MITCHELL v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/29/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
TIMOTHY E. MITCHELL,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06202 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Timothy E. Mitchell, Plaintiff Pro Se
161 Madison Ave.
Gloucester, NJ 08312
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Timothy E. Mitchell 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 with prejudice in part and without
prejudice in part 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
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.
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
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.
“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,
Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a
“person” deprived him of a federal right, the complaint does not
meet the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie case
under § 1983. 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 within 30 days of the date of this order.
However, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during confinements ending
prior to September 30, 2014, those claims are barred by the
statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice,
meaning that Plaintiff cannot recover for those claims because
they have been brought too late.3
All but one of Plaintiff’s four alleged confinements
at the CCJ occurred outside of the statute of limitations for
claims brought pursuant to § 1983. Plaintiff alleges he was
confined at the CCJ from September 2006 to January 2007,
September 2012 to February 1, 2013, February 13, 2013, to
September 11, 2013, and February 2015 to May 22, 2015. Complaint
§ III. Civil rights claims under § 1983 are governed by New
Jersey's limitations period for personal injury and must be
brought within two years of the claim’s accrual. 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 Plaintiff
encountered at CCJ would have been immediately apparent to
Plaintiff at the time of his detention;4 therefore, the statute
Plaintiff filed this complaint on September 30, 2016.
The fact section of the complaint states: “Went to 7 day
quarantine where I was stepped on by heroin withdrawal inmate
and water from a urinated toilet. I also had receive [sic] MRSA
from the unsanitary conditions of not being allowed to shower
for some days during the stay. I was not even allowed to shower.
The correctional officers placed me in a cell that was filled
with 4 inmates and some of the time 5 inmates.” Complaint § III.
of limitations for Plaintiff’s September 2006 to January 2007,
September 2012 to February 1, 2013, and February 13, 2013, to
September 11, 2013, claims expired, respectively, in January
2009, February 2015, and September 2015, well before this
complaint was filed in September 2016. Plaintiff therefore
cannot recover for these claims.5
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. However, in the event Plaintiff does
elect to file an amended complaint, in addition to naming a
proper defendant, Plaintiff should focus only on the facts of
his 2015 confinement. Because Plaintiff’s claims arising from
his earlier confinements are barred by the statute of
limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice, Plaintiff may
not assert these claims in the amended complaint.
Plaintiff does not allege when these events occurred, however,
and it is therefore unclear which events, if any, occurred
within the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s claims.
5 Although the Court may toll, or extend, the statute of
limitations in the interests of justice, certain circumstances
must be present before it can do so. Tolling is not warranted in
this case because the state has not “actively misled” Plaintiff
as to the existence of his cause of action, there are no
extraordinary circumstances that prevented Plaintiff from filing
his claim, and there is nothing to indicate Plaintiff filed his
claim on time but in the wrong forum. See Omar v. Blackman, 590
F. App’x 162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014).
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.6 Id.
For the reasons stated above, the claims arising from
Plaintiff’s September 2006 to January 2007, September 2012 to
February 1, 2013, and February 13, 2013, to September 11, 2013,
confinements are barred by the statute of limitations and
therefore are dismissed with prejudice. The remainder of the
complaint, insofar as it seeks relief for conditions Plaintiff
encountered during his 2015 confinement, 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.
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
An appropriate order follows.
June 29, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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