DIXON v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/7/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
WARDEN JAMES OWENS, WARDEN
J. TAYLOR, METRO POLICE,
and CAMDEN COUNTY
BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS,
Bruce Dixon, Plaintiff Pro Se
1602 Norris Street
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Bruce Dixon seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), Warden James Owens (“Owens”),
Warden J. Taylor (“Taylor”), Metro Police, and Camden County
Board of Freeholders (“BOF”) for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) requires courts to review
complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is
proceeding in forma pauperis. Courts 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: (1)
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against
CCCF, BOF, Metro Police, Owens, and Taylor; and (2) dismiss the
Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
First, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice
as to claims made against CCCF because it is not a “state actor”
within the meaning of § 1983. See Crawford v. McMillian, 660 F.
App’x 113, 116 (3d Cir. Oct. 21, 2016) (“[T]he prison is not an
entity subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”) (citing Fischer
v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973)); Grabow v. Southern
State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538–39 (D.N.J. 1989)
(correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983).
Second, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice
as to claims made against BOF because it is not a legal entity
separate from Camden County and is therefore not independently
subject to suit. See Bermudez v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035,
2013 WL 1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases).
“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 wrongdoer.”). A Complaint must plead
facts showing that relevant 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).1 In other words, Plaintiff must set forth
facts supporting an inference that Camden County itself was the
“moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Third, construing the Complaint to assert claims
against Camden County Police (see Complaint at 1 (naming “Metro
“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).
Police” as a defendant)), the Complaint must be dismissed with
prejudice as to claims made against Metro Police. “[A] city
police department is a governmental sub-unit that is not
distinct from the municipality of which it is a part.” Jackson
v. City of Erie Police Dep't, 570 F. Appx. 112, 114 n.2 (3d Cir.
2014) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Camden County Police
(i.e., “Metro Police” named as defendant herein) are not
distinct from Camden County, and the Complaint asserts no facts
alleging that Camden County was the “moving force” behind an
alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Fourth, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice
as to claims made against Owens and Taylor because the Complaint
does “[not] allege any personal involvement by [the wardens]
in any constitutional violation – a fatal flaw, since ‘liability
in a § 1983 suit cannot be predicated solely on the operation of
respondeat superior.’” Baker v. Flagg, 439 F. App’x 82, 84 (3d
Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207
(3d Cir. 1988)). “[Plaintiff’s] complaint contains no
allegations regarding [the] Warden[s]. ‘Because vicarious
liability is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must
plead that each Government-official defendant, through the
official's own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution.’ Thus, [plaintiff] failed to state a claim against
[the] Warden[s].” Bob v. Kuo, 387 F. App’x 134, 136 (3d Cir.
2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)).
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims against Owens and Taylor must be
dismissed with prejudice.
Finally, 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 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
claim2, 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).
“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,
287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. §
“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, 556 U.S. at 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).
With respect to alleged facts giving rise to his
claims, Plaintiff states: “I was booked and taken to [a] room
with 4 inmates in the cell. [I] was placed on the floor with
urine on it and species [sic] on the floor.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states that the purported events giving rise
to these claims occurred: “Approx 2013, 2014, 2015.” Id. §
Plaintiff contends that he hit his head on the bunk
and “got no medical attention.” Id. § IV.
Plaintiff seeks $150,000 in relief. Id. § V.
These 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.
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
Furthermore, there are also not enough facts for the
Court to infer Plaintiff was denied adequate medical care. In
order to set forth a cognizable claim for violation of his 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). A mere
assertion that Plaintiff “got no medical attention” (Complaint §
IV) is insufficient to meet the pleading standard in the absence
of any facts. If Plaintiff wishes to pursue this claim,
Plaintiff should provide facts supporting both of the
requirements in any amended complaint
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
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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 § 1915.4
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 prior to September 30, 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). The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement would have been immediately apparent
to Plaintiff; therefore, the statute of limitations on some of
Plaintiff’s claims expired two years after his release. In the
event Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, he should
limit his complaint to confinements in which he was released
after September 30, 2014.
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: (a)
dismissed with prejudice as to the CCCF, Owens, Taylor, Metro
Police, and BOF; and (b) dismissed without prejudice for failure
to state a claim. An appropriate order follows.
February 7, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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