SMALLWOOD v. CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/27/2017. (TH, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ROBERT CHARLES SMALLWOOD,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 17-cv-00010 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL,
Robert Charles Smallwood, Plaintiff Pro Se
1039 Crest Road
Pine Hill, NJ 08021
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff Robert Charles Smallwood seeks to bring a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Camden County Jail (“CCJ”) for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) requires courts to review
complaints prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is
proceeding in forma pauperis. Courts 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: (1)
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against
CCJ; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure
to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
Claims Against CCJ: Dismissed With Prejudice
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Because the Complaint has not sufficiently alleged
that a “person” deprived Plaintiff of a federal right, the
Complaint does not meet the standards necessary to set forth a
prima facie case under § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff
asserts claims against CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement. The CCJ, 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)); Grabow v. Southern
State Corr. Facility, 726 F. Supp. 537, 538–39 (D.N.J. 1989)
(correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983). Given
See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658,
that the claims against the CCJ must be dismissed with
prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name
the CCJ as a defendant.
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to name a
person or persons who were personally involved in the alleged
unconstitutional conditions of confinement, however. To that
end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the
Complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.
Conditions Of Confinement Claims:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
Second, 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).
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
claim3, the Complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter” to
“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
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).
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.
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. §
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise
to Plaintiff’s claims, the present Complaint states: “Layed
[sic] on floor right next to door because there was 3 people to
a cell and I was the 1 on the floor in a room with 2 beds and
capacity of 2 adults so I had to sleep on the floor next to
door!” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states that these events occurred: “08-15-
16[;] 08-22-16.” Id. § III(B).
Plaintiff alleges that he sustained injuries of
“broke[n] nose, lump on back, fractured cheek bone and PTSD.”
Id. § IV.
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff “want[s]
the Court to put as many people in a cell that is [sic]
accommodated with beds! Also, guards could be nicer, and have
someone that could help with co[o]rdination with inmates, and
separate those who have problems with people!! The guards should
not treat people like scum, should be equal!!!” 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
Moreover, Plaintiff’s claim for prospective injunctive
relief must be dismissed as moot. Plaintiff has not stated a
request for monetary damages in the Complaint; rather,
Plaintiff’s request for relief states: “I want the Court to put
as many people in a cell that is [sic] accommodated with beds!
Also, guards could be nicer, and have someone that could help
with co[o]rdination with inmates, and separate those who have
problems with people!! The guards should not treat people like
scum, should be equal!!!” Complaint § V. Plaintiff is no longer
incarcerated at the CCJ, however. Plaintiff therefore lacks
standing to seek injunctive relief because he is no longer
subject to the allegedly unconstitutional conditions he seeks to
challenge. Abdul-Akbar v. Watson, 4 F.3d 195, 206-07 (3d Cir.
1993); Weaver v. Wilcox, 650 F.2d 22, 27 (3d Cir. 1981).4
Given that Plaintiff seeks a court injunction rather than money
damages, the Court further advises Plaintiff that he is one of
thousands of members of a certified class in a case on this
Court's docket captioned Dittimus-Bey, et al. v. Taylor, et al.,
Civil Action No. 1:05-cv-0063-JBS, United States District Court
for the District of New Jersey. The class plaintiffs are all
persons confined at the Camden County Correctional Facility
(“CCCF”), as either pretrial detainees or convicted prisoners,
at any time from January 6, 2005 until the present time. The
Dittimus-Bey class of plaintiffs seeks injunctive and
declaratory relief concerning allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at the CCCF involving overcrowding.
The Dittimus-Bey class action does not involve money damages for
individuals. There is a proposed final settlement of DittimusBey, which this Court preliminarily approved on February 22,
2017. That February 22 preliminary approval describes the
proposed settlement in detail. Various measures undertaken
pursuant to the Court-approved Second and Third Consent Decrees
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. To that end,
the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint
within 30 days of the date of this order.5
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended
complaint must plead specific facts regarding the conditions of
confinement. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint,
Plaintiff 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.
have reduced the CCCF jail population to fewer prisoners than
the intended design capacity for the jail, thereby greatly
reducing or eliminating triple and quadruple bunking in twoperson cells; these details are further explained in the
proposed Sixth and Final Consent Decree, which would continue
those requirements under Court supervision for two more years.
According to the Notice Of Class Action Settlement approved in
the Dittimus-Bey case on February 22, 2017, any class member can
object to the proposed settlement by filing an objection in the
Dittimus-Bey case before April 24, 2017. A final hearing is set
for May 23, 2017, at which time the Court will consider any
objections to the settlement. If the Dittimus-Bey settlement is
finally approved after the May 23, 2017 hearing, Plaintiff and
other class members will be barred from seeking injunctive or
declaratory relief for the period of time from January 6, 2005
until the date of final approval, but the settlement does not
bar any individual class member from seeking money damages in an
5 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
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: (a)
dismissed with prejudice as to the CCJ; and (b) dismissed
without prejudice for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order follows.
April 27, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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