CARTER v. OWENS et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 7/20/2017. (dmr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 17-cv-00182 (JBS-AMD)
WARDEN DAVE OWENS, CITY
OF CAMDEN, STATE OF NEW
JERSEY, MAYOR OF CITY OF
CAMDEN, BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS
OF CAMDEN COUNTY, COUNTY
OF CAMDEN, and
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
Jermaine Carter, Plaintiff Pro Se
Bayside State Prison
4293 Route 47
Leesburg, NJ 08327
SIMANDLE, District Judge:
Plaintiff Jermaine Carter seeks to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden
Dave Owens (“Warden” or “Owens”), City of Camden (“City”), State
of New Jersey (“State”), the Mayor of City of Camden (“Mayor”),
Board of Freeholders of Camden County (“BOF”), County of Camden
(“County”), and Camden Correctional Facility (“CCF”) for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint,
Docket Entry 1 at § 4(b)-(c) and at 7 - 8.1
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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) and 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e because Plaintiff
is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis and is filing a claim
about the conditions of his confinement.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (1)
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against
CCCF; (2) dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made
against State of New Jersey; and (3) dismiss the Complaint
Subsequent to the Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Motion
to Amend Complaint “so as to name the defendant whose name and
identity where [sic] previously unknown to the plaintiff in the
complaint. The name of the defendant is the City of Camden of
the State of New Jersey. Also naming David Owens[,] Warden of
the Camden County Correctional Facility.” Docket Entry 3 at 1.
Given that the City and Owens are already named as defendants in
the original Complaint (Docket Entry 1 at 1), the claims against
these defendants are, in fact, screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) in this Opinion and accompanying Order.
without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. §
A. Claims Against CCCF: Dismissed With Prejudice
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 19832 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)).3 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.
3 “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 Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 69091 (1978).
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. at
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 seeks
monetary damages 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)); 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
that 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.
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 that this Opinion and
accompanying Order are entered on the docket.
B. Claims Against The State: Dismissed With Prejudice
Plaintiff’s claims against the State of New Jersey
(Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 1) must be dismissed based on the
Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which
provides: “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or
prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of
another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”
U.S. Const. amend. XI. Plaintiff may not bring a suit against
the State in federal court unless Congress has expressly
abrogated New Jersey's sovereign immunity or the State consents
to being sued in federal court. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). Here, Congress did not expressly
abrogate sovereign immunity when it passed § 1983, see id., and
there is no indication New Jersey has consented to Plaintiff's
suit. The claims against the State of New Jersey must be
dismissed with prejudice.
C. Claims Against The County, The City and The BOF:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
As to claims against the County, the City, and the
BOF, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability
on these defendants. “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 Servs., 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 well-settled
custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990).4
“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
In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an
inference that Camden County itself was the “moving force”
behind an alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at
689. Plaintiff has not done so.
Plaintiff contends that the County, the City, and the
BOF “were responsible for the overcrowding of the [CCCF]
facility and failed to resolve the matter and the violations it
caused” (Complaint, § 4(c)), along with various other alleged
jail conditions and due process violations. Complaint, Docket
Entry 1 at 6 – 7. The Complaint states that the County and the
City were “responsible for the overcrowding of the facility
[and] for not resolving the issues of overcrowding and the
subsequent problems that [were] attributed to it.” Id. at 7.
Plaintiff has not pled the necessary facts to impose
liability on the County, the City, or the BOF because 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 that Plaintiff has been the victim of any
constitutional violations with respect to overcrowded conditions
of confinement, various other jail conditions, or due process
violations, as explained in greater detail below in this
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).
Opinion. In other words, the Complaint does not set forth facts
supporting an inference that Camden County itself was the
“moving force” behind any alleged constitutional violation.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
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 that this Opinion and accompanying Order are entered on
D. Claims Against the Warden and the Mayor: Dismissed
With respect to Owens, Plaintiff contends that the
Warden “was directly in charge of the daily operations of the
facility, fully participated in the conditions being complained
about [and] is responsible . . . for the overcrowding of the
facility [and] continuing acceptance of inmates knowing that
there was an existing problem of where to house inmates.”
Complaint at § 4(b) and at 7.
With respect to the Mayor, Plaintiff contends that
this defendant was “responsible for all of the City of Camden
To the extend the Plaintiff seeks to impose liability upon
the City of Camden, as distinct from the County of Camden,
for conditions at CCCF, the Court is unaware of any
responsibility the City has for conditions at the County
facility. Plaintiff should not name the City as a
defendant in any Amended Complaint unless he can allege a
basis for the City’s liability grounded in fact.
affairs [and was] responsible for the overcrowding of the
facility and failed to resolve the matter and the violations it
caused.” Complaint § 4(c).
Even accepting the statements in Plaintiff’s Complaint
as true for screening purposes only, and as explained in greater
detail below in this Opinion, there is not enough factual
support for the Court to infer that any constitutional
violations have occurred in the first instance with respect to:
overcrowded conditions of confinement, other jail conditions
referenced in the Complaint, alleged retaliation, or alleged due
process violations. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a
claim against Owens and the Mayor because the Complaint does
“[not] allege any personal involvement by [them] 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
Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207
(3d Cir. 1988)). “‘Because vicarious liability is inapplicable
to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Governmentofficial defendant, through the official's own individual
actions, has violated the Constitution.’ Thus, [plaintiff]
failed to state a claim against [these individuals].” Bob v.
Kuo, 387 F. App’x 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)). Accord Hussein v. State of New
Jersey, 403 F. App’x 712, 716 (3d Cir. 2010) (“The claims
against the remaining defendants were properly dismissed sua
sponte for failure to state a claim.
[The] Mayor [of Jersey
City] cannot be sued under § 1983 on the basis of a respondeat
superior theory. See Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207[-1208] [‘A defendant
in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the
alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated solely on the
operation of respondeat superior. Personal involvement can be
shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual
knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or
actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with
appropriate particularity. Compare Boykins v. Ambridge Area Sch.
Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980) (civil rights complaint
adequate where it states time, place, persons responsible)’])”).
In other words, Plaintiff here has not offered facts
suggesting that the Warden or the Mayor, through their own
individual actions, have violated the Constitution. Bob, 387 F.
App’x at 136. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
against Owens and the Mayor.6
Further, the Court is again unaware of any basis for
claiming that the Mayor of the City of Camden is somehow
responsible for conditions in the Camden County Jail;
therefore, Plaintiff should not name the Mayor in any
Amended Complaint unless he has a factual and legal basis
for doing so.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims against the Warden and
the Mayor will be dismissed without prejudice.
E. Conditions Of Confinement Claims: Dismissed Without
Overcrowded Conditions of Confinement
Plaintiff alleges that he experienced “forceful
conditions of overcrowding” while incarcerated at CCCF,
including but not limited to “being forced to sleep on the floor
and under the bed” (hereinafter referred to as Plaintiff’s
“Overcrowding Claim”). Complaint § III(C).
As explained below, the Court will dismiss the
Overcrowding Claim without prejudice for failure to state a
claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). The 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. The Court will accept as true for
screening purposes only the statements in Plaintiff’s Complaint,
but there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer
that an unconstitutional overcrowding violation has occurred.
To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a
claim7, 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
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)
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, 556 U.S. at 678
(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.
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise
to Plaintiff’s claims, the Complaint states that he was confined
(citing Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir.
2012)); Allah, 229 F.3d at 223; 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. § 1915A(b)).
at the CCCF from “January 3, 2016 to September 30, 2016” and
suffered “cruel and unusual punishment due to the forceful
conditions of overcrowding.” Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6.
Plaintiff sets forth several alleged constitutional violations
he experienced while incarcerated, including “quadruple-triple
bunking” and “overcrowding.” Id. at 6-7.8
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered “a great
deal of pain and suffering” and “cruel and unusual punishment”
during these events. Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6.
Plaintiff seeks: “general damages, punitive damages[,]
[and] monetary damages in the amount of [$]1,000,000,000,” along
with “an injunction9 that the defendants stop their actions of
overcrowding the [CCCF].” Id. at 8.
Plaintiff’s Notice of Motion to Amend Complaint, filed
subsequent to the Complaint, refers to “new facts contained in
the plaintiff’s amended complaint attached here to [sic] [that]
are necessary to enable plaintiff here to prove his case.”
Docket Entry 3 at 2. The Notice did not append any such
purported amended complaint. See Docket Entry 3 at 1 – 4. See
also Proof of Service to Notice of Motion to Amend Complaint:
“I, Jermaine, Carter, caused to have mailed the following
documents of[:] Notice to Amend Complaint; Notice for Pro Bono
Attorney[;] And Affidavit of Poverty. To the United States
District Court, District of New Jersey. On February 07, 2017 via
regular mail.” Docket Entry 3 at 3. As of the date of this
Opinion, the only filing by Plaintiff subsequent to the Notice
of Motion to Amend Complaint is his Application to Proceed In
Forma Pauperis. Docket Entry 4.
9 The Court advises Plaintiff that he is one of thousands of
members of a certified class in the case on this court's docket
entitled, Dittimus-Bey v. Camden County Correctional Facility,
Civil No. 05-cv-0063 (JBS), which is a class action case. The
class plaintiffs are all persons confined at the CCCF, as either
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
of overcrowding 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
pretrial detainees or convicted prisoners, at any time from
January 6, 2005, until the present time. The class of
plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief about
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the CCCF involving
overcrowding. That class action does not involve money damages
for individuals. A proposed final settlement of that case, which
describes the settlement in detail, was preliminarily approved
on February 22, 2017. At present, various measures already
undertaken in the Second and Third Consent Decrees under court
approval have reduced the jail population to fewer prisoners
than the intended design capacity for the jail. This has greatly
reduced or eliminated triple and quadruple bunking in two-person
cells, as 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 to all
class members that was approved in the Dittimus-Bey case on
February 22, 2017, any class member had the opportunity to
object to the proposed settlement by filing an objection in the
Dittimus-Bey case before April 24, 2017. No objections were
filed. Final approval is pending, and if approved, 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
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) (“Hubbard II”) (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”) (citing Union Cnty. Jail Inmates v. DiBuono, 713 F.2d
984, 992 (3d Cir. 1983) (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 542)). 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 confinement, etc.
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 that this Opinion and accompanying
Order are entered on the docket.10
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended
complaint must plead specific facts regarding the overcrowded
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 §
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
The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court in this Opinion and
Jail Conditions Claims
Besides the Overcrowding Claim, Plaintiff also
complains about these conditions of confinement: (a) lack of
“suitable conditions to use the toilet”; (b) “lack of
ventilation”; (c) “eating in a confined cell on the floor”; (d)
“being subjected to unsanitary conditions”; and (e) lack of
“access to the pod unit’s DayRoom Space” (hereinafter
collectively referred to as “Jail Conditions Claims”).
Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6-7 (“At the time of this cruel and
unusual punishment, I had been subjected to . . .”).
Convicted prisoners are protected from “cruel and
unusual punishments” by the Eighth Amendment. Rhodes v. Chapman,
452 U.S. 337 (1981).
“[T]he treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the
conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny
under the Eighth Amendment.” Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25,
31 (1993). The Eighth Amendment prohibits punishment
inconsistent with “evolving standards of decency that mark the
progress of a maturing society.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
102 (1976) (quoting Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958)).
Conditions of prison confinement violate the Eighth Amendment
only if they “deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure
of life's necessities.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347. Prison
officials must “take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety
of the inmates.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984).
A prison official's “deliberate indifference” to a substantial
risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). As the Supreme
Court stated in DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep’t of Soc.
Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199-200 (1989): “[W]hen the State takes a
person into its custody and holds him there against his will,
the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume
some responsibility for his safety and general well being....
The rationale for this principle is simple enough: when the
State by the affirmative exercise of its power so restrains an
individual's liberty that it renders him unable to care for
himself, and at the same time fails to provide for his basic
human needs -- e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and
reasonable safety -- it transgresses the substantive limits on
state action set by the Eighth Amendment...”
Claims for Eighth Amendment violation have both an
objective and subjective component.
In Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 303 (1991), the
Supreme Court held that to establish an Eighth Amendment
violation, an inmate must allege both: (a) an objective element
-- that the deprivation was sufficiently serious; and (b) a
subjective element -- that a prison official acted with a
sufficiently culpable state of mind, i.e., deliberate
indifference to plaintiff’s health or safety. See also Farmer,
511 U.S. at 834. Accord Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120,
125 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). “To
satisfy the first prong of this test, the condition of
confinement at issue must deprive the prisoner of the minimum of
civilized life's basic necessities -- food, water, shelter. The
state of mind necessary for a viable claim under the second
prong is ‘deliberate indifference’ to inmate health or safety, a
standard that requires actual knowledge or awareness of the risk
of the condition of confinement to the prisoner.” Ridgeway v.
Guyton, 663 F. App’x 203, 205 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal citations
Applying this framework, the Court will address the
individual Jail Conditions Claims in turn. For the reasons set
forth below, each of these Claims will be dismissed without
a. Toilet Conditions Claim
Plaintiff alleges that he did not have “suitable
conditions to use the toilet” (hereinafter referred to as
“Toilet Conditions Claim”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6.
This vague and non-specific allegation does not
satisfy either prong of the Eighth Amendment test.
In fact, Plaintiff’s allegation about his Toilet
Conditions Claim does not, in the first instance, provide a
reasonably sufficient basis for this Court to infer the type,
duration or severity of the “conditions” from which the Toilet
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed.
R. Civ. P.”) requires pleadings to contain “a short and plain
statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . .
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief; and demand for the relief sought . . . .”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)-(3). While pro se complaints are
construed liberally and are held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers (Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972)), pro se litigants nevertheless must still allege facts,
taken as true, to suggest the required elements of the claims
asserted. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35
(3d Cir. 2008); McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113
(1993)(“[W]e have never suggested that procedural rules in
ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse
mistakes by those who proceed without counsel”).
Here, the Court cannot discern from Plaintiff’s non-
specific reference to “suitable conditions to use the toilet”
(Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6) the nature of the claim
Plaintiff intends to pursue against any particular defendant as
to this alleged condition of confinement. For example, the
Complaint is silent regarding: the characteristics or aspects of
the Toilet Conditions that made them “[un]suitable” (id.);
whether the toilet at issue was the unit inside Plaintiff’s cell
at CCCF or was part of the restroom facility for the CCCF prison
population generally; whether Plaintiff sustained any injury
from the alleged conditions; whether alternate restroom
facilities were made available to Plaintiff to account for the
allegedly “[un]suitable” unit of which he complains; and the
reason for the unsuitable nature of the toilet referred to in
the Complaint (e.g., plumbing maintenance schedule, plumbing
malfunction, etc.). Without facts such as these, Plaintiff has
provided the Court no basis to reasonably infer that the Toilet
Condition was sufficiently serious or that any particular
defendant acted with deliberate indifference with respect to
Plaintiff’s health and safety as to the Toilet Condition.
For example, in Ridgeway, the complaint suggested that the
toilet would occasionally overflow. The court affirmed
“[Plaintiff] impl[ied] at most that the toilet
would overflow from time to time. He did not at
any point allege that the overflowing was
continuous or, in any event, make allegations
sufficient to plausibly suggest that he was forced
to ‘live in squalor.’ He did not raise any health
concerns or health problems arising from the
broken toilet. His allegations, therefore, fell
far short of those that courts have held to
satisfy the requirement of an ‘objectively,
sufficiently serious’ injury. Although we do not
doubt that the problem with the toilet was
unpleasant, we must conclude, under the totality
of the circumstances, that Ridgeway's complaint
failed to allege the objectively, ‘sufficiently
serious’ conditions of confinement necessary for
a viable Eighth Amendment claim.”
Ridgeway, 663 F. App’x at 205-06 (internal citations omitted).
See also Junne v. Atlantic City Med. Ctr., No. 07-5262, 2008 WL
343557, at *10 (D.N.J. Feb. 4, 2008) (dismissing plaintiff’s
conditions of confinement claim where plaintiff alleged that the
jail’s lack of a private bathroom and his “need to use the
toilet in the presence of a total stranger caused substantial
embarrassment,” because “plaintiff’s embarrassment ensuing from
having another person in the cell while plaintiff uses the
toilet cannot qualify as a violation of plaintiff’s
constitutional rights”). “There is, of course, a de minimis
level of imposition with which the Constitution is not
concerned.” Bell, 441 U.S. 539 n. 21. Plaintiff has failed to
present facts demonstrating that the Toilet Conditions here
passed this threshold.
The Complaint does not set forth sufficient factual
matter to show that the Toilet Conditions Claim is facially
plausible. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. The Toilet Conditions Claim
will be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend.
b. Ventilation Conditions
Plaintiff claims to have been “subjected to lack of
ventilation” (hereinafter referred to as “Ventilation Conditions
Claim”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 7.
As noted above, the relevant Eighth Amendment inquiry
is “whether the alleged deprivation is ‘sufficiently serious’
and whether the inmate has been deprived of the ‘minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities.’ Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834 (citing Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347). [Plaintiff] must
demonstrate that ‘he is incarcerated under conditions posing a
substantial risk of serious harm’ and that prison officials
demonstrated ‘deliberate indifference’ to his health or safety.
Id. However, only ‘extreme deprivations’ are sufficient to
sufficiently allege claims for conditions of confinement. Hudson
v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1992).” Riley v. DeCarlo, 532 F.
App’x 23, 26 (3d Cir. 2013).
The Eighth Amendment affords a right to adequate
ventilation and to be free from extreme hot and cold
temperatures. Wilson v. Cook Cnty. Bd. of Comm’rs, 878 F. Supp.
1163, 1169 (N.D. Ill. 1995). However, the Constitution does not
guarantee the right to be free from all discomfort while
incarcerated, Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 349, and so “the Eighth
Amendment is concerned with both the ‘severity’ and the
‘duration’ of the prisoner's exposure to inadequate cooling and
ventilation. ‘[I]t is not just the severity of the cold, but the
duration of the condition, which determines whether the
conditions of confinement are unconstitutional.’” Chandler v.
Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1295 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal citations
omitted). “Inadequate ‘ventilation and air flow’ violates the
Eighth Amendment if it ‘undermines the health of inmates and the
sanitation of the penitentiary.’ Hoptowit v. Spellman, 753 F.2d
779, 784 (9th Cir. 1985).” Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090
(9th Cir. 1996).
However, as noted above, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 requires
litigants to allege facts, taken as true, to suggest the
required elements of the claims asserted.
Here, Plaintiff’s generalized allegation of being
“subjected to lack of ventilation” (Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at
6-7) does not provide any facts whatsoever from which to infer
that the Ventilation Conditions were sufficiently serious or
that any particular defendant acted with deliberate indifference
with respect to Plaintiff’s health and safety as to ventilation.
For example, Plaintiff has offered no facts to
demonstrate that the “lack of ventilation” was sufficiently
serious, such as: temperature range inside his cell in the
pertinent time period; dates when Plaintiff allegedly
experienced inadequate ventilation; whether the alleged lack of
ventilation caused conditions that were too hot or were too
cold; outside air temperatures and humidity levels experienced
in CCCF’s geographic location in New Jersey during the pertinent
time period; the ambient temperature in Plaintiff’s CCCF cell in
that period; whether Plaintiff suffered ventilation-related
health complications; whether, and when, he made grievances to
CCCF staff regarding the ventilation; and whether he required or
requested medications to deal with any medical problems
sustained as a result of the ventilation. (The foregoing
examples are merely illustrative but not exhaustive or
exclusive.) While ventilation at CCCF may have been less than
ideal, Plaintiff has not offered any facts from which it can be
inferred that it was unconstitutional.
Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges no facts suggesting
that any defendants actually knew of and disregarded any
excessive risk to Plaintiff’s safety from the alleged
Ventilation Conditions. As with the objective component,
Plaintiff therefore also has not satisfied the subjective prong
of the Eighth Amendment for his claim.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Ventilation Conditions Claim
shall be dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend.
c. DayRoom Access Claim
Plaintiff contends that he did “not have access to the
pod unit’s DayRoom Space” (hereinafter referred to as “DayRoom
Claim”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6. Plaintiff does not
describe the contents, purpose, layout, or size of the DayRoom,
so the Court will construe the term to refer to common area
space in CCCF accessible to the general inmate population.
Plaintiff does not offer any facts regarding the
purpose or contents of the DayRoom Space, such as, for example:
exercise, recreation, television, reading material, board games,
eating, writing surfaces and materials, or sleeping. Plaintiff
also does not describe how lack of access to the DayRoom
Under these circumstances, the Court finds that
Plaintiff has not satisfied the objective prong of the Eighth
Amendment. While this Court recognizes that the denial of
exercise or recreation may result in a constitutional violation,
Peterkin v. Jeffes, 855 F.2d 1021, 1031-33 (3d Cir. 1988), the
vagaries of Plaintiff’s allegation about “access to DayRoom
Space” (Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6) do not, without any
facts, afford a reasonable basis for this Court to construe the
type of claim Plaintiff seeks to assert. Without additional
details about the nature of his Dayroom Claim, Plaintiff has not
demonstrated that denial of access to it was sufficiently
serious to deprive him of the minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities. Tillman v. Lebanon Cnty. Corr. Facility, 221
F.3d 410, 418 (3d Cir. 2000).
Moreover, even if Plaintiff were to have met the
objective prong of an Eighth Amendment claim, Plaintiff would
still fail to satisfy the subjective prong for the DayRoom
Claim. The subjective prong requires a plaintiff to show that a
defendant exhibited a “deliberate indifference” to the
plaintiff's health or safety. Plaintiff has not submitted any
evidence showing that any defendants possessed such a state of
mind. Indeed, he has not named specific defendants allegedly
liable under the DayRoom Claim.
Accordingly, the DayRoom Claim will be dismissed
without prejudice, with leave to amend.
d. Eating and Unsanitary Conditions
Plaintiff’s remaining Jail Conditions Claims also are
insufficient to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983.
Plaintiff offers vague and cursory allegations that he was
“subjected to unsanitary conditions” and “subject to eating in a
confined cell on the floor.” Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6, 7.
These allegations essentially complain of an “inconvenient and
uncomfortable situation”; however, “‘the Constitution does not
mandate comfortable prisons.’” Carson, 488 F. App'x at 560
(citing Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 349); see also, Marnin v. Pinto, 463
F.2d 583, 584 (3d Cir. 1972) (“blanket statements alleging bad
food and miserable living conditions in the prison” were “naked
statements [that do not] ordinarily merit Federal court
As these claims do not allege “sufficient factual
matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible, Fowler,
578 F.3d at 210, but instead offer only “labels or conclusions,”
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678, they shall be dismissed without
prejudice for failure to state a claim.
F. Retaliation Claims: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff states that “if I choose to opposed [sic] to
the conditions of being forced to quadruple-triple bunking I
would be retaliated against by the correctional staff. By way of
being written up [referred to hereinafter as “Write-Up”], placed
in solitary confinement [referred to hereinafter as “Isolation”]
and the loss of privileges [referred to hereinafter as
“Privilege Loss”]. Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 7.
The Court construes Plaintiff’s contention that he was
given Write-Up, Isolation, and Privilege Loss “if [he] chose
to oppose. . . quadruple-triple bunking conditions” (id.) as a
claim that prison officials retaliated against him for exercise
of his First Amendment right to free speech (referred to
hereinafter as “Retaliation Claim”). For the reasons set forth
below, this claim will be dismissed without prejudice.
Retaliation For Exercise Of First Amendment Right
Of Free Speech
The Complaint here does not set forth sufficient
factual support for the Court to infer that prison officials
retaliated against Plaintiff for exercise of his First Amendment
constitutional right of free speech.
“‘The First Amendment right to free speech includes
not only the affirmative right to speak, but also the right to
be free from retaliation by a public official for the exercise
of that right . . . Retaliation, though it is not expressly
referred to in the Constitution, is nonetheless actionable
because retaliatory actions may tend to chill individuals'
exercise of constitutional rights.’” Bartley v. Taylor, 25 F.
Supp.2d 521 (M.D. Pa. 2014) (internal citations omitted). “[T]he
key question in determining whether a cognizable First Amendment
claim has been stated is whether ‘the alleged retaliatory
conduct was sufficient to deter a person of ordinary firmness
from exercising his First Amendment rights.’” Thomas v.
Independence Twp., 463 F.3d 285, 296 (3d Cir. 2013). “This same
test has been applied in the prison context.” Allah v.
Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 225 (3d Cir. 2000).
To set forth a prima facie claim of retaliation
against prison officials, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) the
conduct that led to the alleged retaliation was constitutionally
protected; (2) the plaintiff suffered some adverse action at the
hands of prison officials; and (3) a causal link between the
exercise of his constitutional rights and the adverse action
taken against him, or, more specifically, that plaintiff’s
constitutionally protected conduct was “a substantial or
motivating factor” in the decision to take retaliatory action.
The plaintiff bears the initial burden of proving that his
constitutionally protected conduct was a substantial or
motivating factor in the decision to discipline him or retaliate
against him. Rauser v. Horn, 241 F.3d 330, 333 (3d Cir. 2001).
To state a claim for retaliatory treatment, “a complaint need
only ‘allege a chronology of events from which retaliation may
be inferred.’” Bendy v. Ocean Cnty. Jail, 341 F. App’x 799, 802
(3d Cir. 2009) (internal citation omitted). “Because motivation
is almost never subject to proof by direct evidence,
[plaintiffs] [usually] rely on circumstantial evidence to prove
a retaliatory motive. [Plaintiffs] can satisfy [t]his burden
with evidence of either (1) an unusually suggestive temporal
proximity between the protected activity and the allegedly
retaliatory action, or (2) a pattern of antagonism coupled with
timing that suggests a causal link.” Watson v. Rozum, 834 F.3d
417, 422 (3d Cir. 2016).
Once the prisoner has made his prima facie case, the
burden shifts to the defendant to prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that it “would have made the same decision absent
the protected conduct for reasons reasonably related to a
legitimate penological interest.” Rauser, 241 F.3d at 334. A
retaliation claim fails whenever the defendant shows that there
is “some evidence” to support the discipline citation. Nifas v.
Beard, 374 F. App’x 241, 244 (3d Cir. 2010).
As to the first element of a retaliation claim --
i.e., constitutionally protected conduct -- prisoner speech
opposing conditions of confinement (see Complaint, Docket Entry
1 at 7) is constitutionally protected activity. Winn v. Dep’t of
Corr., 340 F. App’x 757, (3d Cir. 2009) (“‘[T]he filing of
prison grievances is a constitutionally protected activity’”)
(internal citation omitted); Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817,
822 (1974) (criticism of prison operation is conduct protected
by the First Amendment, at least to the extent that the conduct
is not contrary to legitimate penological concerns). This Court
accepts as true for screening purposes only the statement in the
Complaint that the Retaliation Claim is based upon Plaintiff’s
expressions of speech to CCCF personnel that “opposed the
conditions of being forced to quadruple-triple-bunk” (Complaint,
Docket Entry 1 at 7) (hereinafter referred to as “Protected
As to the second element of a retaliation claim --
i.e., “adverse action” as judged under an objective standard -31
“whether a prisoner-plaintiff has met [the adverse action] prong
of his or her retaliation claim will depend on the facts of the
particular case.” Allah, 229 F.2d at 225. Prisoners may be
required to tolerate more than average citizens before an action
is considered adverse. Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 398
(6th Cir. 1999). In order to constitute “adverse action,” the
circumstances must evidence some form of deterrent effect on the
inmate. For example, “whether placement in the SHU [solitary
housing unit] was ‘sufficient to deter a person of ordinary
firmness from exercising his constitutional rights’ is an
objective inquiry and ultimately a question of fact.” Bistrian
v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 376 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Rauser, 241
F.3d at 333).
Here, Plaintiff has not alleged any facts at all about
the nature of his confinement in Isolation. For example, the
Complaint is silent with respect to whether Isolation involved:
reduced access to phone calls, visitation loss, reduced access
to the commissary, reduced access to recreation, or the number
of hours per week that Plaintiff was afforded access outside
Isolation. (The foregoing example list is illustrative but not
exhaustive regarding facts that might demonstrate whether the
nature of Plaintiff’s Isolation was sufficient to deter a person
of ordinary firmness from exercising his right to free speech.)
There is a similar omission of facts in the Complaint regarding
whether the Write-Up and Privilege Loss constituted adverse
actions for purposes of constitutional retaliation analysis.
Rauser, 241 F.3d at 333. The Complaint does not, for example,
indicate: the content of the Write-Up; what, if any,
repercussions the Write-Up had upon Plaintiff; or which
defendant was responsible for documenting the Write-Up; which
“privileges” (Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 7) were “lost” (id.)
(such as phone, commissary, recreation, prison job, law library
access, or something else); and whether and for how long
Plaintiff had purportedly possessed the “Privileges” prior to
expression of the Protected Speech. In short, Plaintiff does not
offer any facts demonstrating that one or more particular
defendants placed him in “solitary confinement” (Complaint,
Docket Entry 1 at 7) specifically in retaliation for his
complaining or filing of grievances about overcrowded conditions
of confinement, as opposed to other motivations, such as:
maintaining the safety and security of Plaintiff or other
inmates; caring for Plaintiff’s health; or preventing
disobedience and disorder.
As to the third element of a retaliation claim --
i.e., a causal link between the exercise of his constitutional
free speech rights and the adverse action taken against him -Plaintiff offers no facts suggesting that his constitutionally
protected conduct was “a substantial or motivating factor” in
prison officials’ decision to impose Isolation, Privilege Loss
and Write-Up. Rauser, 241 F.3d at 333. For example, Plaintiff
does not offer a timeline regarding when his speech about
overcrowded conditions occurred in relation to prison officials’
placement of him into Isolation, their Write-Up of Plaintiff,
and his Privilege Loss. Such temporal facts are necessary to
demonstrate, inter alia, that: (a) there was a causal link
between Plaintiff’s expression of free speech and the Isolation,
Write-Up, and Privilege Loss; and (b) that the alleged
retaliatory events were not causally related to, for example,
disorderly behavioral incidents involving Plaintiff that
required (i) transfer to different custody status for a
legitimate penological purpose such as safety and security
(i.e., Isolation) or (ii) documentation of the event for prison
records (i.e., Write-Up). The Complaint is also silent with
respect to: the content, frequency and means by which Plaintiff
communicated his “oppos[ition] to quadruple-triple bunking”
(Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 7); whether he had elected to
communicate his displeasure by verbal or physical means that
compromised the safety and security of himself, other detainees,
or prison officials; whether other inmates were present at the
time of the alleged overcrowding complaints; the persons to whom
Plaintiff made his complaints; whether such persons were
purportedly involved in the decision to place him in solitary
confinement; and the amount of time that lapsed between
Plaintiff’s expression of overcrowding complaints and his
placement into solitary confinement.
In sum, conclusory allegations that Plaintiff “would”
be placed in Isolation “if [he] chose to oppose the
[overcrowded] conditions” (Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 7) are
insufficient to state a claim for retaliation against Plaintiff
on account of his exercise of his First Amendment right to free
speech. He has not offered facts: (a) about the conditions of
the Isolation, Privilege Loss and Write-Up to suggest that these
alleged acts of retaliation constituted adverse actions
sufficient to deter a person of ordinary firmness from
exercising his constitutional rights; or (b) about the causal
relationship, if any, between the alleged retaliatory acts and
Plaintiff’s exercise of free speech, thereby failing to provide
a basis from which this Court could infer that Plaintiff’s
constitutionally protected conduct was a substantial or
motivating factor in prison officials’ decision to impose
Isolation, Write-Up, and Privilege Loss. Therefore, Plaintiff’s
Retaliation Claim will be dismissed without prejudice.
G. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim: Dismissed Without
Construing Plaintiff’s Isolation contentions to allege
not only retaliatory conduct but also conduct in violation of
his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law
(hereinafter referred to as “Due Process Claim”), the Complaint
fails to set forth a cognizable claim.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of
the Constitution of the United States provides in relevant part:
“nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. A
person is entitled to Due Process of law when a government
action deprives him of life, liberty, or property. Greenholtz v.
Inmates of Neb. Penal and Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979).
To analyze Plaintiff's Due Process Claim, the first step is to
decide whether he was deprived of a liberty or property interest
protected by Due Process. Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67, 84
(1972). If not, it is not necessary to consider what process is
due. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 481 (1972). As averred,
Plaintiff would be entitled to Due Process only if he had a
protected liberty interest in avoiding being “placed in solitary
confinement.” Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 7.
Liberty interests protected by the Due Process Clause
may arise under the Constitution itself or may be created by
state statutes or regulations. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472,
483-84 (1995); Asquith v. Dep’t of Corr., 186 F.3d 407, 409 (3d
a. Constitutional liberty interest
There is no inmate liberty interest in avoiding
segregated confinement arising by force of the Due Process
Clause itself. Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466-67 & n.4
(1983) (rejecting inmates' claim of a right to remain in the
general population as protected by the Due Process Clause).
“[T]he Due Process Clause does not protect every change in the
conditions of confinement having a substantial adverse impact”
and “standing alone[,] [the Clause] confers no liberty interest
in freedom from state action taken ‘within the sentence
imposed.’” Sandin, 515 U.S. at 478, 480 (citing Hewitt, 459 U.S.
at 468). See also Allah, 229 F.3d at 224 (“Sandin instructs that
placement in administrative confinement will generally not
create a liberty interest”).
Accordingly, Plaintiff has no constitutional liberty
interest, arising exclusively from the Due Process Clause, in
being free from “solitary confinement” (Complaint, Docket Entry
1 at 7).
b. State-created liberty interest analysis: Atypical and
In the case of prison inmates, the Supreme Court in
Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995), concluded that statecreated liberty interests could arise only when a prison’s
action imposed an “atypical and significant hardship on the
inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.”
Sandin, 515 U.S. at 483-84. In finding that the prisoner’s
thirty-day confinement in disciplinary custody did not present
the type of atypical, significant deprivation in which a state
might conceivably create a liberty interest, the Court
considered the following two factors: the amount of time the
prisoner was placed into disciplinary segregation; and whether
the conditions of his confinement in disciplinary segregation
were significantly more restrictive than those imposed upon
other inmates in solitary confinement.
Applying these legal benchmarks, courts have held, for
example, that disciplinary proceedings which simply result in
sanctions of disciplinary segregation for six months or even
more do not impose atypical and significant hardships on the
inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life in
similar situations, and, therefore, do not give rise to a
substantive due process claims. Smith v. Mensinger, 293 F.3d
641, 654 (3d Cir. 2002) (7 months disciplinary confinement).
Here, the Complaint does not indicate: the time
duration of the solitary detention; the physical conditions of
Plaintiff’s cell; Plaintiff’s means of personal hygiene during
that solitary detention; opportunities for physical exercise or
recreation; the frequency of his social interaction with other
inmates and/or his environmental stimulation during that time;
or the stated reason given by prison officials as to why he was
confined to a solitary cell. Plaintiff has not offered any facts
to demonstrate “foul [or] inhuman conditions of confinement”
(Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 364 (3d Cir. 1992)) during the
period of isolated detention. The Complaint fails to suggest
that the difference in the conditions of Plaintiff’s confinement
in a solitary cell amounted to an “atypical and significant
hardship” as compared to conditions he experienced in the
general inmate population at CCCF.
Plaintiff therefore has not alleged a protected,
state-created liberty interest.
In sum, neither the Due Process Clause itself nor any
state-created interest afford Plaintiff a protected liberty
interest that would entitle him to remaining in the general
prison population and outside solitary confinement. Thus, given
that Plaintiff had no protected liberty interest to avoid
segregated confinement, he had no Fourteenth Amendment right to
Due Process of law which could have been violated by the
Isolation. This Court, therefore, is constrained to dismiss the
Due Process Claim without prejudice for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted.
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is: (a)
dismissed with prejudice as to the CCCF; (b) dismissed with
prejudice as to the State; and (c) dismissed without prejudice
for failure to state a claim.
As the Complaint is being dismissed, Plaintiff's
request for pro bono counsel (see Motion to Appoint Pro Bono
Counsel, Docket Entry 2) is denied at this time. See Tabron v.
Grace , 6 F.3d 147, 155 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring claim to have
“some merit in fact and law” before appointing pro bono
counsel). Plaintiff may request the appointment of counsel again
in the event he files an amended complaint.
An appropriate order follows.
July 20, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
U.S. District Judge
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