DOUGLAS v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 5/5/2017. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY; BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS;
WARDEN DAVID OWENS,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-09083 (JBS-AMD)
Melvin Douglas, Plaintiff Pro Se
517 Penn Street
Camden, NJ 08102
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Melvin Douglas seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), the Camden County Board of
Freeholders (“Freeholders”), and Warden David Owens. 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
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
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
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.
See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
exercising his responsibilities pursuant to state law.” Id.
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 alleges that he was confined in the CCCF
in 1997 to 1998, 1999 to 2000, 2001 to 2002, 2004 to 2005, 2005
to 2006, 2006 to 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 to
2015. Complaint § III. Plaintiff states: “Mental anguish,
unsanitary living conditions, unhealthy food, sickness, mental
side effects Incarseration [sic] sent to prison.” Id. He further
states, “They knew (David Owens [and] Board of Freeholders)
about these situations and did nothing to correct these
matters.” 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.
Plaintiff lists alleged injuries and states cursory
and conclusory allegations of “unsanitary living conditions” and
“unhealthy food” that are insufficient, without more, to state a
claim for relief. In order to make out a plausible claim for
relief and survive this Court’s review under § 1915, Plaintiff
must plead something more than “labels and conclusions” and
allege enough facts to support a reasonable inference that
defendants deprived him of a constitutional right. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. For a pretrial detainee, this means Plaintiff must
plead facts showing that the conditions he encountered shock the
conscience and thus violated his 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.
In addition, though the Freeholders and the Warden may
be proper defendants in a § 1983 action, the CCCF may not be
sued under § 1983. Plaintiff presumably seeks monetary damages3
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
Plaintiff has not stated any requested relief in the complaint.
may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name the CCCF as a
Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement
ending prior to December 8, 2014, those claims are barred by the
statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice,
meaning that Plaintiff cannot recover for those claims because
they have been brought too late.4 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 alleges the events giving rise to his claims
occurred during at least twelve different incarcerations between
1997 and 2015. Complaint § III. However, all but one of these
incarcerations occurred more than two years prior to the filing
of Plaintiff’s complaint. The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at CCCF, namely the overcrowding,
Plaintiff filed this complaint on December 8, 2016.
would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of
his detention; therefore, the statute of limitations for
Plaintiff’s claims arising from his incarcerations between 1997
and 2013 expired well before this complaint was filed in 2016.
Plaintiff therefore cannot recover for these claims.5
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. However, in the event Plaintiff does
elect to file an amended complaint, he should focus only on the
facts of his confinement from 2014 to 2015. Because Plaintiff’s
earlier claims are barred by the statute of limitations and must
be dismissed with prejudice, Plaintiff may not assert those
claims in an amended complaint.
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
Although the Court may toll, or extend, the statute of
limitations in the interests of justice, certain circumstances
must be present before it can do so. Tolling is not warranted in
this case because the state has not “actively misled” Plaintiff
as to the existence of his cause of action, there are no
extraordinary circumstances that prevented Plaintiff from filing
his claim, and there is nothing to indicate Plaintiff filed his
claim on time but in the wrong forum. See Omar v. Blackman, 590
F. App’x 162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014).
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.6 Id.
For the reasons stated above, the claims against the
CCCF are dismissed with prejudice. The claims arising from
Plaintiff’s 1997 to 1998, 1999 to 2000, 2001 to 2002, 2004 to
2005, 2005 to 2006, 2006 to 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and
2013 confinements are barred by the statute of limitations and
therefore are also dismissed with prejudice. The remainder of
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
An appropriate order follows.
May 5, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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