WOELLER v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
MEMORANDUM OPINION FILED. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 9/13/17. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 15-cv-2885 (JBS-JS)
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Before the Court is Respondent Camden County Correctional
Facility’s (“CCCF”) unopposed motion to dismiss the petition as
moot. Motion, Docket Entry 22. For the reasons stated below, the
motion is granted and the petition is dismissed.
Petitioner was confined as a pretrial detainee at CCCF
beginning on November 16, 2013.1 On April 22, 2015, he filed a
Petitioner is one of thousands of members of a certified class
in Dittimus-Bey v. Camden County Correctional Facility, Civil
No. 05-cv-0063 (JBS). The class plaintiffs were all persons
confined at the CCCF, as either pretrial detainees or convicted
prisoners, at any time from January 6, 2005 until June 30, 2017,
at which time the Court approved the final motion for settlement
after notice was provided to the class and the period of time to
object to the Final Consent Decree expired. The class of
plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief about
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the CCCF involving
overcrowding. That class action did not involve money damages
for individuals. As the Dittimus-Bey settlement was finally
approved on June 30, Plaintiff and other class members are
barred from seeking injunctive or declaratory relief for the
period of time from January 6, 2005 to June 30, 2017 for the
motion for a prisoner release order pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §
3626(3) due to allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement at CCCF. Petition, Docket Entry 1.
Petitioner alleged CCCF was overcrowded, which caused
him to suffer “physical injury, increased exposure to other
health concerns (scabies and lice outbreaks), increased threats
of violence and emotional issues which require medication.” Id.
at 1. The Court interpreted the filed petition as a petition for
habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
After the conclusion of briefing, the Court became
aware that Petitioner had left CCCF and had been placed into the
custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections at South
Woods State Prison (“SWSP”). January 31, 2017 Order, Docket
The Court ordered Respondent to confirm Petitioner’s
whereabouts and to address whether the petition was moot in
light of Petitioner’s release. Id.
Respondent filed a letter on February 7, 2017
indicating Petitioner had been released from CCCF on May 25,
2016. Certification of Lt. Denita Forrest ¶ 2, Docket Entry 181.
conditions that were the subject of the class action, but not
from seeking money damages in an individual case.
Petitioner wrote to the Court requesting an extension
“of up to a year” to respond to the Court’s Order. Petitioner’s
Letter, Docket Entry 19. Petitioner indicated access to the SWSP
law library “is once a week for less than an hour at a session.”
Id. He further indicated he wanted to reserve his right to
pursue further civil action “as though [sic] I am not being held
at [CCCF] does not dismiss the constitutional violations and
damage of distress I have received during the times of
incarceration or pre-trial detainee [sic] at [CCCF].” Id.
Respondent now moves to dismiss the petition as moot
due to Petitioner’s release from CCCF. Petitioner did not file a
response to the motion.2
The exercise of judicial power depends upon the
existence of a case or controversy because Article III of the
Constitution limits the judicial power of federal courts to
“cases or controversies” between parties. U.S. CONST. art. III,
§ 2. “The ‘case or controversy requirement subsists through all
stages of federal judicial proceedings, trial and appellate. . .
As the Court noted in its order for briefing on the mootness
issue, see February 15, 2017 Order, Docket Entry 21, Petitioner
must file a separate civil rights complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 within the two-year statute of limitations if he
wishes to pursue damages for the alleged unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. The Court expresses no opinion on the
merits of any potential civil rights action or whether
Petitioner has otherwise complied with the filing requirements
of a § 1983 claim under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
. The parties must continue to have a personal stake in the
outcome of the lawsuit.’” Chestnut v. Warden Lewisburg USP, 592
F. App'x 112, 113 (3d Cir. 2015) (omission in original) (quoting
Lewis v. Cont’l Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477–78 (1990)).
Petitioner requested the Court to order his release
from CCCF on his own recognizance pending trial due to allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. However, Petitioner
is no longer at CCCF. He has been convicted, sentenced, and
transferred into state prison. “If developments occur during the
course of adjudication that eliminate a plaintiff's personal
stake in the outcome of a suit or prevent a court from being
able to grant the requested relief, the case must be dismissed
as moot.” Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 698–
99 (3d Cir. 1996).
The Court can no longer grant the relief Petitioner
requested because he has been released from CCCF.3
Even if the petition were not rendered moot by
Petitioner’s release from CCCF, he would not be entitled to a
prisoner release order under § 3626. Section 3626 states in
relevant part: “In any civil action with respect to prison
conditions, no court shall enter a prisoner release order unless
Any challenge to Petitioner’s state conviction and sentence
must be brought in a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 after he has exhausted his state court
a court has previously entered an order for less intrusive
relief that has failed to remedy the deprivation of the Federal
right sought to be remedied through the prisoner release order.”
18 U.S.C. § 3626(3)(A)(i).
This Court has worked with class counsel and counsel
for Camden County in the Dittimus-Bey proceedings for over a
decade and through several Consent Decrees to address the
conditions at CCCF. At the beginning of the litigation, cells in
CCCF designed for two occupants sometimes held three or four,
requiring someone to sleep on the floor. There was also
insufficient ventilation, high levels of CO2, and mold. The jail
also lacked sufficient space for defense attorneys to meet with
Camden County made significant improvements to the
conditions of the jail over the course of the litigation,
including, but not limited to, the hiring of a Jail Population
Manager, infrastructure improvements, HVAC system advancements,
food service improvements, and new meeting rooms for attorneys
and their clients. The Court takes judicial notice of the fact
that the population of CCCF, which has a capacity of 1267, had
only 979 inmates at the time of the fairness hearing on May 31,
2017. The Court did not receive any objections to the Final
It is therefore apparent that Petitioner cannot meet §
3626’s requirement that a previously entered order “failed to
remedy the deprivation of the Federal right sought to be
remedied . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 3626(3)(A)(i).
The Court will therefore grant the motion to dismiss.
To the extent a certificate of appealability is
required, the Court declines to issue one as jurists of reason
would not find it debatable that dismissal was correct either
procedurally as moot or on the merits, and that Petitioner has
not “made a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)-(2).
An appropriate order follows.
September 13, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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