The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle
Presently before the court are eleven unopposed motions for summary judgment by defendants in eleven nearly identical actions brought by pretrial detainees or convicted inmates who were confined for varying periods of time in 2009 and 2010 in the Camden County Correctional Facility ("CCCF").*fn1 The moving Defendants in each of the actions are Warden Eric Taylor, Deputy Warden Christopher Fossler, Deputy Warden Anthony Pizzaro, Camden County Freeholder Rodney Greco, Camden County Freeholders, and Camden County.
The Plaintiffs allege that the conditions of confinement at CCCF violate their rights under the U.S. Constitution, and their grievances include overcrowding, understaffing and unsanitary conditions. Defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing that claims for injunctive relief are moot, that Plaintiffs adduce no evidence of a Fourteenth Amendment violation, and that the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. Because the Plaintiffs bear the burden of proof at trial and have produced no evidence supporting their pleadings, and because the Plaintiffs have shown minimal interest in litigating their claims, the motions for summary judgment will be granted.
All of the Plaintiffs were confined at the CCCF for various periods of time in 2009 and 2010, and all were pretrial detainees, except for Plaintiff Stephen S. Kunst, who had been sentenced.*fn2
Plaintiffs allege that the number of inmates at the CCCF far exceeded capacity and caused "unhealthy, unsafe and unsanitary" conditions. See, e.g., Complaint at ¶ 34, Green v. Taylor, No. 10-1191 (D.N.J. filed Mar. 8, 2010). Plaintiffs allege that the CCCF provided inadequate sleeping arrangements, inadequate cleaning materials, inadequate medical staff, and understaffed maintenance crew. Id. at 9-10, 12-13. Plaintiffs also allege that the CCCF failed to separate inmates with contagious diseases and co-mingled inmates with pretrial detainees. Id. at 13.
All eleven detainees filed virtually identical Complaints, which contain the same factual and legal allegations and use, in large part, identical language, paragraph structure, headings, bolded phrases and pagination. Many of the Complaints contain the same typographical errors.*fn3 All but one of the Plaintiffs brought claims against the moving Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.*fn4
These cases were consolidated on July 6, 2010, at which time the Court dismissed all Eighth Amendment claims brought by pretrial detainees. See, e.g., Order, Green v. Taylor, No. 10-1191 (D.N.J. entered May 25, 2010), ECF No. 7. However, the cases were de-consolidated on February 6, 2012, because the Court was unable to obtain pro bono counsel to represent all Plaintiffs jointly. See, e.g., Order, Green v. Taylor, No. 10-1191 (D.N.J. entered Feb. 6, 2012), ECF No. 156. The Order de-consolidating the cases noted that the individual Plaintiffs could seek to retain individual pro bono counsel. Id.
None of the Plaintiffs are confined at CCCF at present. See, e.g., Statement of Material Facts ¶ 3, Green v. Taylor, No. 10-1191 (D.N.J. filed Nov. 8, 2012), ECF No. 176 (hereinafter "Green Statement of Facts"). Defendants now bring motions for summary judgment. All motions are unopposed.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the materials of record "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
Where, as in this case, the nonmoving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, the moving party may be entitled to summary judgment by observing that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986); see also Rahman v. Taylor, No. 10-0367, 2013 WL 1192352, at *2-*3 (D.N.J. Mar. 21, 2013). Rule 56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. A plaintiff opposing a defendant's motion for summary judgment has the burden of coming forward with evidence, not mere allegations, that would raise a genuine dispute of material fact and suffice to enable a reasonable jury, giving all favorable inferences to the plaintiff as the party opposing summary judgment, to find in plaintiff's favor at trial. Rule 56(c)(1)(A) provides that the non-movant, to create a genuine issue of material fact, must do so by: citing to ...