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McDowell v. Camden County Correction Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 19, 2017

ADAM TYREE MCDOWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTION FACILITY, Defendant.

          Adam Tyree McDowell, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         1. Plaintiff Adam Tyree McDowell seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Correction Facility (“CCCF”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1.

         2. 28 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.

         3. For 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), except that claims relating to conditions of confinement arising prior to October 20, 2014, are dismissed with prejudice.

         Claims Against CCCF: Dismissed With Prejudice

         4. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] 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)).

         5. 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)).[2] 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.

         6. 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 a defendant.

         7. 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 of the date of this order.

         Conditions Of Confinement Claims: Dismissed Without Prejudice

         8. Second, for the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).

         9. As to the conditions of confinement claims, the present Complaint states: “I was incarcerated 11 times between May 14, 2002 and July 6, 2015. Each instance there was an issue with housing. In each instance I was assigned to a cell that consisted of only 2 beds, but there were 3-4 inmates in each cell. Each time I was subjected to sleeping on the floor for more than 75% of the time. The only time I was able to have a bunk was when a less dominating person would be in a cell with me. There was no rotation. The sanitation conditions were subpar. I was forced to sleep near toilets with urine splashing on me at time. Bugs crawled on me. Rodents ran across me. I had to fight due to space issues. Overcrowding in the summer made inmates attitudes escalated and even more fighting ensued. From 6/4/05 to 7/6/15 I was in the medical ward with a broken arm with staples and tubes in it and was on several meds that were withheld from me for about a week. I was subjected to sleeping on the floor at that time as well.” Complaint § III(C).

         10. Plaintiff states this occurred on the following dates: January 10 to August 18, 2003; December 9, 2006 to January 2, 2007; July 2, 2007 to January 1, 2008; April 15, 2010 to May 4, 2010; January 2 to January 12, 2013; May 15 to June 8, 2013; July 17 to October 24, 2013; April 4 to June 24, ...


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