HENDERSON v. GUARDS OF THE CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 3/10/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
BUSTER J. HENDERSON,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-07693 (JBS-AMD)
GUARDS OF THE CAMDEN COUNTY
Buster J. Henderson, Plaintiff Pro Se
1119 Kaighn Avenue
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Buster J. Henderson seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Guards
of the Camden County Correctional Facility (“the Guards”) for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint,
Docket Entry 1. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
concludes that the Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice
in part and permitted to proceed in part.
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: (a)
dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a
claim as to contentions of allegedly unconstitutional conditions
of confinement, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii); and (b) allow the
Complaint to proceed as to allegations of excessive force, U.S.
Const. amend. XIV.
ALLEGATIONS OF UNCONSTITUTIONAL CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT
FROM PRISON OVERCROWDING
As to allegations of prison overcrowding, 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
“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));
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).
With respect to the alleged facts giving rise to
Plaintiff’s claims, the Complaint states: “It was six persons in
one cell. [I] slep[t] by the toilet.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states that these events occurred: “Last
year 2015.” Id. § III(B).
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. §
Plaintiff claims to have suffered injuries of “just
some headaches” from these events. Id. § IV.
Plaintiff seeks $5,000 in relief. Id. § V.
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
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, construing the Complaint to allege claims
of prison overcrowding at the Camden County Correctional
Facility in connection with Plaintiff “sleep[ing] on the floor”
(Complaint § III(C)), any such facility overcrowding claims
against the Guards must also be dismissed without prejudice
because the Complaint does “[not] allege any personal
involvement by [the Guards] in any constitutional violation
[with respect to overcrowding] – a fatal flaw . . . in a § 1983
suit.” Baker v. Flagg, 439 F. App’x 82, 84 (3d Cir. 2011)
(citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir.
1988)). “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 individual defendants].” Bob v. Kuo, 387 F.
App’x 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 676 (2009)). For these additional reasons, Plaintiff’s
claims against the Guards as to prison facility overcrowding
must be dismissed without prejudice.
As to his claims of allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement, 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.
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
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.
ALLEGATIONS OF USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE
The Court will allow the Complaint to proceed as to
allegations against the Guards of excessive force. U.S. Const.
Although not specified in the Complaint, this Court
construes Plaintiff’s contentions regarding being “kicked in the
head” (Complaint § III(C)) as claims that Plaintiff suffered
physical abuse amounting to a violation of his constitutional
rights. The only specific conduct of which Plaintiff complains
is that the Guards “kick[ed] me in the head to wake me” (id.),
but the circumstances surrounding the incident are left to
“Claims of excessive force at the time an individual
is a pretrial detainee are evaluated based on the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Kingsley v. Hendrickson,
135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015) (noting ‘[w]e have said that “the
Due Process Clause protects a pretrial detainee from the use of
excessive force that amounts to punishment”’ (quoting Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 388, 395 n. 10 (1989)).” Bocchino v. City of
Atlantic City, 179 F. Supp.3d 387, 394 (D.N.J. 2016). Accord
Sylvester v. City of Newark, 120 F. App’x 419, 423 (3d Cir.
2005) (analyzing pretrial detainee’s claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment because prior to a formal adjudication of guilt, the
state “has not acquired the power to punish with which the
Eighth Amendment is concerned”).
In Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979), the
Supreme Court set forth the standard to be applied in analyzing
whether a detainee has been deprived of liberty without due
process of law: whether “those conditions amount to punishment
of the detainee.” Id. As part of this analysis, a court must
“decide whether the disability is imposed for the purpose of
punishment or whether it is but an incident of some other
legitimate governmental purpose.” Id. “By way of example, it is
accepted that retribution and deterrence do not amount to
legitimate non-punitive governmental objectives.” Adegbuji v.
Abode, No. A03-cv-4537(JLL), 2005 WL 3536073, at *6 (D.N.J. Dec.
22, 2005) (citing Bell, 441 U.S. at 539 n. 20, 561-62).
To establish a claim for use of excessive force in
violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,
a plaintiff must show that the force used was applied
“maliciously and sadistically to cause harm” and not “in a goodfaith effort to maintain or restore discipline.” Baez v.
Lancaster County, 487 F. App’x 30, 32 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)). A court must
examine, subjectively, “whether force was applied in a good
faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously
and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” Whitley
v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986). In making this inquiry
whether force was used in “good faith” or “maliciously and
sadistically,” courts have highlighted several factors to
consider, including: “(1) the need for the application of the
force;” (2) “the relationship between the need and the amount of
force that was used;” (3) “the extent of the injury inflicted;”
(4) “the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and
inmates, as reasonably perceived by responsible officials on the
basis of facts known to them;” and (5) “any efforts made to
temper the severity of a forceful response.” Brooks v. Kyler,
204 F.3d 102, 106 (3d Cir. 2000). “Not all use of force is
‘excessive’ and will rise to the level of a constitutional
violation.” Adegbuji, 2005 WL 3536073, at *6. See, e.g.,
Townsend v. Frame, 587 F. Supp. 369 (E.D. Pa. 1984) (complaint
alleging that prison guard struck inmate in the face was
insufficient to state federal civil rights cause of action).
“[I]t is well-established that isolated torts do not become
constitutional violations solely because the complaining party
is a prisoner.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).
Here, Plaintiff’s contentions as to being “kick[ed] in
the head to wake me” (Complaint § III(C)) are sufficient to
allege a claim for unconstitutional use of excessive force, as
they suggest force used without “good faith,” employed without
need to “maintain discipline,” and inflicted to “cause harm.”
Baez, 487 F. App’x at 32.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims of constitutional
violations in connection with allegations of use of excessive
force may proceed.
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s Complaint is
dismissed in part and shall proceed in part. The Complaint: (a)
is dismissed without prejudice as to claims of allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement; and (b) shall
proceed as to claims of excessive force.
An appropriate order follows.
March 10, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?