HINTON v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/18/17. (dd, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al.,
No. 16-cv-06492 (JBS-AMD)
Eugene Hinton, Plaintiff Pro Se
711 Clinton St.
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Eugene Hinton seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of New
Jersey, the Camden County Jail (“CCJ”), and corrections
officers. 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) “[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 seeks monetary damages from the State of New
Jersey, CCJ, and certain corrections officers1 for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. As the CCJ is not a
“state actor” within the meaning of § 1983, the claims against
it must be dismissed with prejudice. See, e.g., Grabow v.
Plaintiff lists as defendants the “3rd floor CO’s,” the “5th
floor CO’s,” and the “Admissions CO’s.” Complaint § I.
Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538–39 (D.N.J.
1989) (correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983).
Plaintiff’s claims against the State of New Jersey
also must be dismissed. The Eleventh Amendment to the United
States Constitution provides: “The Judicial power of the United
States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or
equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States
by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any
Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI. Plaintiff may not bring a
suit against the State in federal court unless Congress has
expressly abrogated New Jersey's sovereign immunity or the State
consents to being sued in federal court. Will v. Michigan Dep't
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). Here, Congress did not
expressly abrogate sovereign immunity when it passed § 1983, see
id., and there is no indication New Jersey has consented to
Plaintiff's suit. The claims against the State of New Jersey
must be dismissed with prejudice.
Plaintiff has named broadly some corrections officers,
however, and may be able to amend the complaint to name state
actors who were personally involved in the alleged
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. To that end, the
Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within
30 days of the date of this order.
Plaintiff is 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. Plaintiff alleges he experienced
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint ¶ III.
Plaintiff states: “7 day locked down I was in a room with crack
heads, dope sick men and gay men, we slept 4 in a room and I was
for[c]ed to sleep on the floor there for seven days, then in 5
south C block I slept 4 in a cell and I was also on the floor
right by the toilet. And admissions I was in a cell with at
least [illegible] inmates dirty on dope, coke and homeless and
yes I was on the floor there for at least 2 days before I was
taken upstairs.” Id. 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.
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
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.
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.2 Id.
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.
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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