COOPER v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/18/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
FOREST D. COOPER,
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-08268 (JBS-AMD)
Forest D. Cooper, Plaintiff Pro Se
P.O. Box 482
Camden, NJ 08101
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Forest D. Cooper 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 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
rights. In order to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983, a
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.
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.
Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a
“person” deprived him of a federal right, the complaint does not
“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,
meet the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie case
under § 1983. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from CCJ for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The CCJ,
however, 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.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the complaint to name a
person or persons who were personally involved in the alleged
unconstitutional conditions of confinement, however. To that
end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the
complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.
Plaintiff is advised that the amended complaint 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 alleges he experienced
unconstitutional conditions of confinement between April 1994
and April 2015. Complaint § III. The fact section of the
complaint states: “I was arrested between the date above and
sleep on the floor in the Camden County Jail.” Id. Even
accepting the statement as true for screening purposes only,
there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer a
constitutional violation has occurred.
Plaintiff alleges that he 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,
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court,3 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, 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
To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered during confinements ending prior to
November 4, 2014, those claims are barred by the statute of
limitations. 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). Plaintiff
has not specified the dates of his confinement, stating only
that he was confined “4-1994 to 4/15.” Complaint § III. The
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCJ,
namely the overcrowded conditions, would have been immediately
apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore,
the statute of limitations for some of Plaintiff’s claims may
have expired as early as 1996, well before this complaint was
filed on November 4, 2016. In the event Plaintiff elects to file
an amended complaint, he should focus on facts that occurred
during confinements on or subsequent to November 4, 2014. Claims
arising from periods of confinement ending prior to November 4,
2014, are barred by the statute of limitations, meaning that
Plaintiff may not recover for those claims and may not assert
them in an amended complaint.
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.4 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.
An appropriate order follows.
April 18, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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