VALCARCEL v. CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/18/2017. (TH, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF
FREEHOLDERS, et al.,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06540 (JBS-AMD)
Maria Valcarcel, Plaintiff Pro Se
706 Centennial Village
Camden, NJ 08105
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Maria Valcarcel seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Board of Freeholders (“CCBOF”) and the Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). 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 CCCF for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. As the
CCCF is not a “state actor” within the meaning of § 1983, the
claims against it must be dismissed with prejudice. See, e.g.,
Grabow v. Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538–
39 (D.N.J. 1989) (correctional facility is not a “person” under
Plaintiff may be able to amend the complaint to name
state actors 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.
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. The complaint states: “While being
held in the Camden County Jail I was exposed to living in
unsanitary living conditions the worst of which was sleeping on
a very old mat located near the toilet. In the jail cell, other
inmates literally would have to step over me to use the
bathroom.” 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
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 CCBOF. As the governing
body of Camden County, the CCBOF 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 CCBOF is “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).1
In other words, Plaintiff
“Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final
authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the
must set forth facts supporting an inference that the CCBOF was
the “moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
As Plaintiff may be able to amend her 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
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. Id.
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).
2 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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.
January 18, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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