SHIELDS v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION FILED. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 9/19/17. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
No. 16-cv-08724 (JBS-AMD)
Guy Shields, Plaintiff Pro Se
710 Chelton Avenue
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Guy Shields seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Jail (“CCJ”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. 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: (1)
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against
CCJ; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure
to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
Claims Against CCJ: Dismissed With Prejudice
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
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.
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 the Complaint has not sufficiently alleged
that a “person” deprived Plaintiff of a federal right, the
Complaint does not meet the standards necessary to set forth a
prima facie case under § 1983. In the Complaint, 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)); Grabow v. Southern
State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538–39 (D.N.J. 1989)
(correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983). Given
See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
that 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.
Conditions Of Confinement Claims:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
Second, 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).
The present Complaint does not allege sufficient facts
to support a reasonable inference that a constitutional
violation has occurred in order to survive this Court’s review
under § 1915. Even accepting the statements in Plaintiff’s
Complaint as true for screening purposes only, there is not
enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional
violation has occurred.
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim3, the Complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the
same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule
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)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally
construed, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts
in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay
Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted) (emphasis added).
A 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.
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Samuels v. Health Dep’t, No. 161289, 2017 WL 26884, slip op. at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 3, 2017)
(citing Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir.
2012)); Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000));
Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012)
(discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States,
287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. §
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise
to Plaintiff’s claims, the present Complaint states in its
entirety: “I was sleeping on the floor with no running water
back up toilet for 6 days.” Complaint § V.
Plaintiff does not specify the date(s) or time(s) that
these events occurred. Id. § III(B) (Blank).
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff seeks “the
Court to grant me compensation in the amount of $2,000 or
$2,500.” Id. § V.
Even construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
prison overcrowding, any such purported claims must be dismissed
because the Complaint does not set forth sufficient factual
support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation
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 length of the
confinement(s), whether plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or
convicted prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved
in creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement,
any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of
Further, Plaintiff’s claims regarding the lack of a
working toilet (“Toilet claim”), also must be dismissed because
the Complaint does not set forth sufficient factual support for
the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred.
Denial of the “minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities,” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347, which would include basic
sanitary conditions, can be sufficient to state an actionable
constitutional deprivation. However, the non-specific nature of
Plaintiff’s allegations as to his Toilet Claim does not provide
a reasonably sufficient basis for this Court to infer that
sanitary conditions are, in fact, the type of violation from
which his Toilet Claim arises.
Further, the Court cannot discern from Plaintiff’s
non-specific reference to “no working toilet for 6 days”
(Complaint § V) the particular cause(s) of action Plaintiff
intends to pursue against any particular person as to this
alleged condition of confinement. For example, the Complaint is
silent regarding: whether the toilet at issue was the unit
inside Plaintiff’s cell at CCCF or was part of the public
facility for the CCCF prison population generally; whether
alternate restroom facilities were made available to Plaintiff
to account for the non-operational unit of which he complains;
and the reason for the non-functioning nature of the toilet
referred to in the Complaint (e.g., plumbing maintenance
schedule, plumbing malfunction, etc.) (see Passmore v. Ianello,
528 F. App’x 144, 149 (3d Cir. 2013) (“[C]ourts will generally
not interfere with prison administrative matters and will afford
significant deference to judgments of prison officials regarding
prison regulation and administration. See, e.g., Jones v. N.
Carolina Prisoners’ Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 126 (1977)
(‘Because the realities of running a penal institution are
complex and difficult, we have also recognized the wide-ranging
deference to be accorded the decisions of prison
Furthermore, construing the Complaint - without
deciding – to suggest that Plaintiff’s Toilet Claim relates in
some manner to sanitary conditions, such toilet condition “[may]
no doubt [have been] unpleasant, [but] it does not pose an
obvious health risk and consequently does not deprive
[Plaintiff] the minimal civilized measures of life’s
necessities.” Carson v. Main, No. 14-cv-7454, 2015 WL 18500193,
at *4 (D.N.J. Apr. 15, 2015) (dismissing plaintiff’s Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim where neighboring cells shared
plumbing pipes and required residents to flush their own toilet
to dispose of the neighboring cell’s waste). Accord Junne v.
Atlantic City Med. Ctr., No. 07-5262, 2008 WL 343557, at *10
(D.N.J. Feb. 4, 2008) (dismissing plaintiff’s conditions of
confinement claim where plaintiff alleged that the jail’s lack
of a private bathroom and his “need to use the toilet in the
presence of a total stranger caused substantial embarrassment,”
because “plaintiff’s embarrassment ensuing from having another
person in the cell while plaintiff uses the toilet cannot
qualify as a violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights”).
“There is, of course, a de minimus level of imposition with
which the Constitution is not concerned.” Bell, 441 U.S. 539 n.
21. Plaintiff has failed to present facts demonstrating that the
toilet condition here passed this threshold. He does not contend
that the non-operational toilet was intended as punishment, or
that he suffered adversely from it. The Complaint has not
alleged that Plaintiff developed physical injuries as a result
of the condition.
Viewing the facts and the totality of the
circumstances in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the
Complaint fails to set forth sufficient factual matter to show
that the Toilet Claim is facially plausible. Fowler, 578 F.3d at
210. Since Plaintiff’s claim asserting “no working toilet”
(Complaint § III(C)) does not offer facts that are necessary to
show that he was subjected to a genuine privation for an
extended period, such allegations fail to state a claim and will
be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to
particularly identify adverse conditions that were caused by
specific state actors, that caused Plaintiff to endure genuine
privations and hardship over an extended period of time, and
that were excessive in relation to their purposes. To that end,
the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint
within 30 days of the date of this order.4
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended
complaint must plead specific facts regarding the conditions of
confinement. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint,
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
Plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable
inference that a constitutional violation has occurred in order
to survive this Court’s review under § 1915.5
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. Id. The amended
To the extent the Complaint seeks relief for conditions
Plaintiff encountered prior to November 22, 2014, those claims
are barred by the statute of limitations. Claims brought under §
1983 are governed by New Jersey's two-year limitations period
for personal injury. 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 would have been immediately apparent
to Plaintiff; therefore, the statute of limitations on some of
Plaintiff’s claims expired two years after release from
incarceration. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended
complaint, it should be limited to confinements in which
Plaintiff was released after November 22, 2014.
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is: (a)
dismissed with prejudice as to the CCJ; and (b) dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order follows.
September 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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