United States District Court, D. New Jersey
KENNETH R. THURSTON, Plaintiff,
CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS; CAMDEN COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; WARDEN CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL, Defendants.
Kenneth R. Thurston, Plaintiff Pro Se
B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge.
Plaintiff Kenneth R. Thurston seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders
(“Freeholders”), the Camden County Department of
Corrections (“CCDOC”), and the Warden of the
Camden County Jail (“Warden”). Complaint, Docket
Section 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review complaints
prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding
in forma pauperis. 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.
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).
survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim,
the complaint must allege “sufficient factual
matter” to 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)).
Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconditional conditions of
confinement while detained at the Camden County Jail.
Complaint § III. The fact section of the complaint
states: “I was placed in Camden County Jail on July 11,
2016 and was told to find a room and put my mattress on the
floor. When I asked about a bed I was told there are no beds
because of over crowding conditions.” Id. Even
accepting the statement as true for screening purposes only,
there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer a
constitutional violation has occurred.
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 dates and length
of the confinement(s), whether Plaintiff was a pretrial
detainee or convicted prisoner, etc.
Moreover, Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to
support an inference that the named Defendants are personally
liable for the alleged constitutional violations.
CCDOC is not independently subject to suit because it is not
a separate legal entity from Camden County. See Bermudez
v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL 1405263, at
*5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases). Plaintiff has not
pled sufficient facts to impose liability on Camden County.
“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 Services, 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). In other words, Plaintiff
must set forth facts supporting an inference that Camden
County itself was the “moving force” behind the
alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S.
Likewise, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts regarding
the personal liability of the Freeholders. As the governing
body of Camden County, the Freeholders cannot be held liable
under § 1983 solely on a theory of respondeat
superior. Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91. Plaintiff
therefore must meet the same pleading standard regarding the
Freeholder's liability as must be met for Camden County,
i.e., he must set forth facts supporting an
inference that the Freeholders themselves were the
“moving force” behind the alleged constitutional
violations. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. Plaintiff has
not set forth such facts with respect to either Camden County
or the Freeholders.
Similarly, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to support
an inference that the Warden was personally involved in
either the creation of, or failure to address, the conditions
of his confinement. State actors are liable only for their
own unconstitutional conduct and may not be held liable for
the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a
theory of respondeat ...