United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Johnson, Plaintiff Pro Se
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE
Plaintiff Rashon Johnson seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Camden Correctional Facility (“CCF”), Warden
James Owens (“Owens”), Warden J. Taylor
(“Taylor”), Camden Board of Freeholders
(“BOF”), City of Camden (“City”), and
Metro Police Department (“MPD”) for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket
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.
the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (1) dismiss the
Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against CCF; and
(2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to
state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
First, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as to
claims made against CCF because it is not a “state
actor” within the meaning of § 1983. See
Crawford v. McMillian, 660 F. App'x 113, 116 (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).
Second, as to claims against the City and BOF, Plaintiff has
not pled sufficient facts to impose liability on these
defendants. “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.”). 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).In other words, Plaintiff must set forth
facts supporting an inference that Camden County itself was
the “moving force” behind the alleged
constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
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.
Third, construing the Complaint to assert claims against
Camden County Police (Complaint at 1 (naming “Metro
Police Department” as a defendant)), the Complaint must
similarly be dismissed as to claims made against MPD.
“[A] city police department is a governmental sub-unit
that is not distinct from the municipality of which it is a
part.” Jackson v. City of Erie Police
Dep't, 570 F.Appx. 112, 114 n.2 (3d Cir. 2014)
(citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Camden County
Police (i.e., “Metro Police Department”)
are not distinct from Camden County, and the Complaint
asserts no facts alleging that Camden County was the
“moving force” behind an alleged constitutional
violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. 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.
Fourth, the Complaint must be dismissed as to claims made
against Owens and Taylor because the Complaint does
“[not] allege any personal involvement by [the
wardens] in any constitutional violation - a fatal flaw,
since ‘liability in a § 1983 suit cannot be
predicated solely on the operation of respondeat
superior.'” Baker v. Flagg, 439 F.
App'x 82, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v.
Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)).
“[Plaintiff's] complaint contains no allegations
regarding [the] Warden[s]. ‘Because vicarious liability
is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead
that each Government-official defendant, through the
official's own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution.' Thus, [plaintiff] failed to state a claim
against [the] Warden.” Bob v. Kuo, 387 F.
App'x 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)). 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.
Finally, 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). The 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 Plaintiff's Complaint as
true for screening purposes only, there is not enough factual
support for the Court to infer a constitutional violation has
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, 556 U.S. at 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
With respect to alleged facts giving rise to his claims,
Plaintiff states: “[I]t was 4 other inmates besides
myself on the floor.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff alleges that the purported events giving rise to
these claims occurred “on or [a]round 2009, 2010, 2011,
2012, 2013 [and] 2014.” Id. § III(B).
With respect to alleged injuries from these events, Plaintiff
states: “I was injured hitting my head on [the] toilet
seat and the table ...