JONES v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 9/27/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
KEITH MARTEL JONES,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY; CAMDEN COUNTY POLICE
DEPARTMENT; THE CITY OF CAMDEN;
CAMDEN COUNTY SHERIFF’S
No. 16-cv-08383 (JBS-AMD)
Keith Martel Jones, Plaintiff Pro Se
803 Engard Ave. 1st Floor
Pennsauken, NJ 08110
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Keith Martel Jones seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), Camden County Police
Department (“CCPD”), the City of Camden, and Camden County
Sheriff’s Department (“Sheriff’s Depart.”). Complaint, Docket
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
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
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.
2 “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,
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.
The Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as to
claims made against CCCF because defendant is not a “state
actor” within the meaning of § 1983. 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)); Grabow v. Southern
State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538–39 (D.N.J. 1989)
(correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983).
The Complaint must be dismissed as to the claims
against the City of Camden as Plaintiff has not pled sufficient
facts to impose liability on this defendant. “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 wrongdoer.”).
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).3 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. 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.
The Complaint also must be dismissed without prejudice
as to the claims against the CCPD and CCSD because they are not
legal entities separate from Camden County and are therefore not
independently subject to suit. See Bermudez v. Essex Cty.
“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).
D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL 1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4,
2013)(citing cases). “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 wrongdoer.”). A
complaint must plead facts showing that relevant policy-makers
are “responsible for either the affirmative proclamation of a
policy or acquiescence in a well-settled custom.” Bielevicz v.
Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990). In other words, a
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. “[A] city
police department is a governmental sub-unit that is not
distinct from the municipality of which it is a part.” Jackson
v. City of Erie Police Dep't, 570 F. Appx. 112, 114 n.2 (3d Cir.
2014) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Thus, CCPD and CCSD are
not distinct from Camden County, and the Complaint asserts no
facts alleging that Camden County was the “moving force” behind
an alleged constitutional violation.
The Complaint also must be dismissed for failure to
state a claim. Plaintiff states he was detained in the CCCF on
the following dates: September 1998 to May 10, 1999; July 24,
2001 to March 26, 2002; January 10, 2008 to January 29, 2010;
June 22, 2014 to October 31, 2014; and August 5, 2015 to October
12, 2016. Complaint § III.
In his complaint Plaintiff states: “you being housed
at the Camden County Correctional Facility I was forced to sleep
on the floor lying next to the toilet. It was 4 men cramped up
in a cell that was built for just 2 people. I was continuously
stepped on and on one my cell mate fell out of the top bunk and
fell on me.” Complaint § III.
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.
Plaintiff’s cursory and conclusory allegations are
insufficient, without more, to state a claim for relief. In
order to make out a plausible claim for relief and survive this
Court’s review under § 1915, Plaintiff must plead something more
than “labels and conclusions” and allege enough facts to support
a reasonable inference that defendants deprived him of a
constitutional right. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. For a pretrial
detainee, this means Plaintiff must plead facts showing that the
conditions he encountered shock the conscience and thus violated
his 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,
Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement
ending prior to November 9, 2014, those 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. 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 alleges the events giving rise to his claims
occurred during multiple different incarcerations from September
1998 to May 10, 1999; July 24, 2001 to March 26, 2002; January
10, 2008 to January 29, 2010; June 22, 2014 to October 31, 2014;
and August 5, 2015 to October 12, 2016. However, all but one of
these incarcerations occurred more than two years prior to the
filing of Plaintiff’s complaint. The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at CCJ, namely the overcrowding, would
have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his
detention; therefore, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s
claims arising from his incarcerations from September 1998 to
May 10, 1999; July 24, 2001 to March 26, 2002; January 10, 2008
to January 29, 2010; and June 22, 2014 to October 31, 2014,
expired well before this complaint was filed on November 9,
2016. Plaintiff therefore cannot recover for these claims.4
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).
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 his confinement from August 5, 2015 to October 12,
2016. Complaint § III. 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
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.
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
For the reasons stated above, the claims against the
CCCF are dismissed with prejudice. The claims arising from
Plaintiff’s September 1998 to May 10, 1999; July 24, 2001 to
March 26, 2002; January 10, 2008 to January 29, 2010; and June
22, 2014 to October 31, 2014 confinements 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 event Plaintiff files an amended complaint
within the time allotted by the Court.
An appropriate order follows.
September 27, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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