CLEMONS v. CAMDEN COUNTY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/7/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Patrice Clemons, Plaintiff Pro Se
2910 Thompson Street
Camden, NJ 08105
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Patrice Clemons seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden
County for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement
in the Camden County Jail. 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
dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a
claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim, a 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)).
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff experienced
unconstitutional conditions of confinement during detention at
the Camden County Jail on “June 1, 2015.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states: “I was forced to sleep in a room with 5 people
[in] very poor condition.” Id. § III(C).
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff contracted a
“staph infection” while incarcerated. Id. § IV.
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff seeks
“compensation and damages.” Id. § V.1
Even accepting these statements as true for screening
purposes only, there is not enough factual support for the Court
to infer a constitutional violation has occurred.
Given that Plaintiff also “want[s] State see that the County
Jail is in very poor conditions” (Complaint § V), the Court
advises Plaintiff that she is one of thousands of members of a
certified class in the case on this Court's docket entitled,
Dittimus-Bey v. Camden County Correctional Facility, Civil No.
05-cv-0063 (JBS), which is a class action case. The class
plaintiffs are all persons confined at the CCCF, as either
pretrial detainees or convicted prisoners, at any time from
January 6, 2005, until the present time. The class of plaintiffs
seek injunctive and declaratory relief about unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at the CCCF involving overcrowding.
That class action does not involve money damages for
individuals. A proposed final settlement of that case, which
describes the settlement in detail, was preliminarily approved
on February 22, 2017. At present, various measures already
undertaken in the Second and Third Consent Decrees under Court
approval have reduced the jail population to fewer prisoners
than the intended design capacity for the jail. This has greatly
reduced or eliminated triple and quadruple bunking in two-person
cells, as explained in the proposed Sixth and Final Consent
Decree, which would continue those requirements under Court
supervision for two more years. According to the Notice to all
class members that was approved in the Dittimus-Bey case on
February 22, 2017, any class member can object to the proposed
settlement by filing an objection in the Dittimus-Bey case
before April 24, 2017. A final Court hearing is set for May 23,
2017, at which any objections will be considered. If the
Dittimus-Bey settlement is finally approved after the May 23rd
hearing, Plaintiff and other class members will be barred from
seeking injunctive or declaratory relief for the period of time
from January 6, 2005, until the date of final approval, but the
settlement does not bar any individual class member from seeking
money damages in an individual case.
Even construing the Complaint to allege
unconstitutional conditions of confinement arising from
purported overcrowding that led to Plaintiff’s “sleep[ing] in a
room with 5 people” (Complaint § III(C)), 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 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 dates and length of the confinement(s), whether
Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, etc.
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 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). A mere assertion
that Plaintiff “was unable to seek medical attention for almost
17 hours” (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 in an amended
complaint supporting both of the requirements of a claim of
inadequate medical care.
In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint, he
should include specific facts, such as the dates and length of
his confinement, whether he was a pretrial detainee or convicted
prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved in creating
or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement, and any
other relevant facts regarding the conditions of confinement.
Moreover, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to
impose liability on Camden County. “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
Plaintiff must plead facts showing that the relevant
Camden County policy-makers are “responsible for either the
affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a wellsettled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d
Cir. 1990).2 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.
“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).
As Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall
grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of
the date of this order.
Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint
is filed,3 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.
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is
dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The
Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files an
amended complaint within the time allotted by the Court.
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
An appropriate order follows.
April 7, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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