MURPHY v. NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Renee Marie Bumb on 6/8/17. (jbk, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
NEW JERSEY DEP’T OF CORR.,
Civ. Action No. 17-2632 (RMB)
BUMB, District Judge:
Plaintiff Tremaine Murphy, an inmate incarcerated in South
(Compl., ECF No. 1.)
On May 24, 2017, Plaintiff subsequently
filed an amended complaint.
(Am. Compl., ECF No. 2.)
to proceed without prepayment of fees (“in forma pauperis” or
“IFP”) under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).
(IFP App., ECF No. 1-1.)
pauperis, and his application will be granted.
The Court must review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B); 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.
I. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.)
contained in a complaint.”
A court need not accept legal
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
entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679.
conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must
be supported by factual allegations.”
If a complaint can
be remedied by an amendment, a district court may not dismiss
the complaint with prejudice, but must permit the amendment.
Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir.
A court must liberally construe a pro se complaint.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
The Amended Complaint
(ECF No. 2 at 3, ¶1.)
intended to sue all defendants named in both complaints, the
Woods State Prison, Correctional Officer Romeo at South Woods
State Prison, and Correctional Officer “John Doe” at South Woods
(Compl., ECF No. 1; Am. Compl., ECF No. 2.)
Plaintiff alleges the following in the amended complaint,
accepted as true for purposes of screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915A(b); 1915(e)(2)(B).
On February 12, 2016, at South
Woods State Prison, Plaintiff was attacked by several inmates
who beat him with their fists and a lock in a sock, rendering
him unconscious and causing severe damage to his right eye, left
cheek, and base of the head.
(Am. Compl., ECF No. 2 at 3-5.)
unidentified control booth officer, referred to as “John Doe,”
(Id. at 4-5.)
afternoon meal movement.
Officer John Doe opened the cells
(Id. at 5.)
Officers Romeo and “John
Doe” stood by and watched while Plaintiff was beaten, and did
Plaintiff in no way instigated the attack on him.
(Id. at 7.)
Plaintiff alleges violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth,
Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the
United States, asserting jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
and he asserts unidentified claims under New Jersey law.
at 4, 7.)
Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, money damages,
(ECF No. 2 at 8.)
Section 1983 claims
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §
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
The defendant officers did not use force against Plaintiff,
“[G]ratuitously allowing the beating . . . of one prisoner by
another serves no ‘legitimate penological objectiv[e].’” Farmer
v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994)(quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468
U.S. [517,] 548 [(1984)](STEVENS, J., concurring in part and
Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
“New Jersey Courts ‘have consistently looked to federal §
interpreted NJCRA analogously to § 1983.’”
Ingram v. Township
(Gonzalez v. Auto Mall 46, Inc., Nos. 2412–09 & 216–10, 2012 WL
2505733, at *4 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. July 2, 2012)(citing
Super. 103 (2011), cert. denied, 208 N.J. 366 (2011)(additional
The Court will proceed the Eighth Amendment
claim, and its counterpart under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act
N.J.S.A. § 10:6-1 et seq. (“NJCRA”), against Officers Romeo and
The Court will also proceed the Eighth Amendment failure to
protect claim, and its counterpart under the New Jersey Civil
Rights Act (“NJCRA”), against Officers Romeo and John Doe for
allegedly standing by and watching while Plaintiff was beaten by
See Farmer 511 U.S. at 825 (a prison official’s
inmate health and safety violates the Eighth Amendment.)
Court, however, cannot discern a cognizable claim in the amended
complaint under the Fourth, Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments of
counterparts under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, will be
dismissed without prejudice.
Defendants NJDOC and South Woods State Prison
Plaintiff named the NJDOC as a defendant in this action.
The NJDOC is a state agency immune from § 1983 claims for money
damages under the Eleventh Amendment.
See Wisconsin Dept. of
Corrections v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 384 (1998))(a suit in
federal court against a state or one of its agencies is barred
“The State of New Jersey has not
waived its sovereign immunity with respect to § 1983 claims in
Mierzwa v. U.S., 282 F. App’x 973, 976 (3d Cir.
Therefore, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s § 1983 and
NJCRA claims for money damages against NJDOC with prejudice.
defendant because it is the place where the alleged misconduct
(Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶4(c)).
A prison is not a
“person” who can be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Pennsylvania, 528 F. App’x 111, 114 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Will
v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Fischer
v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973)).
The Court will
dismiss the § 1983 and NJCRA claims against South Woods State
Prison with prejudice.
Prison in the original complaint, incorporated by reference into
the amended complaint.
In the body of the original complaint,
(ECF No. 1, ¶2(c)).
To state an Eighth
‘knew or w[as] aware of and disregarded an excessive risk to the
plaintiff['s] health or safety [.]’” Palakovic v. Wetzel, 854
F.3d 209, 225 n. 17 (quoting Beers–Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d
120, 135 (3d Cir. 2001).
supervisory practice or procedure that the supervisor failed to
employ that created an unreasonable risk of an inmate on inmate
existed and was indifferent to that risk, and that the failure
to employee the supervisory practice or procedure resulted in
See Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1118 (3d Cir.
1989)(defining elements of supervisory liability claim based on
Plaintiff has pled only the legal conclusion that the unit
where he was attacked was not properly supervised.
Therefore, the Court will dismiss the § 1983 and NJCRA claims
against the administrator without prejudice.
If Plaintiff seeks
alleged constitutional violation.
First Amendment Retaliation Claim
Plaintiff alleges Officers Romeo and John Doe conspired to
pay three inmates to beat Plaintiff in retaliation for Plaintiff
filing a grievance against Officer Romeo.
The elements of a
conduct, (2) an adverse action by prison officials “‘sufficient
[constitutional] rights,’” and (3) “a causal link between the
exercise of his constitutional rights and the adverse action
taken against him.”
Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d
Cir. 2003)(quoting Rauser v. Horn, 241 F.3d 330, 333 (3d Cir.
2001)(quoting Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 225 (3d Cir.
causal connection a plaintiff usually must prove either (1) an
unusually suggestive temporal proximity between the protected
activity and the allegedly retaliatory action, or (2) a pattern
of antagonism coupled with timing to establish a causal link.”
Lauren W. ex rel. Jean W. v. DeFlaminis, 480 F.3d 259, 267 (3d
Cir. 2007) (citing Krouse v. American Sterilizer Co., 126 F.3d
494, 503–04 (3d Cir. 1997); Woodson v. Scott Paper Co., 109 F.3d
913, 920–21 (3d Cir. 1997)).
Filing a grievance in prison is constitutionally protected
retaliated against him for “use of the ‘inmate grievance system’
and previous lawsuits”).
Paying three inmates to beat another
inmate is obviously a sufficient adverse action sufficient to
deter a person of ordinary firmness from engaging in a protected
Plaintiff, however, has not sufficiently pled the causation
element of a retaliation claim.
He has not alleged facts to
support an inference that the amount of time between when he
filed a grievance against Officer Romeo and the attack on him by
three inmates suggests a connection between the two, nor has he
alleged a pattern of antagonism with Officers Romeo and John
Doe, close in time to the attack on him by three inmates.
Conspiracy Claim under § 1983
Plaintiff alleged Officers Romeo and John Doe conspired to
pay three inmates to attack Plaintiff, and that John Doe opened
Plaintiff during meal service.
(Am. Compl., ECF No. 2 at 4-5.)
“ʽ[A]llegations of a conspiracy must provide some factual basis
agreement and concerted action.’”
Capogrosso v. The Supreme
Court of New Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 185 (3d Cir. 2009)(quoting
Crabtree By and Through Crabtree v. Muchmore, 904 F.2d 1475,
Plaintiff failed to allege any facts that led him to
the conclusion that Officer Romeo and Officer John Doe agreed to
and actually paid three inmates to attack Plaintiff.
any facts supporting the conclusion of a conspiracy, the claim
The Court will dismiss the § 1983 and NJCRA conspiracy
claims against Officers Romeo and John Doe without prejudice.
Plaintiff’s IFP application, and proceeds the amended complaint
An appropriate order follows.
Dated: June 8, 2017
s/Renée Marie Bumb
RENÉE MARIE BUMB
United States District Judge
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