COPPOLETTA v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 9/6/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
No. 16-cv-08242 (JBS-AMD)
Tammy Coppoletta, Plaintiff Pro Se
221 Chews Landing Road
Lindenwold, NJ 08021
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Tammy Coppoletta 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
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
dismiss the complaint with prejudice for claims arising from her
2013 detention and 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, 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 brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 19831 for alleged violations of Plaintiff’s constitutional
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.
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
(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.
“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,
Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a
person deprived him of a federal right, the complaint does not
meet the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie case
under § 1983.
Plaintiff states she was detained in the CCJ from
October 12 to October 13, 2013 as well as from November 12 to
December 1, 2014. Complaint § III(B).
As to the detention in October 2013, these 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.3 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).
The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement at CCJ, namely the overcrowding, would have been
immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of her detention;
Plaintiff filed this complaint on November 4, 2016.
therefore, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s claims
arising from her incarceration of October 12 to October 13, 2013
expired before this complaint was filed in 2016. Plaintiff
therefore cannot recover for these claims.4
As to Plaintiff’s detention of November 12 to December
1, 2014, Plaintiff alleges she was detained in an overcrowded
cell and had to sleep on the floor near the toilet. Complaint §
III(C). She further alleges there was a time when a “C.O. yell
wake up bitches, it chow time at 3:50am.” She also alleges she
was stripped searched when she left the jail to attend a court
appearance. She further alleges, “When I was released I had a
male CO escort me past men in the cafeteria and he told me that
if I went to move to my left he would put me in a body cast for
trying to talk to the men when I was carrying my mat and blank
and going home.” Id.
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.
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).
Plaintiff alleges that she slept on the floor,
presumably because no open beds were available. 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 dates and length of the confinement(s),
whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner,
Plaintiff’s remaining allegations also are
insufficient to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983.
Plaintiff offers vague and cursory allegations that essentially
complain “of an inconvenient and uncomfortable situation”;
however, “‘the Constitution does not mandate comfortable
prisons.’” Carson v. Mulvihill, 488 F. App'x 554, 560 (3d Cir.
2012) (citing Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 349); see also, Marnin v.
Pinto, 463 F.2d 583, 584 (3d Cir. 1972) (“blanket statements
alleging bad food and miserable living conditions in the prison”
were “naked statements [that do not] ordinarily merit Federal
In addition, the CCJ may not be sued under § 1983. The
CCJ 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. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir.
1973)). Because 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.
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his 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. However, in the event Plaintiff does
elect to file an amended complaint, he should focus only on the
facts of her confinement from November 12 to December 1, 2014.
Because Plaintiff’s earlier claims are barred by the statute of
limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice, Plaintiff may
not assert those claims in an amended complaint.
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.5 Id.
For the reasons stated above, the claims against the
CCJ are dismissed with prejudice. The claims arising from
Plaintiff’s October 2013 detention are barred by the statute of
limitations and therefore are also dismissed with prejudice. The
remainder of the complaint is dismissed without prejudice for
failure to state a claim. The Court will reopen the matter in
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint within the time
allotted by the Court.
An appropriate order follows.
September 6, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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