United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Douglas, Plaintiff Pro Se
B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge.
Plaintiff Melvin Douglas seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), the
Camden County Board of Freeholders
(“Freeholders”), and Warden David Owens.
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.
Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a person
deprived him of a federal right, the complaint does not meet
the standards necessary to set forth a prima facie
case under § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that he was
confined in the CCCF in 1997 to 1998, 1999 to 2000, 2001 to
2002, 2004 to 2005, 2005 to 2006, 2006 to 2007, 2008, 2010,
2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 to 2015. Complaint § III.
Plaintiff states: “Mental anguish, unsanitary living
conditions, unhealthy food, sickness, mental side effects
Incarseration [sic] sent to prison.” Id. He
further states, “They knew (David Owens [and] Board of
Freeholders) about these situations and did nothing to
correct these matters.” 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.
Plaintiff lists alleged injuries and states cursory and
conclusory allegations of “unsanitary living
conditions” and “unhealthy food” that are
insufficient, without more, to state a claim for relief. In
order to make out a plausible claim for relief and survive
this Court's review under § 1915, Plaintiff must
plead something more than “labels and
conclusions” and allege enough facts to support a
reasonable inference that defendants deprived him of a
constitutional right. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. For a
pretrial detainee, this means Plaintiff must plead facts
showing that the conditions he encountered shock the
conscience and thus violated his 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.
addition, though the Freeholders and the Warden may be proper
defendants in a § 1983 action, the CCCF may not be sued
under § 1983. Plaintiff presumably seeks monetary
damagesfrom 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)). Because 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.
Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of
confinement ending prior to December 8, 2014, those claims
are barred by the statute of limitations and must be
dismissed with prejudice, meaning that Plaintiff cannot
recover for those claims because they have been brought too
late. Civil rights claims under § 1983 are
governed by New Jersey's limitations period for personal
injury and must be brought within two years of the
claim's accrual. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S.
261, 276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603
F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010). “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 v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of
Corr., 773 F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014).
Plaintiff alleges the events giving rise to his claims
occurred during at least twelve different incarcerations
between 1997 and 2015. Complaint § III. However, all but
one of these incarcerations occurred more than two years
prior to the filing of Plaintiff's complaint. The
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCCF,
namely the overcrowding, would have been immediately apparent
to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore, the
statute of limitations for Plaintiff's claims arising
from his incarcerations between 1997 and 2013 expired well
before this complaint was filed in 2016. Plaintiff therefore
cannot recover for these claims.
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. However, in the event Plaintiff does
elect to file an amended complaint, he should focus only on
the facts of his confinement from 2014 to 2015. Because
Plaintiff's earlier claims are barred by the statute ...