ARMSTRONG v. UNION COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER that all claims against Defendants Union County, Union County Department of Corrections, and Ronald Charles are dismissed w/out prejudice, and the Clerk shall file the Complaint and issue summons. Plaintiffs in forma pauperis application, ECF No. 1-3, is denied, and pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), Defendants shall file and serve an answer, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 2(a)( 1 )(A). Upon proper service of process by Plaintiff at any time prior to the filing of a not ice of appearance by Defendants, Plaintiff files an amended complaint, or seeks the appointment of pro bono counsel or other relief, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(a) and (d), Plaintiff shall (1) serve a copy of the filing by regular mail upon each party at his last known address and (2) file a Certificate of Service; etc. Signed by Judge Claire C. Cecchi on 1/4/17. (sr, )(N/M)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 16-7082 (CCC)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
UNION COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, et al.,
Plaintiff is proceeding with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
alleging that his constitutional rights have been violated by Defendants for refusing to
accommodate his disability and medical needs. Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking redress
from a governmental entity or officer, federal law requires this Court to screen the Complaint for
sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to dismiss any claim if that claim fails to state a claim
upon which relief maybe granted under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and/or to dismiss any defendant
who is immune from suit. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b). It appearing:
1. Plaintiff asserts claims against Union County and the Union County Department of
Corrections. Although counties and its agencies are not immune to suit under
§ 1983, see N. Ins.
Co. of NY. v. Chatham Cly., Ga., 547 U.S. 189, 193-94 (2006) (“[The Supreme] Court has
repeatedly refused to extend sovereign immunity to counties.”), “a municipality cannot be held
liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor—or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held
§ 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.” Ca/dwell v. Egg Harbor Police Dep ‘t, 362
F. App’x 250, 251 (quotingMonellv. Dep’t ofSoc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). Instead, to
hold a municipality liable, the plaintiff must identify an official custom or policy that caused a
constitutional deprivation. Id. at 251-52. It is not enough that a plaintiff alleges his constitutional
rights have been violated by some unidentified policy or custom—the plaintiff must point to a
specific policy or custom that caused the alleged violation. Wood v. Williams, 568 F. App’x 100,
104 (3d Cir. 2014). “Simply paraphrasing § 1983” is insufficient to “satisfy the ‘rigorous standards
of culpability and causation’ required to state a claim for municipal liability.” Id. (quoting
McTernan v. City of York, 564 F. 3d 636, 658-59 (3d Cir. 2009)). Here, Plaintiff makes no
allegations that any policy or custom led to the alleged violations of his rights, let alone identifies
any specific policy or custom that may have done so. As such, claims against Defendants Union
County and Union County Department of Corrections are dismissed without prejudice, and these
defendants are dismissed from the case.
2. Plaintiff also names Ronald Charles, the director of the Union County Department of
Corrections, as a defendant. “Government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional
conduct of their subordinates[.]” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). “[A] plaintiff must
plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has
violated the Constitution.” Id. While affirmative action by a supervisory official is not required
to state a
§ 1983 claim, Plaintiff must still show that “a supervisor
had knowledge and
acquiesced in the subordinate’s unconstitutional conduct.” Barkes v. first Corr. Med. Inc., 766
F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir. 2014) (rev’d on other grounds); see Evancho v. Fisher, 423 f.3d 347, 353
(3d Cir. 2005) (“Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or
of actual knowledge and acquiescence.”). “[A]llegations [that]
merely assert their involvement
in the post-incident grievance process” are insufficient to establish liability.
Gennarini, 144 F. App’x 924, 925 (3d Cir. 2005). “Merely responding to or reviewing an inmate
grievance does not rise to the level of personal involvement necessary to allege an Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference claim.” Tenon v. Dreibetbis, 606 F. App’x 681, 688 (3d Cir.
3. Here, Plaintiff alleges that he had filed numerous grievances regarding the alleged
violations. (ECF No. 1 at 7.) However, there is no allegation that Charles had actual knowledge
of these grievances. That Charles sits in the chain of supervisory authority, with some tangential
responsibility to supervise the prison guards and officials, is grossly insufficient to hold him
responsible for the alleged violations of Plaintiffs rights. The hallmark of Eighth Amendment
claims is deliberate indifference, Estelte v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), and Plaintiffs
allegations against Charles, or the lack thereof, falls far short of establishing that element of an
Eighth Amendment claim—indeed, there is no allegation that Charles was or is even aware of
Plaintiffs predicament. Accordingly, the claim against Charles is dismissed without prejudice,
and he is dismissed from the case.
4. Otherwise, the balance of the Complaint is allowed to proceed past screening..
5. Finally, also before the Court is Plaintiffs in forma pauperis (“IFP”) application, even
though Plaintiff has paid the $400 filing fee for this case. (ECF No. 1-3.) The Court assumes the
purpose of the application is to qualify Plaintiff for service by the United States Marshal. However,
under federal law, a prisoner is required to attach, with the IFP application, a six-month prison
account statement certified by an authorized prison official for the period immediately preceding
the filing of the Complaint, and Plaintiff has not done so.
See 28 U.S.C.
Furthermore, Plaintiff admits that he receives a yearly income of $3,300.00, or $275.00/month.
(ECF No. 1-3 at 2.) As a prisoner who should be provided the necessities of life by the prison,
that exceeds the threshold to qualify for IfP status. See Shahin v. Sec. ofDel., 532 F. App’x 123,
124 (3d Cir. 2013) (holding that a plaintiff with a monthly income of $95, when such plaintiff was
provided food, clothing, shelter, and medical expenses, does not qualify for in forma pauperis
status, because “requiring her to save for several months, would not deprive her of the ‘necessities
of life.”). Thus, Plaintiffs IfP application is denied.
IT IS therefore on this
ORDERED that all claims against Defendants Union County, Union County Department
of Corrections, and Ronald Chares are hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and these
defendants are hereby DISMISSED from the case; it is further
ORDERED that all other claims are permitted to proceed; it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk shall file the Complaint and issue summons; it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiffs in forma pauperis application, ECF No. 1-3, is hereby
DENIED; it is further
ORDERED that, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(g)(2), Defendants shall file and serve an
answer, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 2(a)( 1 )(A), upon proper senice ofprocess by Plaintiff; and it is further
ORDERED that, if at any time prior to the filing of a notice of appearance by Defendants,
Plaintiff files an amended complaint, or seeks the appointment of pro bono counsel or other relief,
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(a) and (d), Plaintiff shall (1) serve a copy of the filing by regular mail
upon each party at his last known address and (2) file a Certificate of Service.’
Claire C. Cecchi, U.S.DJ.
Afier an attorney files a notice of appearance on behalf of a Defendant, the attorney will
automatically be electronically served all documents that are filed in the case.
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