United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Alpheaus, Plaintiff Pro Se
B. SIMANDLE JUDGE
Plaintiff Jannai Alpheaus seeks to bring a civil rights
Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
following defendants for allegedly unconstitutional
conditions of confinement (Complaint, Docket Entry 1):
a. The Camden County Correctional Facility
(“CCCF”) (Complaint, Docket Entry 1, at §
b. The Camden County Board of Freeholders (“the
BOF”) (Complaint, Docket Entry 1, at § I(B));
c. Ten individual members of the BOF “from 2014
-Present” (Complaint Exhibit 1, Docket Entry 1,
Attachment 1 at 1): “Deputy Director Edward T.
McDonnell, Scot N. McCray, Ian K. Leonard (2014), Jeffrey
Nash (2014), Carmen G. Rodriguez (2014-2016), Johnathan L.
Young, Sr., Michelle A. Genter-Mayer (Surrogate/Former
Freeholder (2014)), Susan Shin Angulo (2016-2018), Director
Louis Cappelli, Jr. (2015-2017) and William F. Moen
(2016-2015) [sic]” (id.) (the foregoing ten
individual defendants hereinafter collectively referred to as
“BOF Members”); and
d. Thirty-five CCCF correctional personnel (Complaint Exhibit
1, Docket Entry 1, Attachment 1 at 2 - 3): “C/O Thomas
McNulty, C/O Donna Webster, C/O Earl O'Connor (Lt.), C/O
Suanny Rivera, C/O Timothy Singleton, C/O Jackie Wescoll, C/O
John Villegas, C/O Muriel Mitchell-Davis, C/O Phillip Ritz,
C/O John Furtado, C/O Tiffany Deangelis, C/O Theron
Sharper-Cooper, Lt. Josue Ortola, Lt. Rebecca Franceschini,
Sgt. Wayne Norton, C/O James Bonner, C/O M. Martinez, Sgt.
Christopher Foschini, Sgt. John S. Stinsman, C/O Takia
Johnson, C/O Michcal Jacob, C/O Thomas Crosmick, C/O Chris
Kelly, C/O James Finley, Sgt. Kevin Crossan, Sgt. Albert
Daniels, C/O Daniel Purdy, C/O Lance McArthy, C/O Janet
Giordano, C/O Michael Doyle, Warden [of Camden County
Correctional Facility], Director David S. Owens, Sr., Warden
Karden Taylor [and] C/O Lawrence Taylor” (id.)
(the foregoing thirty-five individual defendants hereinafter
collectively referred to as “CCCF Personnel”).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) requires courts to review complaints
prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding
in forma pauperis. Courts 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.
the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (1) dismiss the
Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against CCCF; and
(2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to
state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
Claims Against CCCF: Dismissed With
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983  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 the Complaint has not sufficiently alleged that a
“person” deprived Plaintiff of a federal right,
the Complaint does not meet the standards necessary to set
forth a prima facie case under § 1983. In the
Complaint, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from 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)); Grabow v.
Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F.Supp. 537, 538-39
(D.N.J. 1989) (correctional facility is not a
“person” under § 1983). Given that the
claims against the CCCF must be dismissed with prejudice, the
claims may not proceed and Plaintiff may not name the CCCF as
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to name a person
or persons who were personally involved in the alleged
unconstitutional conditions of confinement, however. To that
end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the
Complaint within 60 days after the date this Opinion and
Order are entered on the docket.
Overcrowded Conditions Of Confinement Claim: Dismissed
Plaintiff alleges that “during the several times [I
was] incarcerated, I was housed in 2-man cell with 3-4
inmates [and] made to sleep on floor by toilet”
(hereinafter referred to as Plaintiff's
“Overcrowding Claim”). Complaint § III(C).
detailed below, the Court will dismiss the Overcrowding Claim
without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). The present Complaint does not
allege sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference
that a constitutional violation has occurred in order to
survive this Court's review under § 1915. The Court
will accept as true for screening purposes only the
statements in Plaintiff's Complaint, but there is not
enough factual support for the Court to infer that an
unconstitutional overcrowding violation has occurred.
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)). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are
liberally construed, “pro se litigants still
must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a
claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704
F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted) (emphasis
complaint must plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable
inference that a constitutional violation has occurred in
order to survive this Court's review under § 1915.
However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise to
Plaintiff's claims, the present Complaint states:
“During the several times incarcerated . . . from 2014
- 2016 . . . I was housed in 2-man cell with 3-4 inmates,
made to sleep on floor by toilet with constant infestation of
mice, as well as being served spoiled food . . . I was placed
on floor, including a[n] entire 364 day sentence[.] [A]lso
later 2015 as well as 2016 [I] was housed on floor with 3
other inmates in unhealthy living conditions.”
Complaint § III(C). The Complaint contends that
Plaintiff “was housed in overcrowded cell with 3 to 4
inmates and slept on floor” on these dates: 03/18/2014
- 04/08/2014; 4/22/2014 - 06/12/2014; 07/11/2014 -
06/30/2015; 09/01/2015 - 09/15/2015; 10/04/2015 - 12/11/2015;
07/18/2016 - 07/21/2016; 07/22/2016 - 09/21/2016; and
10/15/2016 - 10/26/2016 (collectively referred to hereinafter
as “Dates of Confinement”). Complaint, Docket
Entry 1, Attachment 2 at 4 - 5.
Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered “severe and
chronic neck and back pain due to sleeping on floor of cell
during long periods of incarceration” as a result of
these events. Id. § IV.
Plaintiff seeks “$500, 000.00 - 1 million
dollars” in relief. Id. § V.
Even construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
alleged prison overcrowding, any such purported claims must
be dismissed because the Complaint does not set forth
sufficient factual support for the Court to infer that a
constitutional violation of overcrowding 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)
(“Hubbard II”) (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”) (citing Union Cnty.
Jail Inmates v. DiBuono, 713 F.2d 984, 992 (3d Cir.
1983) (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 542)). Some
relevant factors are the length of the confinement(s),
whether plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted
prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved in
creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement,
any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of
Complaint contends that the BOF and BOF Members are liable
under the Overcrowding Claim (Complaint § III(C)
(“Refer to attachment #1 (pages 1 to 3)”)), but
Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to impose overcrowded
conditions of confinement liability on the BOF and BOF
Members, as these defendants are not separate legal entities
from Camden County and are therefore not independently
subject to suit. See Bermudez v. Essex Cnty. 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.
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 Soc. Services of City of New York, 436 U.S.
658, 691 (1978)). See also Collins v. City of Harker
Heights, 503 U.S. 115');">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 of overcrowding. Monell,
436 U.S. at 689. Given that Plaintiff has not done so, the
Overcrowding Claim must be dismissed without prejudice as to
the BOF and the BOF Members.
Complaint also alleges that CCCF Personnel are liable under
the Overcrowding Claim. Complaint § III(C)
(“Camden Co. Correctional Officers (See attached)[.] It
is common procedure to place more than 2 inmates in a cell
d[ue] to overcrowding”). However, the Overcrowding
Claim must be dismissed without prejudice as to CCCF
Personnel because the Complaint does “[not] allege
any personal involvement by [these defendants] in any
constitutional violation - a fatal flaw, since
‘liability in a § 1983 suit cannot be predicated
solely on the operation of respondeat
superior.'” Baker v. Flagg, 439 F.
App'x 82, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v.
Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)).
“[Plaintiff's] complaint contains no allegations
regarding [these individual defendants]. ‘Because
vicarious liability is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a
plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant,
through the official's own individual actions, has
violated the Constitution.' Thus, [plaintiff] failed to
state a claim against [the individual defendants].”
Bob v. Kuo, 387 F. App'x 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010)
(citing Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 676). Given that the
Complaint does not, in the first instance, sufficiently
allege a violation of overcrowding, Plaintiff has not
asserted a colorable constitutional claim to which any CCCF
Personnel's individual liability could attach.
Accordingly, Plaintiff's Overcrowding Claim against the
CCCF Personnel defendants must be dismissed without
Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to particularly
identify adverse conditions that were caused by specific
state actors, that caused Plaintiff to endure genuine
privations and hardship over an extended period of time, and
that were excessive in relation to their purposes. To that
end, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the
Complaint within 60 days after the date this Opinion and
Order are entered on the docket.
Plaintiff is further advised that any amended complaint must
plead specific facts regarding the overcrowded conditions of
confinement. In the event Plaintiff files an amended
complaint, Plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to support a
reasonable inference that a constitutional violation has
occurred in order to survive this Court's review under
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
adopted must be clear and explicit. Id. To avoid
confusion, the safer course is to file an amended complaint
that is complete in itself. Id. The amended
complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been
dismissed with prejudice by the Court.
Failure To Protect Claim Against BOF, BOF Members, and
CCCF Personnel: Dismissed Without Prejudice
Plaintiff alleges that he sustained “physical injuries
due to assaults by violent inmate who attacked me when
correctional officer[s] left cell block for long periods of
time to smoke cigarettes or were asleep at posts”