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Sanders v. Camden County Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 7, 2017

ROCMON L. SANDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, WARDEN DAVID OWENS, and CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS, Defendants.

          Rocmon L. Sanders, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE

         1. Plaintiff Rocmon L. Sanders seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), Warden David Owens (“Owens”) and Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders (“BOF”) 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: (a) dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's claims asserted against CCCF, as CCCF is not a “person” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (b) grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date of this order, in the event he is able to name a person or persons who were personally involved in the alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement; (c) dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's claims of excessive force, as barred by the statute of limitations; and (d) proceed Plaintiff's claims against Owens and BOF regarding conditions of confinements from which Plaintiff was released after October 5, 2014.

         Claims Against CCCF: Dismissed With Prejudice

         4. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] for alleged violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. In order to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983, a plaintiff must show: “(1) a person deprived him of a federal right; and (2) the person who deprived him of that right acted under color of state or territorial law.” Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980)).

         5. Generally, for purposes of actions under § 1983, “[t]he term ‘persons' includes local and state officers acting under color of state law.” Carver v. Foerster, 102 F.3d 96, 99 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21 (1991)).[2] To say that a person was “acting under color of state law” means that the defendant in a § 1983 action “exercised power [that the defendant] possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer [was] clothed with the authority of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (citation omitted). Generally, then, “a public employee acts under color of state law while acting in his official capacity or while exercising his responsibilities pursuant to state law.” Id. at 50.

         6. Because the Complaint has not sufficiently alleged that a “person” deprived Plaintiff of a federal right, the Complaint does not meet the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie case under § 1983. In the Complaint, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from CCCF for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The CCCF, however, is not a “person” within the meaning of § 1983; therefore, the claims against it must be dismissed with prejudice. See Crawford v. McMillian, 660 F. App'x 113, 116 (3d Cir. 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). Given that the claims against the CCCF must be dismissed with prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name the CCCF as a defendant.

         7. Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to name a person or persons who were personally involved in the alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement, however. To that end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.

         Claims Of Excessive Force: Dismissed With Prejudice

         8. The Court dismisses with prejudice Plaintiff's claims arising from his allegations of “assault” by a CCCF “officer” in 2005. Complaint § IV, § V.

         9. Although not specified in the Complaint, this Court construes Plaintiff's contentions regarding being “assaulted by an officer” (Complaint § IV) as claims that Plaintiff suffered physical abuse amounting to a violation of his constitutional rights. The only specific conduct of which Plaintiff complains is “officer assault” (id. § V), but the circumstances surrounding the incident are left to speculation.

         10. “[P]laintiffs who file complaints subject to dismissal should receive leave to amend unless amendment would be inequitable under [§ 1915] or futile.” Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). This Court denies leave to amend at this time as Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by the statute of limitations, which is governed by New Jersey's two-year limitations period for personal injury.[3] See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010). The accrual date of a § 1983 action is determined by federal law, however. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007); Montanez v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., 773 F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). “Under federal law, a cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which the action is based.” Montanez, 773 F.3d at 480 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         11. Plaintiff alleges that the purported assault by a CCCF officer occurred in 2005. Complaint § IV. Accordingly, the two-year statute of limitations for Plaintiff's claims (Wilson, 471 U.S. at 276; Dique, 603 F.3d at 185) expired in 2007.

         12. However, Plaintiff had not filed this present action prior to expiration ...


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