MATHIS v. CHIOCCA et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 1/3/07. (sr, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
LA’SHAN OMAR MATHIS,
Civ. No. 16-5877 (KM) (JBC)
JUDGE RANDAL C. CHIOCCA, et al.,
KEVIN MCNULTYg U.S.D.J.
The plaintiff, La’Shan Omar Mathis, is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the
Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey. He is proceeding pro se with a civil rights
complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
At this time, this Court must screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 191 5(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 suit. For the following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed
without prejudice on Mr. Mathis’s federal claims. The Court will decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims that are included in the complaint.
The allegations of the complaint will be construed as true for purposes of this screening
Opinion. The complaint names two defendants: (1) Judge Randal C. Chiocca; and (2) Victoria
Mr. Mathis states that he was arrested in 2013 on robbery charges. Judge Chiocca is a
judge on the New Jersey Superior Court, Passaic County. According to Mr. Mathis, Judge
Chiocca ordered him to go to the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital on March 20, 2014. Dr. Petivan is
a doctor at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. According to Mr. Mathis, she “did not know [him]
at all and said that [he] was lying, faking to have a mental illness and sent [him] back to jail after
all the doctors in the past said [he] was going home.” (Dkt. No. 1 at p. 4)
Mr. Mathis requests that he be sent home or to the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. He states
that he suffers from depression, is bipolar, and has schizophrenia disorder. Mr. Mathis also
requests monetary damages from the defendants.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub.L. 104-134,
§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66
to 1321-77 (Apr. 26, 1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints in those civil
actions in which a prisoner is proceeding injbrrna pauperis, see 28 U.S.C.
seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C.
claim with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b), or brings a
§ 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
relief. See 28 U.S.C.
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28
§ 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
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 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(c)(I)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F.
App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C.
§ 191 5A(b)). That standard is set forth in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twomblv, 550 U.S. 544 (2007),
as explicated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. To survive the court’s
screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must allege ‘sufficient factual matter’ to
show that the claim is facially plausible. See Fowler v. UPMC 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.” Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “[A] pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ “Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Pro se pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519 (1972). Nevertheless, “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
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for certain violations of
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 or the District of Columbia, 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, except that in
any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such
officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a
declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.
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 harvey v.
Plains Twp. Police Dep’t, 635 F.3d 606, 609 (3d Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see also West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
A. Judge Randal C. Chiocca
Mr. Mathis seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief against Judge Chiocca for
ordering him to go to the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.
A judicial officer has immunity in the performance of his duties. See Mireles v. Waco,
502 U.S. 9, 11(1991). The immunity is absolute and cannot be overcome by allegations of bad
faith or malice. See id. There are two exceptions: (1) for non-judicial actions, not taken in the
judge’s official capacity; and (2) for actions which, although judicial in nature, were taken in the
complete absence ofjurisdiction. See id. at 11—12. Whether an act is judicial relates “to the
nature of the act itselt i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the
expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.” Stump
v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978); see also Gallas v. Supreme Court ofPa., 211 F.3d 760,
768 (3d Cir.2000) (citations omitted).
Mr. Mathis’s allegations, which center on a judicial order, clearly relate to Judge
Chiocca’s performance of his duties. Accordingly, Mr. Mathis’s monetary damage claim against
Judge Chiocca will be dismissed, based on absolute judicial immunity
Mr. Mathis also requests injunctive relief against Judge Chiocca. However, as the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has explained:
In 1996, Congress amended 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to provide that
“injunctive relief shall not be granted” in an action brought against
“a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s
judicial capacity unless a declaratory decree was violated or
declaratory relief was unavailable.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Bolin v.
Story, 225 F.3d 1234, 1242 (11th Cir. 2000) (explaining that the
amendment applies to both state and federal judges); see also
Mullis v. United States Bankr. Court for the Dist. of 1’/ev., 828 F.2d
1385 (9th Cir. 1987); Antoine v. Byers &Anderson, inc., 508 U.S.
429, 433 n. 5, 113 S. Ct. 2167, 124 L. Ed. 2d 391 (1993) (noting
that the rules regarding judicial immunity do not distinguish
between lawsuits brought against state officials and those brought
against federal officials).
Azubuko v. Royal, 443 F.3d 302, 303—04 (3d Cir. 2006). Because Mr. Mathis has not alleged
a declaratory decree was violated or that declaratory relief is unavailable, and because the
injunctive relief sought by Mr. Mathis does not address the actions of Judge Chiocca other
in his judicial capacity, his claim for injunctive relief is barred.
This dismissal of claims against Judge Chiocca is without prejudice to the submission,
within 30 days, of an amended complaint that remedies the deficiencies identified above.
B. Victoria Petivan, M.D.
Mr. Mathis also names Dr. Petivan as a defendant. Mr. Mathis disagrees with her medica
diagnosis with respect to his mental health, which resulted in his being returned from the
Psychiatric Hospital to prison. Mr. Mathis alleges that his psychiatric condition require
s that he
remain in a hospital, not in prison.
The federal theory that best fits Mr. Mathis’s claims against Dr. Petivan would be a
violation of Eighth Amendment rights.
For the delay or denial of medical care to rise to a violation of the
Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment, a prisoner must demonstrate “(1) that defendants were
deliberately indifferent to [his] medical needs and (2) that those
needs were serious.” Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir.
1999). Deliberate indifference requires proof that the official
“knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or
safety.” Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582
(3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837
(1994)). We have tbund deliberate indifference where a prison
official: “(1) knows of a prisoner’s need for medical treatment but
intentionally refuses to provide it; (2) delays necessary medical
treatment based on a nonmedical reason; or (3) prevents a prisoner
from receiving needed or recommended treatment.” Rouse, 182
F.3d at 197. Deference is given to prison medical authorities in the
diagnosis and treatment of patients, and courts “disavow any
attempt to second-guess the propriety or adequacy of a particular
course of treatment... (which) remains a question of sound
professional judgment.” Inmates ofAllegheny Cnty. Jail v. Pierce,
612 F.2d 754, 762 (3d Cir. 1979) (quoting Bowring v. Godwin, 551
F.2d 44, 48 (4th Cir. 1977)). Allegations of negligent treatment or
medical malpractice do not trigger constitutional protections.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976).
Pitkins, 520 F. App’x 64, 66 (3d Cir. 2013). Deliberate indifference can also
“where the prison official persists in a course of treatment in the face of resulta
nt pain and risk of
permanent injury.” See McCluskey v. Vincent, 505 F. App’x 199, 202 (3d Cir.
quotation marks and citation omitted). “A medical need is serious if it ‘has been
diagnosed by a
physician as requiring treatment,’ or if it ‘is so obvious that a lay person would
the necessity for a doctor’s attention.” See Mitchell v Beard, 492 F. App’x 230,
236 (3d Cir.
Taylor, 316 F.3d 257, 272-73 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Monmouth
Cnty. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir. 1987))).
Mr. Mathis’s allegations amount to a disagreement with Dr. Petivan’s medica
of his mental health. A contested diagnosis, or even a negligent diagnosis, does
deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. See Lenhart v. Pennsylvania,
528 F. App’x 111,
115 (3d Cir. 2013) (stating that complaint that alleges physician was negligent
in diagnosing and
treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistrea
tment and that mere
disagreement as to proper medical treatment does not support a claim of inadeq
mistreatment to support a constitutional claim); Smith v. O’Boyle, 251 F. App’x
87, 90 (3d Cir.
2007) (“Because a disagreement as to the proper medical treatment for a prisone
r is insufficient
to establish an Eighth Amendment violation, the District Cou
rt properly dismissed Smith’s
complaint.”) (citing Spruill v. Gulls, 372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d
Cir. 2004)). At most, Mr. Mathis’
allegations only rise to the level of medical malpractice, whic
h is insufficient to state an Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference to a serious medical need
claim. See Spruill, 372 F.3d at 235
(“Allegations of medical malpractice are not sufficient to estab
lish a constitutional violation.”).
The complaint does not plausibly allege facts that would
support a claim of deliberate
indifference. Therefore, Mr. Mathis’s federal claims against
Dr. Petivan will also be dismissed
without prejudice to the submission, within 30 days, of an
amended complaint that remedies
C. State Law Claims
It is not clear whether Mr. Mathis is also attempting to raise
state law claims against the
two defendants. Assuming he is, I do not reach them. I have
dismissed all federal claims, and
diversity of citizenship is not alleged. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331, 1332. The only potential basis for
this court’s subject matter jurisdiction over Mr. Mathis’s state
law claims would be supplemental
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367. Because this case is in the earliest stages and no
federal claims remain, I will exercise my discretion to decli
ne supplemental jurisdiction over any
state law claims that may have been intended. See id.
For the foregoing reasons, Mr. Mathis’s federal claims again
st Judge Chiocca and Dr.
Petivan are dismissed without prejudice. This Court declines
to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over any state law claims. Mr. Mathis shall be give
n thirty days in which to submit a
proposed amended complaint that corrects the deficienci
es of his claims, if he wishes to do so.
An appropriate order will be entered.
DATED: January 3, 2017
United States District Judge
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