PUGH v. INTEGRITY HOUSE DIRECTORS et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Susan D. Wigenton on 8/6/2014. (ld, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ZEAD LAMANTE PUGH,
INTEGRITY HOUSE DIRECTORS, et al., :
Civil Action No. 13-7799 (SDW)
ZEAD LAMANTE PUGH, Plaintiff pro se
Hudson County Correctional Center
25 Hackensack Avenue
Kearny, New Jersey 07032
WIGENTON, District Judge
Plaintiff, Zead Lamante Pugh, a state inmate confined at the Hudson County
Correctional Center in Kearny, New Jersey, at the time this Complaint was submitted for filing,
seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. This action was administratively terminated on
January 7, 2014, because Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) was
deficient. (ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff thereafter submitted a complete IFP application and asked that
his case be re-opened. (ECF No. 3.) Based on Plaintiff’s affidavit of indigence, the Court will
grant Plaintiff’s application to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), and order the Clerk
of the Court to file the Complaint accordingly.
At this time, the Court must review the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, 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
dismisses the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim at this time.
Plaintiff, Zead Lamante Pugh (“Plaintiff”), brings this civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, against Defendants Integrity House Directors (names unknown at this time) and
“Angel.” Plaintiff alleges that on October 1, 2013, the Integrity House Directors did not conduct
a proper investigation into allegations that Plaintiff sexually assaulted another resident/inmate,
namely, Defendant “Angel,” at the Integrity House, who is being treated for drug addiction.
Plaintiff contends that Angel is lying about allegations of sexual assault, terroristic threats and
assault (pulling hair). Plaintiff states that he told his counselors that he has been falsely accused
of criminal charges N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2A; 2C:13-2A; 2C:12-1A and 2C:14-4.
(ECF No. 1,
Complaint at ¶¶ 4, 5.) The Complaint does not state the remedies sought by Plaintiff in this
II. 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 or seeks redress against a
governmental employee or entity. Specifically, 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 relief. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Accordingly, because Plaintiff is a prisoner
proceeding in forma pauperis in this matter, this action is subject to sua sponte screening for
dismissal under both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A.
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under [the
PLRA] is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to a motion filed under Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Aruanno v. Green, 527 F. App’x 145, 147 (3d
Cir. 2013) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App’x 159,
162 (3d Cir. 2008) (28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). 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)). Rather, to prevent summary dismissal, the
complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible.
Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Moreover,
while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Higgs v. Atty. Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
2011), “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.”
Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).
Nonetheless, courts must be cognizant that the Iqbal standard “is not akin to a probability
requirement.” Covington v. Int’l Ass’n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d
Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1, Compl. at ¶ 1.)
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). See also
Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
This Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice, in its entirety, as against Defendant
“Angel,” for failure to state a claim, because Defendant is not, and was not at the time of the
incident alleged, a person acting under color of state law. The Complaint fails to allege any facts
to show that this Defendant was a state actor, and indeed, Plaintiff readily admits that Defendant
is a resident at Integrity House.
As to Defendants, Integrity House Directors, it is unclear as to what constitutional
grounds Plaintiff intends to base his claims. However, it appears that Plaintiff may be seeking
injunctive relief regarding an ongoing state criminal proceeding, in which he is charged with
sexual assault and other related charges. Such relief is not appropriate at this time, and the
complaint should be dismissed.
It is not generally the role of the federal courts to interfere in pending state judicial
proceedings. A federal court must abstain from addressing requests for injunctive relief against
state court proceedings so long as the constitutional issues involved may be addressed adequately
in the court of the state proceedings. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) (addressing
abstention from state criminal proceedings). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has enunciated three requirements that must be met before Younger abstention may be
(1) there are ongoing state proceedings that are judicial in nature; (2) the state
proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an
adequate opportunity to raise federal claims. Whenever all three of these requirements are
satisfied, abstention is appropriate absent a showing of bad faith prosecution, harassment,
or a patently unconstitutional rule that will cause irreparable injury to the plaintiff.
Port Auth. Police Benevolent Ass'n Inc. v. Port Auth. Of New York and New Jersey Police Dept.,
973 F.2d 169, 173 (3d Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Certainly, the pending state criminal
proceedings are judicial in nature and implicate important state interests. Plaintiff has failed to
allege any facts suggesting that the state proceedings do not afford an adequate opportunity to
raise federal claims related to those proceedings. Accordingly, this Court will not interfere with
Plaintiff’s ongoing state criminal proceedings and the complaint will be dismissed without
Therefore, for the reasons set forth above, the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice,
in its entirety, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1), for failure to state a
cognizable claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 at this time.
However, because it is
conceivable that Plaintiff may be able to supplement his pleading with facts sufficient to
overcome the deficiencies described herein, the Court will grant Plaintiff leave to file an
application to re-open accompanied by a proposed amended complaint. An appropriate order
__s/ Susan D. Wigenton__
SUSAN D. WIGENTON
United States District Judge
Dated: August 6, 2014
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