BAILEY v. OWENS et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/2017. (rtm, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
WARDEN DAVID OWENS; CAMDEN
COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY,
Joseph Bailey, Plaintiff Pro Se
3 West Industrial Blvd.
Bridgeton, NJ 08302
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Joseph Bailey seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden David
Owens (“Warden”) and Camden County Correctional Facility
(“CCCF”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1. At this time, the Court
must review the complaint to determine whether it should be
dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the
complaint will proceed in part.
The following factual allegations are taken from the
complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only.
The Court has made no findings as to the truth of Plaintiff’s
Plaintiff alleges he was incarcerated from January to
December 2014 and during this time, slept in an overcrowded cell
with three other inmates. Complaint ¶ 6. Plaintiff states they
constantly had to step over him to use the toilet, the floors
were dirty and cleaning supplies were not provided, his sheets
were not changed regularly, the food was cold and they often had
to stand to eat. Id. He further states he sustained rashes due
to the showers which had 100 inmates using 2-3 showers. Id. He
states the overcrowdedness [sic] led to many fights.
He further states he law library privileges were limited
due to too many people on the library list. Id. He also states
his visits were cancelled repeatedly due to visitors exceeding
the maximum limit. Id.
Plaintiff seeks to be compensated for the conditions he
sustained in the CCCF. Complaint ¶ 7.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996)
(“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints in those civil
actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental
employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim
with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The
PLRA directs district courts to 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,
1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e because Plaintiff is a prisoner
proceeding in forma pauperis and is seeking redress from
government officials about the conditions of his confinement.
According to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will
not do.’” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). 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)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se
pleadings are liberally construed, they “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)
B. Section 1983 Actions
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights.
Section 1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory
... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of
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 ....
28 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to state a claim for relief under §
1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and,
second, that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by
a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins,
487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d
Cir. 2011); Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional
conditions of confinement during his detention at CCCF, and the
complaint could also be construed as raising a First Amendment
access to the courts claim.
A. Conditions of Pretrial Confinement
Plaintiff alleges he experienced constitutional conditions
of confinement at CCCF due to overcrowding. “[U]nder the Due
Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to an
adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law.”
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). 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 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, 441 U.S. at 542). Overcrowding
leading to conditions that “cause inmates to endure such genuine
privations and hardship over an extended period of time” and
that “become excessive in relation to the purposes assigned to
them” does constitute unconstitutional punishment, however.
Hubbard v. Taylor, 538 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted).
The claims against CCCF must be dismissed with prejudice
because it 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). Construing the complaint liberally and
giving Plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences, he
has sufficiently stated a claim for unconstitutional conditions
of confinement against Warden David Owens. Specifically, he
alleges that the overcrowded conditions led to unsanitary
conditions in the cells and showers as well as inadequate
library and visitation time. Considering the totality of the
circumstances alleged by Plaintiff, the Court finds that he has
sufficiently pled that he experienced unconstitutionally
punitive conditions at CCCF. The claim shall therefore be
permitted to proceed against the wardens in their individual
B. Access to the Courts
The complaint could also be reasonably construed as
attempting to raise a First Amendment denial of access to the
courts claim. Plaintiff alleges that he was denied access to the
“To establish a cognizable [access to the courts] claim, a
prisoner must demonstrate that he has suffered an actual injury
to his ability to present a claim.” Henry v. Moore, 500 F. App'x
115, 117 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S.
403, 415 (2002)). Additionally, “the claim must relate to either
a direct or collateral challenge to the prisoner's sentence or
conditions of confinement [and] a prisoner must demonstrate that
no other remedy will potentially compensate for the lost claim.”
Id. (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiff alleges that he was denied access to the law
library due to too many individuals waiting for the library.
Complaint ¶ 6. This is insufficient to allege an access to the
courts claim as Plaintiff has not identified a non-frivolous
claim he has lost or alleged that the policies impacted his
criminal case. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351 (1996)
(“[A]n inmate cannot establish relevant actual injury simply by
establishing that his prison's law library or legal assistance
program is subpar in some theoretical sense.”). This is claim is
dismissed without prejudice, and Plaintiff may amend this claim
if he is able to allege facts that address the deficiencies
noted by the Court.1
For the reasons stated above, the complaint shall proceed
on the due process claims against Warden Owens. The remainder of
the claims are dismissed without prejudice. An appropriate order
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
In the event Plaintiff elects to move to amend his complaint
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, he should note that
once 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
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