DAVIS v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
No. 16-cv-07117 (JBS-AMD)
Ashley Davis, Plaintiff Pro Se
966 Ferry Ave
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Ashley Davis seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Jail (“CCJ”) 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
CCJ; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure
to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii), except that
claims relating to conditions of confinement arising prior to
September 30, 2014, are dismissed with prejudice.
Claims Against CCJ: Dismissed With Prejudice
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 19831 for alleged violations of Plaintiff’s constitutional
rights. In order to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983, a
plaintiff must show: “(1) a person deprived him of a federal
right; and (2) the person who deprived him of that right acted
under color of state or territorial law.” Groman v. Twp. of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Gomez v.
Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980)).
Generally, for purposes of actions under § 1983,
“[t]he term ‘persons’ includes local and state officers acting
under color of state law.” Carver v. Foerster, 102 F.3d 96, 99
Section 1983 provides: “Every person who, under color of any
statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State .
. . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to
the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(3d Cir. 1996) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991)).2 To
say that a person was “acting under color of state law” means
that the defendant in a § 1983 action “exercised power [that the
defendant] possessed by virtue of state law and made possible
only because the wrongdoer [was] clothed with the authority of
state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (citation
omitted). Generally, then, “a public employee acts under color
of state law while acting in his official capacity or while
exercising his responsibilities pursuant to state law.” Id.
Because the Complaint has not sufficiently alleged
that a “person” deprived Plaintiff of a federal right, the
Complaint does not meet the standards necessary to set forth a
prima facie case under § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff seeks
monetary damages from CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. The CCJ, however, is not a “person”
within the meaning of § 1983; therefore, the claims against it
must be dismissed with prejudice. See Crawford v. McMillian, 660
F. App’x 113, 116 (3d Cir. 2016) (“[T]he prison is not an entity
subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”) (citing Fischer v.
“Person” is not strictly limited to individuals who are state
and local government employees, however. For example,
municipalities and other local government units, such as
counties, also are considered “persons” for purposes of § 1983.
See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
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). Given
that the claims against the CCJ must be dismissed with
prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name
the CCJ as a defendant.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to name a
person or persons 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.
Conditions Of Confinement Claims:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
Second, 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
claim3, 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)). 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).
“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 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.
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise
to Plaintiff’s claims, the present Complaint states: “in holding
when first brought in there were more females then the cell can
hold fights started and unnecessary people were getting hurt
because of how many people in cell. Toilet kept overflowing and
stayed that way the whole 10 hrs was in holding.” Complaint §
III(C). Plaintiff further states in the relief section of her
complaint, “I slept in a cell for a week with the sink water
constantly running never shut off. I would get my period and be
told there were no feminine products. Came to a point where
there was no toilet paper being handed out and had to wipe with
actual paper which cause a urinary tract infection.” Complaint §
Plaintiff states this occurred “2010 to 2016.” Id. §
Plaintiff denies any injuries. Id. § IV (”N/A”).
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff states
“yes” but does not describe the requested relief she is seeking.
She does state, “The whole jail needs to be straightened from
processing, 7 day, population.” Id. § V.4
Even construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
prison overcrowding, any such purported claims must be dismissed
because the Complaint does not set forth sufficient factual
support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation
Given Plaintiff’s reference to the “jail needs to be
straightened out” (Complaint § V), the Court advises
Plaintiff that she is one of thousands of members of a
certified class in a case on this Court's docket captioned
Dittimus-Bey, et al. v. Taylor, et al., Civil Action No.
1:05-cv-0063-JBS, United States District Court for the
District of New Jersey. The class plaintiffs are all
persons confined at the Camden County Correctional Facility
(“CCCF”), as either pretrial detainees or convicted
prisoners, at any time from January 6, 2005 until the
present time. The Dittimus-Bey class of plaintiffs seeks
injunctive and declaratory relief concerning allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the CCCF
involving overcrowding. The Dittimus-Bey class action does
not involve money damages for individuals. Various measures
undertaken pursuant to the Court-approved Second and Third
Consent Decrees have reduced the CCCF jail population to
fewer prisoners than the intended design capacity for the
jail, thereby greatly reducing or eliminating triple and
quadruple bunking in two-person cells; these details are
further explained in the Final Consent Decree, which would
continue those requirements under Court supervision for two
more years. This class action did not provide monetary
compensation to the class members. The settlement did not
bar any individual class member from seeking money damages
in an individual case.
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
Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement
ending prior to October 13, 2014, those claims are barred by the
statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice,
meaning that Plaintiff cannot recover for those claims because
they have been brought too late.5 Civil rights claims under
§ 1983 are governed by New Jersey's limitations period for
personal injury and must be brought within two years of the
claim’s accrual. 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 her claims
occurred between 2010 and 2016. Complaint § III. The allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCJ, namely the
overcrowding, would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff
at the time of her detention; therefore, the statute of
limitations for Plaintiff’s claims arising from her
incarcerations between 2010 and October 13, 2014 expired before
Plaintiff filed this complaint on October 13, 2014.
this complaint was filed in 2016. Plaintiff therefore cannot
recover for these claims.6
Additionally, Plaintiff complains of “toilet
overflowing for 10 hrs while in holding,” “lack of sanitary
products,” and “lack of toilet paper.” Complaint § III(C), V.
Denial of the “minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities,” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347, which would include basic
sanitary conditions, can be sufficient to state an actionable
constitutional deprivation. However, the non-specific nature of
Plaintiff’s allegations as to these claims does not provide a
reasonably sufficient basis for this Court to infer that
sanitary conditions are in fact constitutional violations.
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed.
R. Civ. P.”) requires pleadings to contain “a short and plain
statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .
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). While pro se complaints are
Although the Court may toll, or extend, the statute of
limitations in the interests of justice, certain circumstances
must be present before it can do so. Tolling is not warranted in
this case because the state has not “actively misled” Plaintiff
as to the existence of his cause of action, there are no
extraordinary circumstances that prevented Plaintiff from filing
his claim, and there is nothing to indicate Plaintiff filed his
claim on time but in the wrong forum. See Omar v. Blackman, 590
F. App’x 162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014).
construed liberally and are held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers (Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)), pro se litigants nevertheless must still allege facts,
taken as true, to suggest the required elements of the claims
asserted. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35
(3d Cir. 2008); McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113
(1993)(“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in
ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse
mistakes by those who proceed without counsel”).
Here, the Court cannot discern from Plaintiff’s non-
specific reference to “toilet overflowing for 10 hrs while in
holding,” “lack of sanitary products,” and “lack of toilet
paper” (Complaint § III(C), V) the particular cause(s) of action
Plaintiff intends to pursue against any particular person as to
this alleged condition of confinement. For example, the
Complaint is silent regarding: whether access to another toilet
was provided, for how long she was denied sanitary products,
whether alternatives were provided, and the reason for the nonfunctioning nature of the toilet referred to in the Complaint
(e.g., plumbing maintenance schedule, plumbing malfunction,
etc.) (see Passmore v. Ianello, 528 F. App’x 144, 149 (3d Cir.
2013) (“[C]ourts will generally not interfere with prison
administrative matters and will afford significant deference to
judgments of prison officials regarding prison regulation and
administration. See, e.g., Jones v. N. Carolina Prisoners’ Labor
Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 126 (1977) (‘Because the realities of
running a penal institution are complex and difficult, we have
also recognized the wide-ranging deference to be accorded the
decisions of prison administrators’)”).
Furthermore, construing the Complaint - without
deciding – to suggest that Plaintiff’s claims of unsanitary
conditions, “[may] no doubt [have been] unpleasant, [but] it
does not pose an obvious health risk and consequently does not
deprive [Plaintiff] the minimal civilized measures of life’s
necessities.” Carson v. Main, No. 14-cv-7454, 2015 WL 18500193,
at *4 (D.N.J. Apr. 15, 2015) (dismissing plaintiff’s Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim where neighboring cells shared
plumbing pipes and required residents to flush their own toilet
to dispose of the neighboring cell’s waste). Accord Junne v.
Atlantic City Med. Ctr., No. 07-5262, 2008 WL 343557, at *10
(D.N.J. Feb. 4, 2008) (dismissing plaintiff’s conditions of
confinement claim where plaintiff alleged that the jail’s lack
of a private bathroom and his “need to use the toilet in the
presence of a total stranger caused substantial embarrassment,”
because “plaintiff’s embarrassment ensuing from having another
person in the cell while plaintiff uses the toilet cannot
qualify as a violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights”).
“There is, of course, a de minimus level of imposition with
which the Constitution is not concerned.” Bell, 441 U.S. 539 n.
21. Plaintiff has failed to present facts demonstrating that the
conditions complained of here passed this threshold. She does
not contend these conditions were punishment or that she
suffered adversely from it. The Complaint has not alleged that
Plaintiff developed physical injuries as a result of the
Viewing the facts and the totality of the
circumstances in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the
Complaint fails to set forth sufficient factual matter to show
that these claims are facially plausible as they do not offer
facts that are necessary to show that she was subjected to a
genuine privation for an extended period. Fowler, 578 F.3d at
210. Therefore, such allegations fail to state a claim and will
be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend.
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.7
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. As discussed above,
if Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, it should be
limited to confinements in which Plaintiff was released after
October 13, 2014.
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
explicit. Id. To avoid confusion, the safer course is to file an
amended complaint that is complete in itself. Id. The amended
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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 CCJ; and (b) dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim, except that
claims arising prior to October 13, 2014, are dismissed with
An appropriate order follows.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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