HAMILTON v. CAMDEN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/20/2016. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Brian Hamilton, Plaintiff Pro Se
4119 Myrtle Ave
Camden, NJ 08109
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Brian Hamilton seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Freeholders (“Freeholders”) and Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”) Warden David Owens for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement in CCCF. Complaint,
Docket Entry 1.
Section 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review
complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is
proceeding in forma pauperis. The Court must 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. This action is
subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
dismiss the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a
claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim, 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.” 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.’”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional
conditions of confinement during his detention at the CCCF at
various points between 2005 and 2015. Complaint ¶ III. He
states: “I was forced due to overcrowding conditions to house in
cells designed only for (2) individuals but in many cases held
(4). In each incident for a specific period of time I was forced
to sleep on the floor atop of mattresses that contained none to
minimum padding.” Id. He asserts the Freeholders and Warden are
“responsible for the compliance with the administrative code(s)
regarding humane treatment of its detainees.” Id. Even accepting
the statement as true for screening purposes only, there is not
enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional
violation has occurred.
The mere fact that an individual is lodged temporarily
in a cell with more persons than its intended design does not
rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348–50 (1981) (holding double-celling by
itself did not violate Eighth Amendment); Carson v. Mulvihill,
488 F. App'x 554, 560 (3d Cir. 2012) (“[M]ere double-bunking
does not constitute punishment, because there is no ‘one man,
one cell principle lurking in the Due Process Clause of the
Fifth Amendment.’” (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 542
(1979))). More is needed to demonstrate that such crowded
conditions, for a pretrial detainee, shocks the conscience and
thus violates due process rights. See Hubbard v. Taylor, 538
F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (noting due process analysis
requires courts to consider whether the totality of the
conditions “cause inmates to endure such genuine privations and
hardship over an extended period of time, that the adverse
conditions become excessive in relation to the purposes assigned
to them.”). Some relevant factors are the dates and length of
his confinement(s), whether he was a pretrial detainee or
convicted prisoner, etc.
Moreover, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts
regarding the personal liability of the Freeholders and Warden.
As the governing body of Camden County, the Freeholders cannot
be held liable under § 1983 solely on a theory of respondeat
superior. Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S.
658, 690–91 (1978). Plaintiff must instead plead facts showing
that the Freeholders are “responsible for either the affirmative
proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a well-settled
custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990).1
In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an
inference that the Freeholders were the “moving force” behind
the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Plaintiff must also plead facts indicating the Warden
had personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing. Plaintiff
“Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final
authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the
action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict.
Government custom can be demonstrated by showing that a given
course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or
authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually
to constitute law.” Kirkland v. DiLeo, 581 F. App'x 111, 118 (3d
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
(alteration in original).
must specifically set forth what the Warden did or did not do
that led to the alleged unconstitutional conditions of
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court,2 the Court shall
grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of
the date of this order.
Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint
is filed,3 the original complaint no longer performs any function
in the case and cannot be utilized to cure defects in the
amended complaint, unless the relevant portion is specifically
incorporated in the new complaint. 6 Wright, Miller & Kane,
Federal Practice and Procedure 1476 (2d ed. 1990) (footnotes
omitted). An amended complaint may adopt some or all of the
allegations in the original complaint, but the identification of
To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered prior to August 29, 2014, those claims are
barred by the statute of limitations. Claims brought under §
1983 are governed by New Jersey's two-year limitations period
for personal injury. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276
(1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir.
2010). “Under federal law, a cause of action accrues when the
plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which the
action is based.” Montanez v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., 773 F.3d
472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at CCCF would have been immediately
apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore,
the statute of limitations for some of Plaintiff’s claims
expired two years after his release dates.
3 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
the particular allegations to be adopted must be clear and
explicit. Id. To avoid confusion, the safer course is to file an
amended complaint that is complete in itself. Id.
For the reasons stated above, the complaint is
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The
Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files an
amended complaint within the time allotted by the Court.
An appropriate order follows.
October 20, 2016
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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