MARR v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONS
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 5/3/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONS,
No. 16-cv-09082 (JBS-AMD)
William Marr, Plaintiff Pro Se
222 Sherwood Drive
Williamstown, NJ 08094
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff William Marr seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Department of Corrections (“CCDOC”). 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
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
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.
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.
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional
conditions of confinement during confinement, presumably, at the
“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,
Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). Complaint § III.
He does not allege the dates of his confinement at CCCF.
Plaintiff states: “I was arrested and was put in 7-day lock down
with 4 people in one cell, 2 people on the bunks and 2 people on
the floor for 7 day’s [sic]. Then they moved me to population
and spent 3 months on the floor. There where [sic] 3-4 people in
on cell at all times. The officer or C/O’s that where [sic]
assigned to handle the movement’s [sic] from intake to 7-day
lockdown. Then after the seven days on the floor, the CO’s where
[sic] fully aware of how many people where [sic] in each cell.
Everyone in uniform including serg[eants], CO’s, and
lieutenant’s where [sic] aware of people sleeping on the floor
for month’s [sic] on end. Even the Warden was aware . . . .” Id.
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.
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, etc. Plaintiff has not alleged the dates
when he was confined, nor does he claim to have suffered injury,
as he has left the “Damages” section of his Complaint blank.
Moreover, the CCDOC is not independently subject to
suit because it is not a separate legal entity from Camden
County. See Bermudez v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL
1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases). Plaintiff
has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability on Camden
The County is not liable under § 1983 merely because a
county employee violated someone’s rights. “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.”).
If Plaintiff hopes to recover against Camden County,
he 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 well-settled
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”
“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).
behind the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at
689. Plaintiff has made no such allegations.4
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.
Any amended complaint must also indicate the date of
the alleged constitutional violation. The statute of limitations
under § 1983 is two years. This means that Plaintiff’s
confinement at the CCCF must have occurred within two years
prior to his filing of the Complaint on December 8, 2016, or it
will be time-barred.
The Complaint does not name the Warden as a defendant.
Plaintiff alleges that the Warden was “aware” of the alleged
unconstitutional conditions, namely the overcrowding and that
inmates were sleeping on the floor, but has not alleged
sufficient facts to infer municipal liability on the part of
Camden County. Plaintiff has not alleged that the Warden is a
policymaker for Camden County. See, e.g., Shaw v. Burlington
Cty. Corr., Civ. No. 11-CV-07056, 2013 WL 3949021, at *6 (D.N.J.
Aug. 1, 2013) (“It is the plaintiff's burden . . . to establish
that a particular individual is a policymaker and even a warden
is not necessarily a policymaker for the purpose of Monell
liability”) (emphasis in original). Moreover, even if the Warden
were a Camden County policymaker, Plaintiff has not alleged
sufficient facts showing that the Warden affirmatively
instituted a policy or acquiesced in a well settled custom
resulting in a violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.
In any event, since the Complaint does not name the Warden or
any other person as a defendant, the Court does not determine
the issue of whether the Complaint states a claim against any
individual at this time.
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.
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.
May 3, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief 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?