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Farrish v. Camden County Jail

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 31, 2017

DARNELL J. FARRISH, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY JAIL, Defendant.

          Darnell J. Farrish, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge

         1. Plaintiff Darnell J. Farrish seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Jail (“CCJ”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1.

         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 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).

         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[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)).

         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)).[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.

         7. 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 CCJ from August 9, 2006 to September 2007, March to April 2016, and August to October 2016. Complaint § III. Plaintiff states: “During time at CCCF I was forced to live in overcrowded, deplorable, unsanitary and very stressful living quarters. Housed with 4 men inside of a cell that only built to house 2 men. I had to sleep under the bunk beds, on the floor by the toilet. Trays of food being served to me on the floor where mice are seen before the cell door is opened to pass trays inside.” Id. He further states, “Officers assigned me to a cell and unit which was overcrowded.” 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.

         8. Plaintiff lists alleged injuries of “depression” and states cursory and conclusory allegations of “deplorable, unsanitary and very stressful living conditions” 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.

         9. In addition, the CCJ may not be sued 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.

         10. Moreover, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions Plaintiff encountered during periods of confinement ending prior to March 2015, 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.[3] 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).

         11. Plaintiff alleges the events giving rise to his claims occurred during three separate incarcerations, August 9, 2006 to September 2007, March to April 2016 and August to October 2016. Complaint § III. The incarceration of August 9, 2006 to September 2007 occurred more than two years prior to the filing of Plaintiff's complaint. The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCJ, 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 this incarceration expired well before this complaint was filed in 2017. Plaintiff therefore cannot recover for the claims related to that detention.[4]

         12. As 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 confinements from 2016. Because Plaintiff's earlier claims are barred by the statute of ...


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