215 Burlington Road South
Bridgeton, NJ 08302
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge
Plaintiff, Ralph Kiett, Jr., confined at the South Woods State
Prison, Bridgeton, New Jersey, submitted a civil Complaint alleging
violations of his constitutional rights and an application to proceed
in forma pauperis (“IFP”). Based on the submissions, the Court will
grant Plaintiff's application pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and
order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint.
The Court must now review the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(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 such relief. For the reasons set
forth below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's Complaint should
be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
Plaintiff’s complaint consists of two paragraphs. He states
that he has been illegally incarcerated for more than thirty years
due to being tried as an adult without a valid waiver when he was
a juvenile. Plaintiff seeks release from incarceration, expungement
of his conviction, and monetary damages for this alleged violation
of his due process rights.
1. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§
801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) (“PLRA”),
district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in
which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental employee or
entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to
prison conditions, see 28 U.S.C. § 1997e.
The PLRA directs district
courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted,
or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and § 1915A because Plaintiff is a prisoner
and is proceeding as an indigent.
According to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.’” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
To survive sua sponte screening
for failure to state a claim,1 the complaint must allege “sufficient
factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible.
v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation
“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.”
Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir.
2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Moreover, while pro se
pleadings are liberally construed, “pro se litigants still must
allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.”
“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 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d
Cir. 2012) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir.
2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012)
(discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States, 287
F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citation omitted) (emphasis added).
Section 1983 Actions
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for certain violations of his constitutional rights. Section 1983
provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ...
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United
States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the
deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress ....
Thus, to state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution
or laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation
was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law.
See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Malleus v. George, 641
F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
Plaintiff’s Complaint Must Be Dismissed.
In a series of cases beginning with Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411
U.S. 475 (1973), the Supreme Court has analyzed the intersection of
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. In Preiser, state prisoners who had been deprived of
good-conduct-time credits by the New York State Department of
Correctional Services as a result of disciplinary proceedings
brought a § 1983 action seeking injunctive relief to compel
restoration of the credits, which would have resulted in their
immediate release. See 411 U.S. at 476. The prisoners did not seek
compensatory damages for the loss of their credits. See 411 U.S. at
494. The Court held that “when a state prisoner is challenging the
very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief
he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release
or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy
is a writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 500.
In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Court addressed
a corollary question to that presented in Preiser, whether a prisoner
could challenge the constitutionality of his conviction in a suit
for damages only under § 1983, a form of relief not available through
a habeas corpus proceeding. Again, the Court rejected § 1983 as a
vehicle to challenge the lawfulness of a criminal judgment.
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other
harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a
conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must
prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed
on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared
invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such
determination, or called into question by a federal
court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. §
2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a
conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated
is not cognizable under § 1983.
Id. at 486–87 (footnote omitted). The Court further instructed
district courts, in determining whether a complaint states a claim
under § 1983, to evaluate whether a favorable outcome would
necessarily imply the invalidity of a criminal judgment.
Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit,
the district court must consider whether a judgment in
favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the
invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the
complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can
demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already
been invalidated. But if the district court determines
that the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not
demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal
judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be
allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to
Id. at 487 (footnotes omitted). The Court further held that “a § 1983
cause of action for damages attributable to an unconstitutional
conviction or sentence does not accrue until the conviction or
sentence has been invalidated.” Id. at 489–90.
“Considering Heck and summarizing the interplay between habeas
and § 1983 claims, the Supreme Court explained that, ‘a state
prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)-no
matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter
the target of the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to
conviction or internal prison proceedings) if success in that action
would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of the confinement or
its duration.’” Williams v. Consovoy, 453 F.3d 173, 177 (3d Cir. 2006)
(quoting Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81–82 (2005)).
Here, until Plaintiff’s criminal conviction is invalidated, any
§ 1983 action challenging the conviction and seeking a remedy is
unenforceable. Plaintiff cannot have his conviction overturned in
this § 1983 action, nor can he collect monetary damages prior to his
conviction being invalidated through habeas relief or otherwise.
Therefore, the complaint must be dismissed without prejudice.2
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s complaint must be
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
The dismissal is without prejudice to Plaintiff filing a
motion to reopen and attaching an Amended Complaint to address the
deficiencies set forth in this Opinion.
An appropriate Order follows.
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief Judge
United States District Court
June 19, 2014
The Court also notes that Plaintiff has named an immune defendant.
Unless a state clearly waives sovereign immunity or the Congress
abrogates it, the Eleventh Amendment precludes all claims against
a state for monetary damages. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342
(1979) (“a suit in federal court by private parties seeking to impose
a liability which must be paid from public funds in the state treasury
is barred by the Eleventh Amendment”).
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