MORTON v. NO DEFENDANT LISTED
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/17/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
NO DEFENDANT LISTED,
No. 16-cv-06212 (JBS-AMD)
Elsie Morton, Plaintiff Pro Se
812 North 8th Street
Camden, NJ 08102
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Elsie Morton seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Complaint, Docket Entry
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 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
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.
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.
Plaintiff has not named a defendant in his complaint.
The complaint ordinarily would therefore be dismissed. Though
“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,
Plaintiff did not name a defendant, however, he has alleged that
corrections officers, nurses, and the Warden “never tried to
change the situation at hand.” Complaint § III. Because pro se
complaints must be liberally construed, Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976), the Court will construe the complaint as
seeking to state a claim against the as-yet unnamed corrections
officers, nurses, and Warden.
Plaintiff alleges that he encountered unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at the Camden County Correctional
Facility in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Complaint
§ III. Plaintiff states: “Sleeping in overcrowded room which
provide 2 bunks only and while sleeping on the floor near the
toilet there were men who was detoxing and urinating all the
time.” Id. Even accepting the statement 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 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.3
However, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during his confinements in
2003, 2006, 2009, and 2013, those claims are barred by the
statute of limitations and will be dismissed with prejudice,
meaning that Plaintiff cannot recover for those claims because
they have been brought too late. 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 at CCJ would have been immediately apparent to
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.4 Id.
For the reasons stated above, the claims arising from
Plaintiff’s 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2013 confinements are barred
by the statute of limitations and therefore dismissed with
prejudice. The remainder of the complaint, insofar as it seeks
relief for conditions of confinement Plaintiff encountered in
Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore, the statute
of limitations for Plaintiff’s 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2013 claims
expired in 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2015, respectively. Plaintiff
therefore may not raise these claims in the amended complaint.
In the event Plaintiff does elect to file an amended complaint,
he should focus only on the facts of his 2015 confinement and
his 2014 confinement, provided that Plaintiff’s confinement
ended after September 30, 2014. Because Plaintiff filed his
complaint on September 30, 2016, claims arising from
confinements ending prior to September 30, 2014, are also barred
by the statute of limitations and must be dismissed with
4 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
2014 and 2015, 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
An appropriate order follows.
March 17, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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