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Rawls v. Board of Freeholders

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 7, 2017

LE'NORMANDY RAWLS, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS; CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL, Defendants.

          Le'Normandy Rawls, Sr., Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE

         1. Plaintiff Le'Normandy Rawls, Sr., seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Board of Freeholders (“Freeholders”) and 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 alleges he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the CCJ in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Complaint § III. The fact section of the complaint states in its entirety: “I was forced to sleep on the floor.” Id. Plaintiff further alleges, “Board of Freeholders failed to adhere to administrative codes regarding limits on inmate capacity.” 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.

         6. 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.

         7. Plaintiff's complaint also does not contain sufficient factual content for the court to infer that the named defendants are liable for a constitutional violation.

         8. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages 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).

         9. Moreover, 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 v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Plaintiff must instead plead facts showing that the Freeholders 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 the Freeholders were the “moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. Plaintiff's cursory allegation that the Freeholders “failed to adhere to administrative codes regarding limits on inmate capacity, ” without more, is insufficient to meet this burden.

         10. As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies noted by the Court, [2] the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.

         11. 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 an amended complaint that is complete in itself.[3] Id.

         12. For the reasons stated above, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files an ...


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