KIRCHHOFFER v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/18/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06547 (JBS-AMD)
STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
Valerie Kirchhoffer, Plaintiff Pro Se
682 Everett Street
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Valerie Kirchhoffer seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State
of New Jersey. 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 for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
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 therefore must
be dismissed with prejudice.
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. Plaintiff alleges she experienced
unconstitutional conditions of confinement during confinements
in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Complaint § III. The fact section
of the complaint states: “No where to sleep. Mold in shower.
Told to go to sleep when my [abscess] bust. C.O. Jackman told me
[rinse] my mouth out with water and go to sleep.” Id. Plaintiff
also alleges she “was bit[ten] sleeping on floor in 02/2013” and
“they didn’t send me to medical.” Id. § IV. 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[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.
In addition, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to
allege a claim based on a violation of her right to adequate
medical care, there are not enough facts to support an inference
that Plaintiff’s rights were violated in this regard. In order
to set forth a cognizable claim for a violation of her right to
adequate medical care, an inmate must allege: (1) a serious
medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of prison officials
that constitutes deliberate indifference to that need. See
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden
Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003). Mere
assertions that Plaintiff was not sent to medical for some type
of bites and may not have received treatment for an abscess are
insufficient to meet the pleading standard in the absence of
additional facts. If she wishes to pursue this claim, Plaintiff
should provide additional facts supporting both of the
requirements in her amended complaint.1
As Plaintiff may be able to amend her complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court,2 the Court shall
Plaintiff’s purported claim based on bites she received in
February 2013 appear to be barred by the statute of limitations.
See n.2, infra.
2 To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered during her confinements 2010, 2012, and
2013, those claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
Claims brought under § 1983 are governed by New Jersey's twoyear 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
grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of
the date of this order.3
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.
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.
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 CCCF
would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of
her detention; therefore, the statute of limitations for some of
Plaintiff's claims expired in 2012, 2014, and 2015,
respectively. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended
complaint, she should focus on facts of her 2014 confinement, if
those facts occurred on or subsequent to October 5, 2014.
3 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
An appropriate order follows.
January 18, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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