United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Johnson, Plaintiff Pro Se
B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge
Plaintiff Percy Johnson seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Camden County Department of Corrections
(“CCDOC”). 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.
facts asserted in the complaint are insufficient to set forth
a prima facie case under § 1983. Plaintiff
alleges he experienced unconstitutional conditions of
confinement during confinement at the Camden County Jail.
Plaintiff states: “The sheets and the mattresses, felt
like we had bed-bugs eating at us and all.” Complaint
§ III. Plaintiff further states that the cells were
“definitely unsanitary.” Id. Plaintiff
also alleges that he sustained “no serious
injuries.” Id. § IV. 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's vague and cursory allegations regarding
unsanitary cells and bedding essentially complain “of
an inconvenient and uncomfortable situation”; however,
“‘the Constitution does not mandate comfortable
prisons.'” Carson v. Mulvihill, 488
F.App'x 554, 560 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Rhodes,
452 U.S. at 349); see also, Marnin v.
Pinto, 463 F.2d 583, 584 (3d Cir. 1972) (“blanket
statements alleging bad food and miserable living conditions
in the prison” were “naked statements [that do
not] ordinarily merit Federal court
Moreover, Plaintiff brings this complaint against only the
CCDOC. The CCDOC is not independently subject to suit because
it is not a separate legal entity from Camden County. See
Bermudez v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL
1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases).
Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability
on Camden County.
“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. Plaintiff has made no such allegations.
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 ...