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Mont-Jones v. Camden County Jail

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 2, 2017

MARILYN MONT-JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL, Defendant.

          Marilyn Mont-Jones, Plaintiff Pro Se.

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge.

         1. Plaintiff Marilyn Mont-Jones seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Jail (“CCJ”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1.

         2. 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.

         3. 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).

         4. To 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)).

         5. Plaintiff presumably seeks monetary damages[1] from CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. As the CCJ is not a “state actor” within the meaning of § 1983, the claims against it must be dismissed with prejudice. See, e.g., Grabow v. Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F.Supp. 537, 538- 39 (D.N.J. 1989) (correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983).

         6. Plaintiff may be able to amend the complaint to name state actors 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.

         7. Plaintiff is advised that the amended 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. The complaint states in its entirety: “Had to sleep on the floor, 4 women in a 2 man cell.” Complaint § III. She further alleges that corrections officers illegally searched her. Id. Even accepting these statements as true for screening purposes only, there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional violation has occurred.

         8. 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 dates and length of the confinement(s), whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, etc.

         9. Moreover, Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a Fourth Amendment violation for an improper search. Under the Fourth Amendment, inmates have a limited right of bodily privacy “subject to reasonable intrusions necessitated by the prison setting.” Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 325 (3d Cir. 2016). This right is very narrow, however. Id. at 326.

         10. “The test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment . . . requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails. Courts must consider the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the place in which it is conducted.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979). A prisoner search policy is constitutional if it strikes a reasonable balance between the inmate's privacy and the needs of the institution. Parkell, 833 F.3d at 326 (citing Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders of Cty. of Burlington, 132 S.Ct. 1510, 1515, 1517 (2012)).

         11. Plaintiff's cursory allegations that she was “illegally searched” is insufficient to state a claim for relief. In the absence of further facts regarding the circumstances of the search, the claim cannot proceed at this time. Plaintiff may amend this claim in an amended complaint, however.

         12. As Plaintiff may be able to amend her complaint to address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the ...


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