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Baldi v. Camden County Jail

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 27, 2017


          Courtney Baldi, Plaintiff Pro Se


          JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. District Judge

         1. Plaintiff Courtney Baldi 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 allow the complaint to proceed in part.

         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 states: “[O]fficer Colon stripped searched me for the second time that night when she took me in the bathroom. I asked to step of [sic] the blanket before getting naked again for municipal charges.” Complaint § III.C. The complaint then indicates that Officer Colon left the bathroom and returned with Officer Corley. Id. Officer Corley then punched Plaintiff in the face and kneeled on Plaintiff's arms. Id. Officer Colon proceeded to slam Plaintiff's head into the floor twelve times. Id.

         6. Plaintiff names the CCJ as the sole defendant. To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege, first, the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and, second, that the alleged deprivation was committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

         7. 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, 487 U.S. at 49 (citation omitted). The jail is not a proper defendant as it is not a “person” within the meaning of § 1983. See, e.g., Grabow v. Southern State Corr. Facility, 726 F.Supp. 537, 538-39 (D.N.J. 1989) (correctional facility is not a “person” under § 1983). Accordingly, the claims against CCJ must be dismissed with prejudice.

         8. Construing the complaint liberally against Officers Colon and Corley, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a Fourth Amendment violation for an improper strip search. Inmates have a limited right of bodily privacy “subject to reasonable intrusions necessitated by the prison setting.” Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 325 (3d Cir. 2016). Plaintiff alleges two full strip searches during the course of a single shift of guards for a municipal court case. There are sufficient facts in the complaint for an inference of unreasonableness. Plaintiff has also sufficiently alleged an unreasonable force and/or excessive force claim against the officers.[1]

         9. The Court will instruct the Clerk to add Officers Colon and Corley as defendants and permit these claims to proceed against them.

         10. Plaintiff further alleges the food at the jail had plastic and mold in it. Complaint § IV. These general allegations are insufficient to state a claim.

         11. The constitutionally adequate diet “must provide adequate nutrition, but corrections officials may not be held liable [as to claims of inadequate food] unless the inmate shows both an objective component (that the deprivation was sufficiently serious) and a subjective component (that the officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind).” Duran v. Merline, 923 F.Supp.2d 702, 719-20 (D.N.J. 2013) (citing Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F.3d 62, 68 (3d Cir. 2007)).

         12. “Objectively, ‘[w]hether the deprivation of food falls below this [constitutional] threshold depends on the amount and duration of the deprivation.'” Id. at 720 (quoting Berry v. Brady, ...

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