WILLIAMS v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 5/9/2017. (rtm, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-09174 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY; WARDEN DAVID OWENS,
IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY,
Ricky Williams, Plaintiff Pro Se
774 Cherry Street
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Ricky Williams seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County
Correctional Facility (“CCCF”) and Warden David Owens in his
official capacity. 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
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 a
deprivation of his federal rights, the complaint does not set
forth a prima facie case under § 1983. Plaintiff alleges he
experienced unconstitutional conditions of confinement while
detained at the CCCF in 2008, 2013, and 2014. Complaint § III.
The fact section of the complaint states: “While being held in
the correctional facility I was forced to sleep on the floor in
a (2) man cell which was over crowed [sic] with (3) other
detainees.” Id. Even accepting the statement 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.
Moreover, Plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient to
infer or impose liability on the named defendants. First,
Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from CCCF for the 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.
In addition, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts
to impose liability on the Warden or, more specifically under
these circumstances, on Camden County.
Plaintiff has sued the Warden only in his official
capacity. There is a distinction between suits brought against
officials in their personal or individual capacity and those
brought against officials in their official capacity.
“[O]fficial capacity suits generally represent only another way
of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is
an agent.” Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991) (citing
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985)). Accordingly, for
example, suits against state officials only in their official
capacity are treated as suits against the State rather than
suits against the named officer. Id. “Because the real party in
interest in an official-capacity suit is the governmental entity
and not the named official, the entity's policy or custom must
have played a part in the violation of federal law.” Id. (citing
Graham, 473 U.S. at 166) (quotations omitted).
Here, because the Warden is an agent of Camden County,
Plaintiff’s suit against the Warden in his official capacity
must be treated as a suit against Camden County. Plaintiff
therefore must allege facts sufficient to support an inference
that Camden County’s policy or custom played a part in a
violation of Plaintiff’s federal 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.”).
Plaintiff 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 wellsettled 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 the County itself was the “moving
force” behind the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436
U.S. at 689. Because Plaintiff has not alleged any such facts,
the complaint does not contain enough factual support to infer
that Camden County is liable for the alleged constitutional
“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).
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.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
However, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during confinements ending
prior to December 13, 2014, including Plaintiff’s 2008 and 2013
confinements, those claims are barred by the statute of
limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice. 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). The allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at CCJ, namely the overcrowded
conditions, would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at
the time of his detention; therefore, the statute of limitations
for Plaintiff’s 2008 and 2013 claims expired, respectively, in
2010 and 2015, well before this complaint was filed on December
13, 2016. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended
complaint, he should focus on facts that occurred during his
2014 confinement, provided that his 2014 confinement ended on or
subsequent to December 13, 2014. Because claims arising from
confinements ending prior to December 13, 2014, are barred by
the statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice,
Plaintiff may not recover for those claims and may not assert
them in an amended complaint.
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, Plaintiff’s claims
arising from Plaintiff’s 2008 and 2013 confinements are barred
by the statute of limitations and therefore are 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 the Court.
An appropriate order follows.
May 9, 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?