THOMPSON v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/13/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
MARK E. THOMPSON,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-05997 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS;
Mark E. Thompson, Plaintiff Pro Se
412 Spruce Street
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Mark E. Thompson seeks to bring an amended
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Camden County Freeholders (“Freeholders”) and David Owens,
Warden of the Camden County Correctional Facility (“Warden”) for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Amended
Complaint, Docket Entry 8. On November 1, 2016, Plaintiff’s
original complaint against the Camden County Jail was dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). Docket Entry 7.
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 amended 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 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)).
Thus, to state a prima facie case under § 1983 and to
survive this Court’s review under § 1915, Plaintiff must plead
sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a
constitutional violation has occurred. In the amended complaint,
Plaintiff states: “[Upon] arrest sleeping on the floor under the
[toilet] with 3 to 4 people in a room, rats [illegible]
everywhere. [P]oor [ventilation], improper [illegible].” Am.
Complaint § III. 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.
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.
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 pled sufficient facts
regarding the personal liability of the Freeholders. 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).2
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.
Similarly, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to
support an inference that the Warden was personally involved in
either the creation of, or failure to address, the conditions of
his confinement. State actors are liable only for their own
unconstitutional conduct and may not be held liable for the
unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of
respondeat superior. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676
(2009); Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 366 (3d Cir. 2012).
Plaintiff has made no allegations regarding the conduct or
actions of the Warden.
“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).
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.
The second amended complaint shall be subject to screening
prior to service.
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 13, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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