LEWIS v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/8/2017. (TH, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-05690 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Janell Lewis, Plaintiff Pro Se
531 Sickler Avenue
Sicklerville, NJ 08081
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Janell Lewis seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Jail (“CCJ”). 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
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). “[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 seeks monetary damages from CCJ for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. As the CCJ
is not a “state actor” within the meaning of § 1983, the claims
against it must be dismissed with prejudice. See Crawford v.
McMillian, 660 F. App’x 113, 116 (3d Cir. 2016) (“[T]he prison
is not an entity subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”)
(citing Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973)).
Plaintiff may be able to amend the complaint to name
state actors who were personally involved in the alleged
unconstitutional conditions of confinement, however. To that
end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the
complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.
Plaintiff is advised that the amended complaint must
plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a
constitutional violation has occurred in order to survive this
Court’s review under § 1915. Plaintiff alleges that she was
incarcerated in the CCJ in 2014. Complaint § III. The fact
section of the complaint states: “I was stripped 3 times and had
to sleep on the floor for 7 months the C.O. fought inmates in
there [sic] rooms and put females in the room with each other
who had lice . . . I was even sick from being on the floor till
this day my back stills gives me bad pain.” Id. Even accepting
these statements 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[s] 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
the confinement(s), whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or
convicted prisoner, etc.
Moreover, Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a
Fourth Amendment violation for an improper strip search. Under
the Fourth Amendment, inmates have a limited right of bodily
privacy “subject to reasonable intrusions necessitated by the
prison setting.” Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 325 (3d Cir.
2016). This right is very narrow, however. Id. at 326.
“The test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment
. . . requires a balancing of the need for the particular search
against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails.
Courts must consider the scope of the particular intrusion, the
manner in which it is conducted, the justification for
initiating it, and the place in which it is conducted.” Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979). A prisoner search policy is
constitutional if it strikes a reasonable balance between the
inmate's privacy and the needs of the institution. Parkell, 833
F.3d at 326 (citing Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders of
Cty. of Burlington, 132 S. Ct. 1510, 1515, 1517 (2012)).
Plaintiff’s cursory allegation that she was “stripped
3 times” is insufficient to state a claim for relief. In the
absence of further facts regarding the circumstances of the
search, the claim cannot proceed at this time. Plaintiff may
amend this claim in an amended complaint, however.
As Plaintiff may be able to amend her complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court,1 the Court shall
To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions of
confinement Plaintiff encountered during confinements ending
prior to September 19, 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). Plaintiff alleges she was incarcerated in 2014, but does
not provide more specific dates. Complaint § III. The allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCJ would have
been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of her
detention; therefore, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff's
claims expired sometime in 2016. If Plaintiff’s incarceration
ended prior to September 19, 2014, the statute of limitations
for Plaintiff’s claims has expired. In the event Plaintiff
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, 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
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.2 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.
elects to file an amended complaint, she should focus on facts
encountered during periods of confinement that occurred on or
subsequent to September 19, 2014, if any.
2 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
An appropriate order follows.
March 8, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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