ANDERSON v. CAMDEN COUNTY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/13/17. (dd, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06867 (JBS-AMD)
Plaintiff Pro Se
777 Mt. Vernon Street
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Keenan Anderson seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden
County for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-
134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996)
(“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints prior to
service in those civil actions in which a prisoner is proceeding
in forma pauperis (see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)), seeks redress
against a governmental employee or entity (see 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b)), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions
(see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e).
The PLRA directs district courts to
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
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).
The present Complaint does not allege sufficient facts
to support a reasonable inference that a constitutional
violation has occurred in order to survive this Court’s review
under § 1915. Even accepting the statements in § III of
Plaintiff’s Complaint as true for screening purposes only, there
is not enough factual support for the Court to infer a
constitutional violation has occurred.
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim1, the Complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the
same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Samuels v. Health Dep’t, No. 161289, 2017 WL 26884, slip op. at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 3, 2017)
(citing Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir.
2012)); Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000));
Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012)
(discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States,
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)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally
construed, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts
in their complaints to support a claim.”
Mala v. Crown Bay
Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted) (emphasis added).
Here, Plaintiff’s Complaint states in its entirety:
“Sleeping under anburble [sic] conditions[.] [L]ower part of
body, my back, knees.” Complaint § III. Plaintiff alleges injury
to “back & knees” (id. § IV) and seeks “$15.00 to 2,000.” Id. §
287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. §
Such purported claims must be dismissed because the
Complaint does not set forth enough factual support for the
Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred.
Even construing the Complaint to assert claims of cell
overcrowding for which Plaintiff was allegedly “sleeping under
anburble [sic] conditions” (Complaint § III), 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 length of the confinement(s), whether
plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, any
specific individuals who were involved in creating or failing to
remedy the conditions of confinement, any other relevant facts
regarding the conditions of confinement, etc.
Moreover, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to
impose liability on Camden County. “There is no respondeat
superior theory of municipal liability, so a city may not be
held vicariously liable under § 1983 for the actions of its
agents. Rather, a municipality may be held liable only if its
policy or custom is the ‘moving force’ behind a constitutional
violation.” Sanford v. Stiles, 456 F.3d 298, 314 (3d Cir. 2006)
(citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
691 (1978)). See also Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503
U.S. 115, 122 (1992) (“The city is not vicariously liable under
§ 1983 for the constitutional torts of its agents: It is only
liable when it can be fairly said that the city itself is the
Plaintiff must plead facts showing that the relevant
Camden County policy-makers are “responsible for either the
affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a wellsettled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d
Cir. 1990).2 In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts
“Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final
authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the
supporting an inference that Camden County itself was the
“moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to
particularly identify adverse conditions that were caused by
specific state actors, that caused Plaintiff to endure genuine
privations and hardship over an extended period of time, and
that were excessive in relation to their purposes. To that end,
the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint
within 30 days of the date of this order.3
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended
complaint must plead specific facts regarding the conditions of
confinement. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint,
Plaintiff 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 should note that when an amended complaint
is filed, the original complaint no longer performs any function
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).
3 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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. The amended
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order follows.
January 13, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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