THOMAS v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/1/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
RONALD C. THOMAS, II,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06652 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Ronald C. Thomas, II, Plaintiff Pro Se
41 Cedar Grove Drive
Sicklerville, NJ 08081
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Ronald C. Thomas, II, 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 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 CCJ 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. 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. Plaintiff alleges he experienced
unconstitutional conditions of confinement during a number of
confinements from 2001 to 2014. Complaint § III. Plaintiff
states: “Everytime I went to the county jail in Camden I had to
sleep on the floor. I have done 3 county bids during that time
and I was going to court for a year and spent a year in the
County Jail. I never got a bed bunk even when I went for
warrants and ticket. I been in the Jail approximately 10 times
or more from 2001 to . I wasn’t treated fair and nobody
cared the last time I went to the county in 2014 I had a
colostomy bag and still was treated horrible and couldn’t even
go to the medical block. They even gave me a hard time for
colostomy bags changing them I even had a problem with my
roommates over my bag and my medical condition.” 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[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,1 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
To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered during confinements prior to October 6,
2014, 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
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). Plaintiff
alleges he was incarcerated in the CCJ on a number of separate
occasions between 2001 and 2014. The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at CCJ would have been immediately
apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detentions; therefore,
the statute of limitations for some of Plaintiff’s claims
expired, at the latest, sometime in 2016. In the event Plaintiff
elects to file an amended complaint, he should focus on facts
that occurred during periods of confinement that took place on
or subsequent to October 6, 2014, if any.
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.
February 1, 2017
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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