ALVELO v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 10/19/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-08998 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Jonathan Alvelo, Plaintiff Pro Se
433 N. 7th Street, Apt 4P
Camden, NJ 08102
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Jonathan Alvelo seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden
County Jail (“CCJ”). 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 pauperis.
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 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 Cir. 1994).
Plaintiff names the CCJ as the sole defendant.
However, a prison is not a “state actor” within the meaning of §
1983. See Crawford v. McMillian, No. 16-3412, 2016 WL 6134846,
*2 (3d Cir. Oct. 21, 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)). The claims against it
must therefore be dismissed with prejudice.
Further, 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
claim1, 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)). 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).
“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
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. §
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.
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise
to Plaintiff’s claims, the present Complaint states: “When I
arrived to the Jail I was tased [sic] by the marshal that caused
holes on my body that the County Jail did nothing about…then
overcrowded caused to sleep on floor…every time we asked for
toilet paper they denied.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states this occurred on October 13, 2016
“until I was shipped out.” Id. § III(B) (Blank).
Plaintiff states that the “county did nothing about
the holes in my body.” Id. § IV.
For the requested relief, Plaintiff requests “pay me
out for my rights as human we shouldn’t have to get treated
worse than animals.” 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
With respect to Plaintiff’s claims of being “tased
[sic] by the marshal that caused holes on my body,” Plaintiff
does not allege any additional information. It is unclear
whether Plaintiff is attempting to raise an excessive force
claim or a denial of medical care claim.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
applies to pretrial detainees’ claims of inadequate medical
care. Bocchino v. City of Atlantic City, 179 F. Supp.3d 387, 403
(D.N.J. 2016). “[T]he Fourteenth Amendment in this context
incorporates the protections of the Eighth Amendment” (Holder v.
Merline, No. 05-1024, 2005 WL 1522130, at *3 (D.N.J. June 27,
2005) (citing Simmons v. City of Philadelphia, 947 F.2d 1042,
1067 (3d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 985 (1992)), and
most cases have stated that, at a minimum, the Eighth
Amendment’s “deliberate indifference” standard will suffice. In
other words, substantive due process rights are violated only
when the behavior of the government official is so egregious and
outrageous that it “shocks the conscience.” A.M. ex rel. J.M.K.
v. Luzerne Cnty. Juvenile Detention Ctr., 372 F.3d 572, 579 (3d
Cir. 2004) (citing County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833,
Applying this principle in the context of a claim for
violation of the right to adequate medical care, a pretrial
detainee must allege the following two elements to set forth a
cognizable cause of action: (1) a serious medical need; and (2)
behavior on the part of prison officials that constitutes
deliberate indifference to that need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318
F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003).
Here, Plaintiff’s non-specific assertions regarding
“holes in his body” is insufficient to meet this pleading
standard. Plaintiff offers no facts to satisfy either of the two
prongs required for his Medical Care Claim. Estelle, 429 U.S. at
106; Natale, 318 F.3d at 582. Should Plaintiff elect to amend,
he must allege sufficient facts to satisfy both prongs.
If Plaintiff was attempting to raise an excessive
force claim, Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts for this
court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred. A
pretrial detainee claim of excessive force is governed by the
Due Process Cause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects a
pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that amounts
to punishment. Kingsley v. Hendrickson, ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct.
2466, 2473, 192 L.Ed.2d 416 (2015) (quoting Graham v. Connor,
490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989)).
To demonstrate a due process violation based on the
use of excessive force, a pretrial detainee must prove that the
force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively
unreasonable, meaning that the actions were not rationally
related to a legitimate nonpunitive governmental purpose. Id.
(quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 561, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60
L.Ed.2d 447 (1979)). Here, there are not enough facts for the
court to infer whether a violation occurred. Plaintiff may elect
to amend his complaint.
Further, Plaintiff raises claims of unsanitary
conditions at the facility, such as “being denied toilet paper.”
Complaint § III(C), V.
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
However, the non-specific nature of Plaintiff’s
allegations as to these claims does not provide a reasonably
sufficient basis for this Court to infer that sanitary
conditions are in fact constitutional violations.
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed.
R. Civ. P.”) requires pleadings to contain “a short and plain
statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief; and demand for the relief sought . . . .”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3). While pro se complaints are
construed liberally and are held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers (Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)), pro se litigants nevertheless must still allege facts,
taken as true, to suggest the required elements of the claims
asserted. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35
(3d Cir. 2008); McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113
(1993)(“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in
ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse
mistakes by those who proceed without counsel”).
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 these claims are facially plausible as they do not offer
facts that are necessary to show that he was subjected to a
genuine privation for an extended period. Fowler, 578 F.3d at
210. Therefore, 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.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the complaint to name state
actors who were personally involved in the alleged
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. To that end, the
Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within
30 days of the date of this order.2
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
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
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.
October 19, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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