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Bailey v. Camden County

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 2, 2017

AVON K. BAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY, Defendant.

          Javon K. Bailey Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

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

         1. Plaintiff Javon K. Bailey seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement in the Camden County Jail. Complaint, Docket Entry 1. Based on Plaintiff's affidavit of indigency, the Court will grant his application to proceed in forma pauperis.

         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 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, a 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 alleges that he experienced unconstitutional conditions of confinement during his detention at the Camden County Jail in “June 2013, August 2014 [and] March 2016.” Complaint § III(A), (B). He states: “On three separate occasions I was arrested. [D]uring my time in the Camden County Jail I was forced to sleep on the floor next to the facilities. Rodents ran across my legs throughout my stay.” Id. § III(C).

         6. Plaintiff alleges that he “currently suffer[s] extreme back pain including back spasm. Prior to staying on the floor I never had any issues with my back. I have not received any medical treatment.” Id. § IV.

         7. With respect to alleged damages, Plaintiff states: “I am not seeking a specific dollar amount. However, I do believe that I should receive a dollar amount equivalent to the pain and suffering I sustained physically, mentally and emotionally. I believe some rules, guidelines, plans and procedures should be put in place to prohibit this from happening to anyone else.” Id. § V.

         8. 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.

         9. Even construing the Complaint to allege unconstitutional conditions of confinement arising from purported overcrowding that led to Plaintiff's “sleeping on the floor” (Complaint § III(C)), 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.

         10. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint, he should include specific facts, such as the dates and length of his confinement, whether he was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved in creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement, and any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of confinement.

         11. Moreover, 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.”).

         12. 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).[1] In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an inference that Camden County itself was ...


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