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Velazquez v. Camden County Jail

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 6, 2017

ALEXANDER A. VELAZQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL, Defendant.

          Alexander A. Velazquez Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         1. Plaintiff Alexander A. Velazquez seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County Jail (“CCJ”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. 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. First, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as to claims made against the CCJ because defendant is not a “state actor” within the meaning of § 1983. See Crawford v. McMillian, No. 16-3412, 2016 WL 6134846 (3d Cir. Oct. 21, 2016) (“[T]he prison is not an entity subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”) (citing Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973)); Grabow v. Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F.Supp. 537, 538-39 (D.N.J. 1989) (correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983).

         4. Second, 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).

         5. The present Complaint does not allege sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a constitutional violation has occurred in order to survive this Court's review under § 1915. Even accepting the statements in §§ III - IV of Plaintiff's Complaint as true for screening purposes only, there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional violation has occurred.

         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)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).

         7. Here, Plaintiff's Complaint states in its entirety: “I slepted [sic] on the floor because the room was over populated with 4 people. The county jail made me sleep in a dirty room with more the [sic] 3 people in a room and I had to sleep on the floor. I have been biting [sic] by insects and had to get medical treatment because I was sleeping under the floor. Inmate had to use bathroom over my head while I was sleep [sic].” Complaint §§ III - IV. Plaintiff alleges that the events giving rise to these claims occurred “Jan 03, 10-.” Id. at § III. Plaintiff “want[s] the court to be more strict on the county jail because it is over populated and needs to be more clean[.] [J]ust because someone is an inmate does not mean the jail has to be dirty and bug infested and over populated at the same time.” Id. at § V.

         8. Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed because the Complaint does not set forth enough factual support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred.

         9. 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 length of the confinements, whether plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, etc.

         10. Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to particularly identify adverse conditions that were caused by specific state actors, that caused Plaintiff to endure genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time, and that were excessive in relation to their purposes. To that end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.[1]

         11. Plaintiff is further advised that any amended complaint must plead specific facts regarding the conditions of confinement. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint, Plaintiff 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.[2]

         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 adopted must be clear and explicit. Id. To avoid confusion, the safer course is to file ...


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