United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Jermaine Carter, Plaintiff Pro Se.
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE, District Judge.
Plaintiff Jermaine Carter seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden
Dave Owens (“Warden” or “Owens”),
City of Camden (“City”), State of New Jersey
(“State”), the Mayor of City of Camden
(“Mayor”), Board of Freeholders of Camden County
(“BOF”), County of Camden (“County”),
and Camden Correctional Facility (“CCF”) for
allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at § 4(b)-(c) and at 7 -
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) and 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e because
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis
and is filing a claim about the conditions of his
the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (1) dismiss the
Complaint with prejudice as to claims made against CCCF; (2)
dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to claims made
against State of New Jersey; and (3) dismiss the Complaint
without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C.
Claims Against CCCF: Dismissed With
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 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 30 days of the date that this Opinion and
accompanying Order are entered on the docket.
Claims Against The State: Dismissed With
Plaintiff's claims against the State of New Jersey
(Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 1) must be dismissed based on
the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution,
which provides: “The Judicial power of the United
States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or
equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United
States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or
Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI.
Plaintiff may not bring a suit against the State in federal
court unless Congress has expressly abrogated New
Jersey's sovereign immunity or the State consents to
being sued in federal court. Will v. Michigan Dep't
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). Here, Congress
did not expressly abrogate sovereign immunity when it passed
§ 1983, see id., and there is no indication New
Jersey has consented to Plaintiff's suit. The claims
against the State of New Jersey must be dismissed with
Claims Against The County, The City and The BOF:
Dismissed Without Prejudice
to claims against the County, the City, and the BOF,
Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability
on these defendants. “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
Servs., 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 an alleged
constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689.
Plaintiff has not done so.
Plaintiff contends that the County, the City, and the BOF
“were responsible for the overcrowding of the [CCCF]
facility and failed to resolve the matter and the violations
it caused” (Complaint, § 4(c)), along with various
other alleged jail conditions and due process violations.
Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6 - 7. The Complaint states that
the County and the City were “responsible for the
overcrowding of the facility [and] for not resolving the
issues of overcrowding and the subsequent problems that
[were] attributed to it.” Id. at 7.
Plaintiff has not pled the necessary facts to impose
liability on the County, the City, or the BOF because even
accepting the statements in Plaintiff's Complaint as true
for screening purposes only, there is not enough factual
support for the Court to infer that Plaintiff has been the
victim of any constitutional violations with respect to
overcrowded conditions of confinement, various other jail
conditions, or due process violations, as explained in
greater detail below in this Opinion. In other words, the
Complaint does not set forth facts supporting an inference
that Camden County itself was the “moving force”
behind any alleged constitutional violation. Monell,
436 U.S. at 689.
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 that this Opinion and accompanying Order are entered on
Claims Against the Warden and the Mayor: Dismissed
With respect to Owens, Plaintiff contends that the Warden
“was directly in charge of the daily operations of the
facility, fully participated in the conditions being
complained about [and] is responsible . . . for the
overcrowding of the facility [and] continuing acceptance of
inmates knowing that there was an existing problem of where
to house inmates.” Complaint at § 4(b) and at 7.
With respect to the Mayor, Plaintiff contends that this
defendant was “responsible for all of the City of
Camden affairs [and was] responsible for the overcrowding of
the facility and failed to resolve the matter and the
violations it caused.” Complaint § 4(c).
Even accepting the statements in Plaintiff's Complaint as
true for screening purposes only, and as explained in greater
detail below in this Opinion, there is not enough factual
support for the Court to infer that any constitutional
violations have occurred in the first instance with respect
to: overcrowded conditions of confinement, other jail
conditions referenced in the Complaint, alleged retaliation,
or alleged due process violations. Therefore, Plaintiff has
failed to state a claim against Owens and the Mayor because
the Complaint does “[not] allege any personal
involvement by [them] 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)). “‘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 [these individuals].” Bob v. Kuo, 387
F. App'x 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)). Accord Hussein v.
State of New Jersey, 403 F. App'x 712, 716
(3d Cir. 2010) (“The claims against the remaining
defendants were properly dismissed sua sponte for
failure to state a claim. [The] Mayor [of Jersey City] cannot
be sued under § 1983 on the basis of a respondeat
superior theory. See Rode, 845 F.2d at
1207[-1208] [‘A defendant in a civil rights action must
have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability
cannot be predicated solely on the operation of
respondeat superior. Personal involvement can be
shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual
knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or
actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with
appropriate particularity. Compare Boykins v. Ambridge
Area Sch. Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980) (civil
rights complaint adequate where it states time, place,
other words, Plaintiff here has not offered facts suggesting
that the Warden or the Mayor, through their own individual
actions, have violated the Constitution. Bob, 387 F.
App'x at 136. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim
against Owens and the Mayor.
Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against the Warden and
the Mayor will be dismissed without prejudice.
Conditions Of Confinement Claims: Dismissed Without
Overcrowded Conditions of Confinement
Plaintiff alleges that he experienced “forceful
conditions of overcrowding” while incarcerated at CCCF,
including but not limited to “being forced to sleep on
the floor and under the bed” (hereinafter referred to
as Plaintiff's “Overcrowding Claim”).
Complaint § III(C).
explained 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 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, 556 U.S. at 678 (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 added).
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 Complaint states that he was
confined at the CCCF from “January 3, 2016 to September
30, 2016” and suffered “cruel and unusual
punishment due to the forceful conditions of
overcrowding.” Complaint, Docket Entry 1 at 6.
Plaintiff sets forth several alleged constitutional
violations he experienced while incarcerated, including
“quadruple-triple bunking” and
“overcrowding.” Id. at
Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered “a great deal
of pain and suffering” and “cruel and unusual
punishment” during these events. Complaint, Docket
Entry 1 at 6.
Plaintiff seeks: “general damages, punitive damages[, ]
[and] monetary damages in the amount of [$]1, 000, 000, 000,
” along with “an injunction that the
defendants stop ...