SMITH v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/9/17. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ROBERT A. SMITH, JR.,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-05797 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Robert A. Smith, Jr., Plaintiff Pro Se
21 Newtown Lane
Willingboro, NJ 08046
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Robert A. Smith, Jr., seeks to bring an
amended civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the Camden County Jail (“CCJ”). Amended Complaint,
Docket Entry 6. On October 17, 2016, Plaintiff’s original
complaint was dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a
claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). Docket Entry 5.
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, and for substantially
the same reasons set forth in this Court’s prior Opinion (Docket
Entry 4), the Court will dismiss the amended complaint without
prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C.
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 brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 19831 for alleged violations of Plaintiff’s constitutional
rights. In order to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983, a
plaintiff must show: “(1) a person deprived him of a federal
right; and (2) the person who deprived him of that right acted
under color of state or territorial law.” Groman v. Twp. of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Gomez v.
Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980)).
Generally, for purposes of actions under § 1983,
“[t]he term ‘persons’ includes local and state officers acting
under color of state law.” Carver v. Foerster, 102 F.3d 96, 99
(3d Cir. 1996) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991)).2 To
say that a person was “acting under color of state law” means
that the defendant in a § 1983 action “exercised power [that the
defendant] possessed by virtue of state law and made possible
only because the wrongdoer [was] clothed with the authority of
Section 1983 provides: “Every person who, under color of any
statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State .
. . 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 . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
2 “Person” is not strictly limited to individuals who are state
and local government employees, however. For example,
municipalities and other local government units, such as
counties, also are considered “persons” for purposes of § 1983.
See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (citation
omitted). Generally, then, “a public employee acts under color
of state law while acting in his official capacity or while
exercising his responsibilities pursuant to state law.” Id.
Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a
“person” deprived him of a federal right, the amended complaint
does not meet the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie
case under § 1983. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff seeks
monetary damages from CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. The CCJ, however, is not a “person”
within the meaning of § 1983; therefore, 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)). Because the claims
against the CCJ must be dismissed with prejudice, the claims may
not proceed and Plaintiff may not name the CCJ as a defendant.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the complaint to name a
person or persons 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 one final time within 30 days of the date of this
Plaintiff is again 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. In the amended complaint,
Plaintiff states: “Four inmates in a two man cell overall living
conditions deplorable No soap, no toilet paper, no hot water
Food always cold. Back and neck pain from sleeping on floor
under toilet Clothing always an issue.” Am. Complaint § III.
These allegations are substantially similar to Plaintiff’s
allegations in the original complaint, in which Plaintiff
stated: “Four inmates in a two man cell, over all living
conditions deplorable. Several time was not issued soap, toilet
paper, and the water (shower) is always cold Food always cold.”
Complaint § III. As with Plaintiff’s original complaint, even
accepting Plaintiff’s amended 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.
As Plaintiff may yet be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court once more
shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30
days of the date of this order. However, this shall be
Plaintiff’s final opportunity to amend the complaint for
screening purposes. If Plaintiff elects to amend a second time
and the second amended complaint is insufficient to survive the
Court’s review under § 1915, the complaint will be dismissed
with prejudice, meaning that Plaintiff will not be granted leave
to amend a third time.
Plaintiff is reminded that when an amended complaint
is filed, any previous complaints no longer perform 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 prior 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.3 Id.
For the reasons stated above, the amended complaint is
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The
Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files a
second amended complaint within the time allotted by the Court.
An appropriate order follows.
March 9, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
The second amended complaint shall be subject to screening
prior to service.
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