United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Shields, Plaintiff Pro Se
B. SIMANDLE, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff Moddie Shields, also known as Jeffrey Shields,
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 with prejudice in part and without prejudice in
part for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. §
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.
Because Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that a person
- here, the CCDOC - 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 CCDOC for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Camden
County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). The
CCCDOC, however, 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).
Accordingly, in order to state a claim for relief, Plaintiff
must plead sufficient facts to impose liability on Camden
County. Plaintiff has not done so.
“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
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 with respect
to Camden County.
the fact section of the complaint, Plaintiff states:
“Being treated like animals, food was like something
that animals would [sic]. Having to wash in cement showers
with mold where we had to purchase shower showes [sic] in
order to take showers. Sandwiches where the lunch meat some
time had mold on it the bread was molded hard not fresh.
Juice that tasted like detergent.” Complaint §
III. Plaintiff also alleges that the cells were overcrowded,
sick people were housed “with others risking others
lives, ” that mats he was given to sleep on were
“so old you feel all the [cold] from the cement floors,
” and that he had to sleep with his head by the toilet
due to overcrowding. Id. § V. However,
Plaintiff has not alleged facts demonstrating that these
allegedly unconstitutional conditions are attributable to a
policy or custom of Camden County. The complaint therefore does
not contain sufficient factual support to allow the Court to
infer that Camden County is liable for the alleged
constitutional violations. Fair Wind Sailing, Inc.,
764 F.3d at 308 n.3.
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, to the extent the complaint seeks relief for
conditions Plaintiff encountered during confinements ending
prior to September 23, 2014, those claims are barred by the
statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice,
meaning that ...