United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Banks, Plaintiff Pro Se.
B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge.
Plaintiff Shira Banks seeks to bring a civil rights complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County.
Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
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
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).
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)).
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
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)).
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)). 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.
Plaintiff alleges she experienced unconstitutional conditions
of confinement at the Camden County Correctional Facility.
Complaint § III. The fact section of the complaint
states: “While I was obtained [sic] I was submited
[sic] to unhealthy living situations I have never had an
[illegible] such as that I was constantly sick, vomiting
& diahria [sic] I was very uncomfortable[.] The sells
[sic] were over crowded People were sleeping next to the
toilet I was very unhappy with my situation[.] The Camden
County Correctional Facility need to be fixed. I had and
still have mental problems due to this ordeal. I'm very
uncomfortable now when ever being in a closed in
[environment]. I had [pneumonia] while being in the Camden
County Jail.” Id. 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.
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.
Moreover, even if Plaintiff's factual allegations were
enough to show that her constitutional rights were violated,
Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability
on Camden County for the alleged violations. “There is
no respondeat superior theory of municipal
liability, so a [county] 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. Plaintiff has not alleged any facts in this regard.
Plaintiff may be able to amend her 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.
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