BALDI v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/27/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-7139 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Courtney Baldi, Plaintiff Pro Se
1344 Sheridan Street
Camden, New Jersey 08104
Plaintiff Courtney Baldi seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against 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 pauperis.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will allow
the complaint to proceed in part.
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 states: “[O]fficer Colon stripped searched
me for the second time that night when she took me in the
bathroom. I asked to step of [sic] the blanket before getting
naked again for municipal charges.” Complaint § III.C. The
complaint then indicates that Officer Colon left the bathroom
and returned with Officer Corley. Id. Officer Corley then
punched Plaintiff in the face and kneeled on Plaintiff’s arms.
Id. Officer Colon proceeded to slam Plaintiff’s head into the
floor twelve times. Id.
Plaintiff names the CCJ as the sole defendant. To
state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege,
first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged
deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under
color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988);
Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
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, 487 U.S. at 49 (citation
omitted). The jail is not a proper defendant as it is not a
“person” within the meaning of § 1983. 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 § 1983).
Accordingly, the claims against CCJ must be dismissed with
Construing the complaint liberally against Officers
Colon and Corley, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a Fourth
Amendment violation for an improper strip search. Inmates have a
limited right of bodily privacy “subject to reasonable
intrusions necessitated by the prison setting.” Parkell v.
Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 325 (3d Cir. 2016). Plaintiff alleges two
full strip searches during the course of a single shift of
guards for a municipal court case. There are sufficient facts in
the complaint for an inference of unreasonableness. Plaintiff
has also sufficiently alleged an unreasonable force and/or
excessive force claim against the officers.1
The Court will instruct the Clerk to add Officers
Colon and Corley as defendants and permit these claims to
proceed against them.
Plaintiff further alleges the food at the jail had
plastic and mold in it. Complaint § IV. These general
allegations are insufficient to state a claim.
The constitutionally adequate diet “must provide
adequate nutrition, but corrections officials may not be held
liable [as to claims of inadequate food] unless the inmate shows
both an objective component (that the deprivation was
sufficiently serious) and a subjective component (that the
officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind).”
Duran v. Merline, 923 F. Supp. 2d 702, 719–20 (D.N.J. 2013)
(citing Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F.3d 62, 68 (3d Cir. 2007)).
It is not clear from the complaint whether Plaintiff was a
pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner at the time of the
incident. However, the facts alleged by Plaintiff are sufficient
to state a claim under either the Fourteenth or Eighth
“Objectively, ‘[w]hether the deprivation of food falls
below this [constitutional] threshold depends on the amount and
duration of the deprivation.’” Id. at 720 (quoting Berry v.
Brady, 192 F.3d 504, 507 (5th Cir. 1999)) (alterations in
“Under the Eighth Amendment, which provides a floor
for the rights of pretrial detainees, inmates must be served
‘nutritionally adequate food that is prepared and served under
conditions which do not present an immediate danger’ to their
health and well-being.” Id. (quoting Robles v. Coughlin, 725
F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1983)) (internal citation omitted).
“[I]solated instances of contaminated or spoiled food,
while certainly unpleasant, are not unconstitutional.” Id.
single or occasional incident involving spoiled food is
insufficient to show that Plaintiff has been denied life's
necessities.” Nickles v. Taylor, No. 09-557, 2010 WL 1949447, at
*5 (D.N.J. May 14, 2010). Plaintiff has not alleged that CCJ
staff frequently served Plaintiff spoiled food, or that a
significant portion of the served food was spoiled. Therefore,
he has not sufficiently alleged the objective requirement.
Without any facts that are necessary to demonstrate
substantial nutritional deprivation, such as how frequently the
alleged “spoiled” food was served, a description of the manner
in which the food offered to Plaintiff was in fact “spoiled” and
“substandard,” what other meal options were offered, and for how
long during the Dates of Confinement Plaintiff was arguably
compelled to eat “substandard” food, this Court cannot find that
Plaintiff has stated a cognizable constitutional claim; that is,
without additional facts such as these, Plaintiff has not met
the objective prong of the constitutional analysis. This claim
shall be dismissed without prejudice, and Plaintiff may move to
amend this claim in an amended complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15.
Plaintiff also appears to assert CCJ’s mental health
professionals did not provide adequate medical care because they
refused to give Plaintiff “detox meds” and “gave me other meds
which caused me to seiz [sic] out and be in the hospital for two
months.” Complaint § IV. In order to set forth a cognizable
claim for a violation of the 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).
Here there are insufficient facts to conclude the
medical professionals were deliberately indifferent to
Plaintiff’s health. “[W]here a prisoner has received some
medical attention and the dispute is over the adequacy of the
treatment, federal courts are generally reluctant to second
guess medical judgments and to constitutionalize claims which
sound in . . . tort law.” DeJesus v. Corr. Med. Servs., Inc.,
574 F. App’x 66, 68-69 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal citation and
quotation marks omitted). A conclusory statement that the
doctors refused to provide medication is not enough to state a
constitutional claim. The Court will exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over this claim as a medical malpractice action,
however, and instruct the clerk to add Drs. John and Jane Doe 110 as defendants.
Plaintiff should note that if 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. Any motion to
amend must be accompanied by a proposed amended complaint.
For the reasons stated above, the claims against CCJ
are dismissed with prejudice. The Clerk shall add Officers Colon
and Corley and Drs. John and Jane Doe 1-10 as defendants. The
use of force, strip search, and medical malpractice claims shall
proceed. The claim of nutritionally deficient food is dismissed
An appropriate order follows.
June 27, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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