LOPEZ v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/18/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
No. 16-cv-08332 (JBS-AMD)
Alexis Lopez, Plaintiff Pro Se
161 Boyd Street
Camden, NJ 08105
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Alexis Lopez seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). 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 [her] of a federal
right; and (2) the person who deprived [her] 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 her 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 equitable relief from CCCF for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The CCCF,
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 CCCF must be
dismissed with prejudice, the claims may not proceed and
Plaintiff may not name the CCCF 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. The complaint states: “Slept on the
floor, food was not edible, the medical assistance was not up to
par. – Living condition was not up to par.” Complaint § III.
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 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,
In addition, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks to
allege a claim based on a violation of her right to adequate
medical care, there are not enough facts to support an inference
that Plaintiff’s rights were violated in this regard. In order
to set forth a cognizable claim for a violation of her 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).
Plaintiff’s cursory assertion that “the medical assistance was
not up to par” is insufficient to meet the pleading standard in
the absence of additional facts. If she wishes to pursue this
claim, Plaintiff should provide additional facts supporting both
of the requirements in her amended complaint.
Moreover, Plaintiff’s claim for prospective injunctive
relief must be dismissed as moot. Plaintiff has not stated a
request for monetary damages in the complaint; rather,
Plaintiff’s request for relief seeks: “Plan to help others from
exp[eriencing] the same ordeal from happening to them please be
advised!” Complaint § V. Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at
the CCCF, however.3 Plaintiff therefore lacks standing to seek
injunctive relief because she is no longer subject to the
allegedly unconstitutional conditions she seeks to challenge.
Abdul-Akbar v. Watson, 4 F.3d 195, 206-07 (3d Cir. 1993); Weaver
v. Wilcox, 650 F.2d 22, 27 (3d Cir. 1981).4
Plaintiff alleges that the events giving rise to her claim
occurred from July through October 2016. She filed her complaint
on November 7, 2016.
Because Plaintiff seeks a court injunction rather than money
damages, the Court further 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.
As Plaintiff may be able to amend her 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, 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 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 18, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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