ORTIZ v. CAMDEN COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 11/23/16. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06060 (JBS-AMD)
Luis J. Ortiz, Plaintiff Pro Se
1175 N. 35Th Street Floor 2
Camden, NJ 08105
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Luis J. Ortiz seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Department of Corrections (“CCDOC”) for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at 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 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 indicates he slept on the floor of the CCJ
at various times between 2005 and 2016. Complaint § III. He
further states “[e]ach time from 2005 to 2016 that I had been to
[CCJ] I was put in a room of 3-4 people causing myself to sleep
on the floor which is against my rights a dozen of times.” Id.
Even accepting the 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 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
Moreover, the CCDOC is not a separate legal entity
from Camden County and is therefore not independently subject to
suit. See Bermudez v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL
1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases). Plaintiff
has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability on Camden
“There is no respondeat superior theory of municipal
liability, so a city may not be held vicariously liable under §
1983 for the actions of its agents. Rather, a municipality may
be held liable only if its policy or custom is the ‘moving
force’ behind a constitutional violation.” Sanford v. Stiles,
456 F.3d 298, 314 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't
of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). See also Collins
v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 122 (1992) (“The city
is not vicariously liable under § 1983 for the constitutional
torts of its agents: It is only liable when it can be fairly
said that the city itself is the wrongdoer.”).
Plaintiff must plead facts showing that the relevant
Camden County policy-makers are “responsible for either the
affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a wellsettled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d
Cir. 1990).1 In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts
“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).
supporting an inference that Camden County itself was the
“moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall
grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of
the date of this order.2
In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint, he
should include specific facts, such as the dates and length of
his confinement(s), whether he was a pretrial detainee or
convicted prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved
in creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement,
and any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of
confinement. Conclusory statements are not enough.
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
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
allegations in the original complaint,3 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. Id. The amended
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
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.
November 23, 2016
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered prior to September 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 would have been immediately apparent
to Plaintiff; therefore, the statute of limitations on some of
Plaintiff’s claims expired two years after his release. In the
event Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, he should
limit his complaint to confinements in which he was released
after September 29, 2014.
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