DAVID GASKINS v. HON. PETER CONFORTI et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge William J. Martini on 2/25/2015. (nr, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 14-8088 (WJM)
HON. PETER N. CONFORTI., et al.,
DAVID GASKINS, #513537B
East Jersey State Prison
1100 Woodbridge Road
Rahway, NJ 07065
Plaintiff Pro Se
MARTINI, District Judge:
David Gaskins, who is confined at East Jersey State Prison in New Jersey, seeks to file a
Complaint asserting claims against three New Jersey judges, two prosecutors, the State of New
Jersey and 20 police officers. This Court will grant Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma
pauperis. For the reasons expressed in this Opinion, and as required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)
and 1915A(b), this Court will dismiss the Complaint.
Gaskins asserts that Hon. Peter N. Conforti, Hon. Salem V. Alito, Hon. Marilyn Clark,
Sussex County Prosecutor Thomas Reed, and Passaic County Prosecutor Jason Stuato violated his
constitutional rights contrary to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In an attachment to the Complaint, he names
the State of New Jersey as a defendant and he lists the names of 20 police officers, whom he desires
to sue in their individual and official capacities. Gaskins asserts that Judge Conforti violated his
rights by signing a search and arrest warrant, and Judge Clark violated his rights by issuing a search
warrant. Gaskins asserts that in both cases, the police signed affidavits stating what people told
the police, but the averments of the police officers in both cases were not reliable or accurate. He
alleges that the prosecutors violated his rights by not dismissing the criminal cases against him,
when they knew that the warrants did not comply with the law and rules. Gaskins maintains that
he should not have been arrested and he wants to hold the judges and the prosecutors accountable
for violation of his rights.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), or a prisoner seeks
redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). 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. Id. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under these statutes because
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, he is a prisoner, and he seeks redress from a governmental
“[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 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.
Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “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.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted) (emphasis added).
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Mansfield, C. & L. M. Ry. Co. v. Swan,
111 U.S. 379, 383 (1884). “[T]hey have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the
Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto.” Bender v. Williamsport Area
School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides
a cause of action for violation of constitutional rights by a person acting under color of state law. 2 To
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is
the same as that for dismissing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). See 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)).
The statute 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
recover under § 1983, a plaintiff allege show two elements: (1) a person deprived him or caused him
to be deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation
was done under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
As an initial matter, this Court will dismiss the State of New Jersey, Judges Conforti, Alito
and Clark, and Prosecutors Reed and Stuato as defendants. The State of New Jersey is not a
“person” subject to suit under § 1983 for damages. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police,
491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (“[N]either a state nor its officials acting in their official capacities are
‘persons’ under § 1983.”). Moreover, Gaskins sues the named judges for allegedly improperly
signing warrants, but a judge “in the performance of h[er] duties has absolute immunity from suit
and will not be liable for h[er] judicial acts.” Azubuko v. Royal, 443 F.3d 302, 303 (3d Cir. 2006)
(quoting Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 12 (1991)). A prosecutor is similarly absolutely immune
from initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution. See Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1504
(2012); Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 343 (2009); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409,
430-31 (1976); Moore v. Middlesex County Prosecutors Office, 503 F. App’x 108 (3d Cir. 2012).
Because the allegations in the Complaint relate to actions taken by the judges and prosecutors in
their capacities as a judge and a prosecutor, these defendants are absolutely immune from suit for
damages under § 1983.
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.
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In an attachment to the Complaint, Gaskins lists the names of numerous state troopers and
police officers whom he evidently seeks to sue for violation of his constitutional rights. The
Complaint fails to state claims under § 1983 against these defendants because Gaskins provides no
facts showing that any of these defendants was personally involved in violating his constitutional
rights. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and §
1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official’s
own individual actions, has violated the Constitution”); Robertson v. Sichel, 127 U.S. 507, 515-16
(1888) ("A public officer or agent is not responsible for the misfeasances or position wrongs, or
for the nonfeasances, or negligences, or omissions of duty, of the subagents or servants or other
persons properly employed by or under him, in the discharge of his official duties"); Rode v.
Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988) (“A defendant in a civil rights action must have
personal involvement in the alleged wrongs”). The § 1983 claims against these defendants will
be dismissed because, aside from identifying them, Plaintiff’s allegations do not set forth any facts
showing how each defendant was involved in violating his rights.
A District Court generally grants leave to correct the deficiencies in a complaint by
amendment. See DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Properties Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 251 (3d Cir. 2012);
Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000). This Court will not grant Plaintiff leave to
amend the Complaint against the judges and prosecutors because amendment would be futile, but
will grant him 30 days to file an amended complaint against the police officer defendants.
For the reasons set forth in this Opinion, this Court will grant Plaintiff’s application to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss the Complaint.
s/William J. Martini
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
DATED: February 25, 2015
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