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Conway v. County of Camden

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 30, 2017

ROBERT CONWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF CAMDEN; CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS; WARDEN, CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS JANE & JOHN DOES 1 THROUGH 100, Defendants.

          Robert Conway, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE, JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Robert Conway seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Camden (“County”), Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders (collectively “Freeholders”), Warden of Camden County Correctional Facility (“Warden”), and Correctional Officers Jane & John Does 1 through 100 (”collectively “Officers”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). Complaint, Docket Entry I. At this time, the Court must review the complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the complaint will proceed in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The following factual allegations are taken from the complaint and are accepted for purposes of this screening only. The Court has made no findings as to the truth of Plaintiff's allegations.

         Plaintiff alleges he endured unconstitutional conditions of confinement in CCCF from June 25, 203 to August 2016, when he was held as a pre-trial detainee, as well as until September 14, 2016 when he was held as a convicted inmate, prior to sentencing. Complaint ¶ 9-10. During these times, Plaintiff was housed in an overcrowded and unsanitary cell. He further alleges he was housed in a two-person cell with three other people and required to sleep on the floor next to the toilet with only a thin mattress. Id. ¶ 12-14. He further states there was only one set of fingernail clippers for all the inmates on the unit, and he sustained a skin infection. Id. ¶ 14. He states the housing unit was unsanitary with mold throughout, causing him to sustain respiratory problems. Id. ¶ 18. He alleges that to “cover up this mold” defendants would just paint over it to conceal these conditions. Id. ¶ 25. He also alleges a lack of hot water in the cells and only cold air would be circulated, even in the winter. Id. ¶ 18, 24. He also alleges he sustained insect bites and was housed with inmates infected with M.R.S.A. Id. ¶ 19. He alleges all defendants were notified of these complaints. Id. ¶ 21, 26. He seeks relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages. Id. ¶ 40.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal

         Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a claim with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts to 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, 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis and is seeking redress from government officials about the conditions of his confinement. According to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “a pleading that offers ‘labels or conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). 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) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, they “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).

         B. Section 1983 Actions

         A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress ....

28 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, 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 ...


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