RAWLS v. BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/7/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
LE’NORMANDY RAWLS, SR.,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06691 (JBS-AMD)
BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS; CAMDEN
Le’Normandy Rawls, Sr., Plaintiff Pro Se
1775 Winslow Rd.
Williamstown, NJ 08094
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Le’Normandy Rawls, Sr., seeks to bring a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Board of Freeholders (“Freeholders”) and 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
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 alleges he was subjected to unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at the CCJ in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015,
and 2016. Complaint § III. The fact section of the complaint
states in its entirety: “I was forced to sleep on the floor.”
Id. Plaintiff further alleges, “Board of Freeholders failed to
adhere to administrative codes regarding limits on inmate
capacity.” 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.
Plaintiff’s complaint also does not contain sufficient
factual content for the court to infer that the named defendants
are liable for a constitutional violation.
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
Moreover, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts
regarding the personal liability of the Freeholders. As the
governing body of Camden County, the Freeholders 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
Freeholders are “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
“Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final
authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the
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
In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an
inference that the Freeholders were the “moving force” behind
the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Plaintiff’s cursory allegation that the Freeholders “failed to
adhere to administrative codes regarding limits on inmate
capacity,” without more, is insufficient to meet this burden.
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court,2 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
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
(alteration in original).
2 To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions of
confinement Plaintiff encountered prior to October 7, 2014,
those claims are barred by the statute of limitations. 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). Plaintiff
alleges the events giving rise to his claim occurred in 2012,
2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at the 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, in 2014, 2015, and sometime in 2016,
respectively. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended
complaint, he should focus on facts of his confinements on or
subsequent to October 7, 2014.
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.3 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 7, 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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