HOLMES v. CITY OF CAMDEN
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/20/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
CITY OF CAMDEN,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06868 (JBS-AMD)
Plaintiff Pro Se
7911 Park Avenue, Apt. B
Pennsauken, NJ 08109
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Sandra Holmes seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of
Camden (“the City” or “Camden”) 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 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.
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
requires pleadings to contain “a short and plain statement of
the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .
a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief; and demand for the relief sought . . . .”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3).
Plaintiff has named Camden as the sole defendant in
her complaint; however, the complaint itself is blank. Complaint
§§ III-V. As such, the Court cannot discern what cause of action
Plaintiff intends to pursue against the City of Camden. The
complaint must therefore be dismissed for failure to state a
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.
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 alleges no facts
whatsoever in relation to her statement of claim against the
City (Complaint § III(C)), purported injuries caused by Camden
(id. § IV), or requested relief sought from the City (id. § V).
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,
287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. §
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims must be dismissed
because the Complaint does not set forth any factual support for
the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred.
Furthermore, “[t]here 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 wrongdoer.”).
Plaintiff must plead facts showing that the relevant
Camden policy-makers 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).2
“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
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
(alteration in original).
In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an
inference that Camden itself was the “moving force” behind an
alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court. 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 alleged
violations. 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
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
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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 20, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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