MCINTYRE v. COHEN et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Renee Marie Bumb on 2/22/2017. (rtm, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
RONALD A. McINTYRE,
GERALDINE COHEN, et al.,
CIV. ACTION NO. 17-140 (RMB)
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, U.S. District Judge
This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff’s filing of
a prisoner civil rights complaint (Compl., ECF No. 1), accompanied
by an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP App.” ECF No.
1-2), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Plaintiff’s affidavit of poverty
establishes his financial eligibility for IFP status, and his
application will be granted.
Plaintiff is a prisoner confined in the Atlantic County Justice
Facility. (Compl., ECF No. 1.)
He brings this civil action seeking
monetary damages for alleged violation of his constitutional right
of access to the courts while housed at the Atlantic County Justice
28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A require the court to review a
prisoner’s civil rights complaint.
Upon such review, the Court must
dismiss any claims that are: (1) frivolous or malicious; (2) fail
to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seek monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B); § 1915A(b).
Plaintiff brings this civil action against Geraldine Cohen,
Freeholder Chairman; Dennis Levison, Freeholder Executive; and the
State of New Jersey.
(Compl., ECF No. 1.)
Plaintiff alleges the
following facts in support of his Complaint.
On November 22, 2016,
Plaintiff requested access to the law library at AJCF to research
the legality of his sentence.
The following day, he was informed
a written document that he did not have physical access to the law
Instead, he was required to request specific information,
and it would be sent to him.
A housing officer told Plaintiff the facility did not have a
law library that was accessible to prisoners.
his grievances by sending the grievances to Defendants Cohen, Formica
Plaintiff asserts that the denial of access to a law
library hindered his ability to adequately contest his illegal
sentence; and the inability to contest his sentence resulted in loss
of custody of his youngest child, as well as his extended separation
from his family.
For relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.
Standard of Review
A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
“To 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). “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.”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.)
“[A] court must accept as true all of the allegations contained
in a complaint.”
A court need not accept legal conclusions as
Legal conclusions, together with threadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, do not suffice to state a claim.
Thus, “a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to
begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.”
“While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a
complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.”
a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a district court may
not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the
Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d
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.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania,
36 F.3d 1250, 1255–56 (3d Cir. 1994).
The Eleventh Amendment protects a state from a lawsuit against
it brought in federal court by one of its own citizens, unless
Congress abrogates the state’s immunity or the state waives its
Thorpe v. New Jersey, 246 F. App’x 86, 87 (citing MCI
Telecom. Corp. v. Bell Atl.–Pa., 271 F.3d 491, 503–04 (3d Cir. 2001);
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974)).
Section 1983 does not
abrogate the immunity of the states, nor has the State of New Jersey
waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 340–41 (1979)).
Id. (citing Quern v.
Therefore, the Court will
dismiss Plaintiff’s claim against the State of New Jersey with
Right of Access to the Courts
Prisoners have a right of access to the Courts under the First
and Fourteenth Amendments.
Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821
However, there is no “freestanding right to a law library
or legal assistance.”
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996).
right of access does not require “that the State must enable the
prisoner to discover grievances, and to litigate effectively once
Id. at 354.
An adequate law library is only one of many
acceptable ways to satisfy the right of access to courts.
Holder, 532 F. App’x 61, 63 (3d Cir. 2013.)
For example, the right
can be satisfied by appointing an attorney or providing the
assistance of paralegals.
To state a claim, an inmate must show the alleged shortcomings
in the library or legal assistance program “hindered his efforts to
pursue a legal claim.”
Id. at 351. In other words, there is an actual
injury requirement for a right of access to courts claim.
Examples of actual injuries include dismissal of a
complaint or the inability to bring a complaint due to inadequacies
of the law library.
Where prisoners assert that defendants' actions
have inhibited their opportunity to present a
past legal claim, they must show (1) that they
suffered an ‘actual injury'-that they lost a
chance to pursue a ‘nonfrivolous' or ‘arguable’
underlying claim; and (2) that they have no
other ‘remedy’ that may be awarded as
recompense' for the lost claim other than in the
present denial of access suit.”
Monroe v. Beard, 536 F.3d 198, 205 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Christopher
v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002)).
Plaintiff’s claim fails for two reasons.
First, his claim
assumes there is a freestanding right to independent access to a
physical law library.
There is not.
Even assuming Plaintiff could allege facts indicating that
ACJF’s system for requesting legal materials is inadequate, he has
not pled a sufficient injury to state a claim.
his sentence as “illegal,” but he has not described a nonfrivolous
claim he could have presented to challenge his sentence but for the
inadequacy of the legal assistance at ACJF.
has not disclosed whether counsel was appointed to challenge his
sentence on direct appeal, which would satisfy his right of access
to the courts at that stage of litigation.
See Peterkin v. Jeffes,
855 F.2d 1021, 1046 (3d Cir. 1988) (“prisoners must be permitted to
produce evidence that counsel are not available and that the
prisoners must rely on other means of legal assistance to gain
adequate and meaningful access to the courts”) (citations omitted).
For the reasons discussed above, the Court will dismiss the
claim against the State of New Jersey with prejudice, and dismiss
the remaining claims without prejudice.
An appropriate Order follows.
DATED: February 22, 2017
s/ Renée Marie Bumb
RENÉE MARIE BUMB
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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