BROOKS v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/29/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
JUSTIN Z. BROOKS,
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-08753 (JBS-AMD)
Justin Z. Brooks, Plaintiff Pro Se
2553 South 8th Street, Apt. D-12
Camden, NJ 08104
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Justin Z. Brooks seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). Complaint, Docket Entry
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
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
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.
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,
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 seeks monetary damages 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. Plaintiff alleges he experienced
unconstitutional conditions of confinement “approximately
between 2013 - 16.” Complaint § III. The fact section of the
complaint states: “Being on the floor gave me tremendous
problems. The food and water is very poor. I have problems from
the other times of being in Camden County Correctional Facility.
Sores on the bottom on my feet from Camden County Correctional
Facility. Also, other inmates would be sick in the cell so
close, I was having major issues. From sleeping under the
toilet. Many other people in Camden County Correctional Facility
have suffered similar or worse issues. I got very ill during and
after being inside Camden County Correctional Facility. From
this trama [sic] I’ve been have night mares. I would break out
in cold swets [sic] late at night. I felt like I was being
treated like an animal.” Id. Plaintiff further alleges
“unsanitary food and cells” and that “the water gave me
diarrhea.” Id. § IV. 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 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,
Moreover, Plaintiff’s vague and cursory allegations
regarding unsanitary cells and food and water that were “very
poor” 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 court intervention”).3
In addition, Plaintiff has not alleged that any person
acting under color of state law was aware of and acted with
deliberate indifference in creating or failing to address the
unclean conditions or the “very poor water” that are alleged to
have made Plaintiff ill. The complaint therefore fails to set
forth a claim for relief regarding those conditions. Kost v.
Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 188 (3d Cir. 1993) (noting that a
plaintiff must prove that prison officials acted with deliberate
indifference for conditions of confinement claim) (citing Wilson
v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 303 (1991)).
As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to
address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall
Under some circumstances, constitutional violations may arise
from unsanitary conditions. See Drumgo v. Radcliff, Sgt., 661 F.
App'x 758, 760 (3d Cir. 2016) (“Unsanitary prison conditions may
result in [a constitutional] violation.”) (citing Young v.
Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 364 (3d Cir. 1992)). However, Plaintiff
has not alleged enough facts to demonstrate that the unsanitary
conditions complained of, for a pretrial detainee, shock the
conscience and thus violate 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
grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of
the date of this order.4
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
However, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during confinements ending
prior to November 23, 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 the events giving rise to his claims occurred
“approximately between 2013 - 16.” Complaint § III. The
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCCF,
namely the overcrowded and unsanitary 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 2015, well
before this complaint was filed on November 23, 2016. In the
event Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, he should
focus on facts that occurred during confinements ending on or
subsequent to November 23, 2014. Claims arising from periods of
confinement ending prior to November 23, 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
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.
An appropriate order follows.
June 29, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?