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Battie v. Camden County Jail

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 31, 2017


          Derrick Battie, Plaintiff Pro Se


          JEROME B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge

         1. Plaintiff Derrick Battie seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Jail ("CCJ"). Complaint, Docket Entry 1. Seven days prior to filing the present action, Plaintiff filed an identical complaint against Camden County. Battie v. The County, Civ. No. 16-cv-8409 (D.N.J.) (the "8409 action").

         2. 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 pauperis.

         3. For the reasons discussed below, and because the complaint is duplicative of the complaint Plaintiff filed in the 8409 action, the Court will (1) dismiss the claims against the CCJ with prejudice and (2) dismiss the remainder of the complaint without prejudice to Plaintiff's ability to maintain the 8409 action.[1]

         4. To 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)).

         5. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983[2] 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)).

         6. 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)).[3] 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.

         7. As an initial matter, 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 seeks monetary damages from CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The CCJ, 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 CCJ must be dismissed with prejudice, the claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name the CCJ as a defendant.

         8. Ordinarily, Plaintiff would be granted leave to amend the complaint to name a person who was allegedly involved in the alleged unconstitutional conditions of confinement. However, Plaintiff's complaint is identical to (and in fact appears to be a photocopy of) the complaint filed in the 8409 action.[4] “As part of its general power to administer its docket, a district court may dismiss a duplicative complaint.” Fabics v. City of New Brunswick, 629 F.App'x 196, 198 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976)) (internal quotations omitted); Gause v. Court of Common Pleas, 571 F.App'x 144, 145 (3d Cir. 2014) (a district court may properly dismiss duplicative complaints under § 1915(e)) (citing Pittman v. Moore, 980 F.2d 994, 994-95 (5th Cir. 1993)); Walton v. Eaton Corp., 563 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1977) (en banc) (when faced with duplicative complaints, a court may dismiss the second action without prejudice, stay the second action, or consolidate it with the first action).

         9. Plaintiff filed the 8409 action on November 10, 2016, and the present case on November 17, 2016. In accordance with this Court's concurrent order in the 8409 action, Plaintiff has been granted leave to amend the complaint in that case. The factual allegations in both cases are identical and the only distinction between these two actions is that in this case, Plaintiff has elected to sue a defendant not subject to suit. The present action will therefore be dismissed as duplicative and Plaintiff will not be granted leave to amend. Should Plaintiff wish to name additional or different defendants, he may do so when and if he chooses to amend the 8409 complaint.

         10. For the reasons stated above, the claims against the CCJ are dismissed with prejudice. The remainder of the complaint is dismissed without prejudice as duplicative of Plaintiff's 8409 complaint.

         11. An ...

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