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Bradley v. State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 2, 2017

JAMES D. BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Defendant.

          James D. Bradley, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

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

         1. Plaintiff James D. Bradley seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of New Jersey for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1.

         2. 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) because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.

         3. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (1) dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against the State of New Jersey because Congress did not expressly abrogate sovereign immunity when it passed § 1983; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).

         4. First, Plaintiff's claims against the State of New Jersey 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. As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to name a specific person responsible for the alleged conditions of confinement, the Court will grant Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint.

         5. Second, with respect to Plaintiff's allegations of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, he does not plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a constitutional violation has occurred in order to survive this Court's review under § 1915.

         6. 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)).

         7. Plaintiff's Complaint states: “I want the Court to compensate me for my time in Camden County Jail from March to the end of June . . . 2016 . . . for inhumane and unsafe living conditions. I was sleeping under metal tabels [sic] and chairs on the floor which was very dirty with bugs and mouse urine and other bodily fluids, and hit my head on the steal [sic] table waking up numerous times. Also was force[d] to sleep on the floor practically under toilet due to overcrowding in 1 cell. [I] had urine splashed on my mat and clothes.” Complaint §§ V, III(B).

         8. Plaintiff is “looking for $1, 000.00 - $5, 000.00 for my inhumane living conditions and emotional destress [sic].” Id. § V.

         9. Even accepting these statements as true for screening purposes only, there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred.

         10. 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 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.

         11. 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 of this order.

         12. 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 ...


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