HAMILTON v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/27/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
DAVID ALTON HAMILTON,
No. 16-cv-07555 (JBS-AMD)
David Alton Hamilton, Plaintiff Pro Se
2028 Bryan Mawr Avenue
Haddon Heights, NJ 08035
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff David Alton Hamilton seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”) for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket
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; 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 defendant is not a “state
actor” within the meaning of § 1983. 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. 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, 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
claim1, 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. §
With respect to the alleged facts giving rise to
Plaintiff’s claims, the Complaint states: “Slept on floor next
to toilet; caught mrsa in there.” He contends that he suffered
“PTSD” and sustained “nerve damage” from handcuffs after an
alleged incident with correctional officers while incarcerated.
Complaint §§ III(C), IV.
The Complaint contends that these events occurred:
“1997, 1999, 2003, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2016.” Id. § III(B).
Plaintiff seeks “as much as I’m entitled” in relief.
Id. § V.
Construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged prison
overcrowding in relation to Plaintiff sleeping “on floor next to
toilet” (Complaint § III(C)), 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 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, although not specified in the Complaint,
this Court construes Plaintiff’s contentions regarding “nerve
damage,” being “sprayed w/ mase [sic],” and being “handcuffed so
tightly my hands swelled up” (Complaint §§ III(C), IV) as
allegations by Plaintiff that he suffered physical abuse
amounting to a violation of his constitutional rights. The only
specific conduct of which Plaintiff complains is that he was
“handcuffed so tightly” and “sprayed w/ mase [sic]” (id.), but
the circumstances surrounding the incident(s) as well as what
transpired thereafter are left to speculation.
Plaintiff has not asserted facts sufficient to allege a
violation of the Eighth Amendment. “The Eighth Amendment
prohibits conditions which involve the unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain or are grossly disproportionate to the
severity of the crime warranting imprisonment.” Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346, 347 (1981) (quoting Trop v. Dulles,
356 U.S. 86, 101 (1956)). To state a claim under the Eighth
Amendment based on the use of excessive force, a plaintiff must
show that “officials applied force maliciously and sadistically
for the very purpose of causing harm or that officials used
force with a knowing willingness that harm would occur.” Farmer
v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835-36 (1994).
Thus, to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, an
inmate must satisfy both an objective element and a subjective
element. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. The objective element
questions whether the deprivation of a basic human need is
sufficiently serious. The subjective component asks whether the
officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). Where the claim is
one of excessive use of force, the core judicial inquiry as to
the subjective component “is thus whether force was applied in a
good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Ingalls v. Florio,
968 F. Supp. 193, 199 (D.N.J. 1997) (citing Hudson v.
McMcMillan, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)); Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S.
312, 320-21 (1986). “Not every push or shove, even if it may
later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,
violates a prisoner’s constitutional rights.” Hudson, 503 U.S.
Here, Plaintiff’s allegations of supposedly tight
handcuffs and purported use of mace (Complaint §§ III(C), IV)
are insufficient to suggest that correctional officers exhibited
malicious and sadistic conduct intended to cause pain. Such
vague and conclusory allegations that Plaintiff has “nerve
damage” and “PTSD” (which may or may not have been related to
the alleged events or to a good-faith effort to maintain and
restore discipline) fall short of providing the fair notice to
which defendants are entitled so that they may properly defend
against claims. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims of
constitutional violations in connection with allegations of
excessive force must be dismissed.
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.2
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 § 1915.3
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,
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
3 To the extent the Complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered prior to October 19, 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 release from
incarceration. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended
complaint, it should be limited to confinements in which
Plaintiff was released after October 19, 2014.
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: (a)
dismissed with prejudice as to the CCCF; and (b) dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order follows.
February 27, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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