SAUNDERS v. C.C.C.F.
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/8/17. (jbk, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-09534 (JBS-AMD)
Andre Saunders, Plaintiff Pro Se
1 East Randolph Street, Apt A-6
Camden, NJ 08105
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
By Complaint dated December 28, 2016, Plaintiff Andre
Saunders sought to bring a civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1 (“Original Complaint”), §
III(A). The Complaint stated in its entirety: “Placed in the
room with 4 other inmates was forced on the floor with a nasty
leaking toilet with water on the floor” (id. § III(C)) at
“Camden County Jail” (id. § III(A)) during March 23, 2010,
August 30, 2013, September 21, 2013, March 12, 2014, and
September 11, 2016. Id. § III(B).
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No.
104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77, requires a
court to review complaints prior to service in cases in which a
plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2). 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.
In accordance with these directives of the PLRA, this
Court undertook the requisite screening and, by Order dated May
8, 2017 (Docket Entry 11 (“Dismissal Order”)): (a) dismissed
with prejudice Plaintiff’s claims against the Camden County
Jail; and (b) dismissed without prejudice Plaintiff’s claims
alleging constitutional violations as to conditions of
The May 8, 2017 dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim against
the Camden County Jail was with prejudice because, as explained
in this Court’s Opinion that accompanied the Dismissal Order,
correctional facilities are not “state actors” subject to
liability within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Docket Entry
10, at 5-6 (“Dismissal Opinion”) (citing 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)).
The May 8, 2017 dismissal of Plaintiff’s conditions of
confinement claim was without prejudice because, even accepting
the statements in § III of Plaintiff’s Complaint as true for
screening purposes only (“Placed in the room with 4 other
inmates was forced on the floor with a nasty leaking toilet with
water on the floor” (Original Complaint § III(C)), there was not
enough factual support for the Court to infer that a
constitutional violation had occurred in connection with
Plaintiff’s incarceration. Dismissal Opinion at 16-17.
The Dismissal Order granted Plaintiff leave to amend
the Complaint within 30 days of the date of the Dismissal Order
to plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that
a constitutional violation occurred during his confinement, such
as: adverse conditions that were caused by specific state
actors; adverse conditions that caused Plaintiff to endure
genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time;
or adverse conditions that were excessive in relation to their
On June 1, 2017, Plaintiff submitted an Amended
Complaint, again asserting claims arising from incarceration at
“Camden County Jail” (Docket Entry 5 (“Amended Complaint”) at §
III(A)), but differing from the Original Complaint as to
conditions of confinement facts and alleged injuries:
a. First, as to conditions of confinement facts, the
Amended Complaint contends that Plaintiff: (i) “I was
forced to sleep in a cell that’s made for (2) inmates,
but there was (4) of us sleeping in the cell”; (ii) “I
was served cold food that I had to eat while on the
floor 1 foot from the toilet bowl, that was full of
urine, mold and mildew”; (iii) “very poor ventilation
that caused my asthma to act up”; (iv) “contracted a
boil due to these nasty living conditions”; (v) “food
was being served by inmates right off the street who
are not medically cleared to serve food”; and (vi)
“there horrible conditions has contributed to my
present state of mind which is constantly depressed,
withdrawn and afraid to be around people for long
periods of time.” Amended Complaint, Docket Entry 5, §
III(C). Original Complaint, § III(C). In short, the
Amended Complaint does not adopt the allegations in
the Original Complaint as to conditions of confinement
b. Second, as to alleged injuries, the Amended Complaint
contends that Plaintiff “contracted a boil due to
these nasty living conditions.” Amended Complaint §
IV. Plaintiff denied sustaining any injuries in the
Original Complaint. Original Complaint § IV (“N/A”).
In short, the Amended Complaint does not adopt the
allegations in the Original Complaint as to
Plaintiff’s purported injuries.
In accordance with the directives of the PLRA, the
Court must now screen the Amended Complaint to dismiss any claim
that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from suit.
Pursuant to this mandate of the PLRA, the Court now finds that
Plaintiff’s June 1, 2017 Amended Complaint is insufficient to
constitute an amended complaint that survives this Court’s
review under § 1915.
First, Plaintiff in his Amended Complaint now brings
suit against: “Persons and/ or employees at Camden County Jail
who are Warden D. Owens, Capt. K. Taylor, Class Dept. L. Kareem,
Medical Sup. C. Martinelli along with various officers and
sergeants who would fall under the superiors.”
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)).1 To
“Person” is not strictly limited to individuals who are state
and local government employees, however. For example,
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 now has named “persons and or employees at
Camden County Jail” and lists the following: “Warden D. Owens,
Capt. K. Taylor, Class Dept. L. Kareem, Medical Sup. C.
Martinelli, along with various officers and Sargent’s who would
fall under the superiors.”
The Complaint must be dismissed without prejudice as
to claims made against Owens, Taylor, Kareem, Martinelli and the
various other officers because the Complaint does “[not]
allege any personal involvement by [the wardens] in any
constitutional violation – a fatal flaw, since ‘liability in a §
1983 suit cannot be predicated solely on the operation of
respondeat superior.’” Baker v. Flagg, 439 F. App’x 82, 84 (3d
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,
Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207
(3d Cir. 1988)). “[Plaintiff’s] complaint contains no
allegations regarding [the] Warden[s]. ‘Because vicarious
liability is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must
plead that each Government-official defendant, through the
official's own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution.’ Thus, [plaintiff] failed to state a claim against
[the] Warden[s].” Bob v. Kuo, 387 F. App’x 134, 136 (3d Cir.
2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)).
Plaintiff was provided leave to amend the Complaint to plead
sufficient facts that were caused by specific state actors, yet
Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts attributable to the
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims against
defendants must be dismissed.
Second, like the Original Complaint, the Amended
Complaint still does not set forth sufficient factual support
for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has
occurred as to conditions of confinement.
Due process analysis requires courts to consider
whether the totality of confinement 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.” Hubbard v. Taylor,
538 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Due process protections
“secure the individual from the arbitrary exercise of the powers
of government, unrestrained by the established principles of
private right and distributive justice.” Hurtado v. California,
110 U.S. 516, 527 (1884). “[O]nly the most egregious official
conduct can be said to be ‘arbitrary in the constitutional
sense,’ Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 129
(1992), thereby recognizing the point made by Chief Justice
Marshall, that ‘it is a constitution we are expounding,’ Daniels
v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332 (1985) (quoting M'Culloch v.
Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819) (emphasis in original)).” City of
Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846 (1998).
Furthermore, the Constitution “does not mandate
comfortable prisons.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349
Accordingly, to demonstrate that purportedly crowded
incarceration conditions of a pretrial detainee shock the
conscience and thus violate due process rights, more is
necessary than, such as Plaintiff herein alleges, simply “served
cold food” or “poor ventilation that caused asthma to act up.”
Amended Complaint § III(C). Thus, the Amended Complaint does not
cure the pleading defects in the Original Complaint as to
Plaintiff’s condition of confinement claims.
Therefore, even liberally construing the Complaint and
the Amended Complaint as this Court is required to do, Mala v.
Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013),
Plaintiff has still failed to plead sufficient facts to support
a reasonable inference that a constitutional violation occurred
during his incarceration in order to survive this Court’s review
under § 1915.
In light of the opportunity that has already been
afforded to Plaintiff by this Court’s May 8, 2017 Dismissal
Order to submit a complaint that meets the requisite pleading
standards, and given Plaintiff’s inability in the June 1, 2017
Amended Complaint to allege facts sufficient to survive § 1915
review, the Court concludes that permitting further amendment
would be futile and hereby dismisses the entirety of all claims
in both the Original Complaint and in the Amended Complaint with
prejudice. See Hoffenberg v. Bumb, 446 F. App'x 394, 399 (3d
Cir. 2011); Rhett v. N.J. State Superior Court, 260 F. App'x
513, 516 (3d Cir. 2008) (affirming dismissal with prejudice
after District Court gave pro se plaintiff several opportunities
to comply with Rule 8).
For the reasons stated above: (a) the Complaint
remains dismissed with prejudice as to Plaintiff’s claims
against the defendants; (b) the Complaint is dismissed with
prejudice as to claims concerning conditions of confinement, for
failure to state a claim; and (c) the Amended Complaint is
dismissed with prejudice in its entirety, for failure to state a
An appropriate order follows.
June 8, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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