Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mebane v. Camden County Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 13, 2018

MARCELLUS J. MEBANE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY and WARDEN OWENS, Defendants.

          Marcellus J. Mebane, Jr., Plaintiff Pro Se .

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         1. Plaintiff Marcellus J. Mebane, Jr. seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”) and Warden Owens (“Owens”) 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, this Court will:

         a. Dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against CCCF, as CCCF is not a “person” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii));

         b. Dismiss with prejudice the following claims by Plaintiff arising out of confinements from which he was released prior to September 28, 2014, on the grounds that such claims are barred by the statute of limitations and therefore fail to state a claim (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii)): (i) overcrowded conditions of confinement claims, (ii) verbal harassment claims, and (iii) failure to protect claims;

         c. Dismiss without prejudice the following claims by Plaintiff arising out of confinements from which he was released on or after September 28, 2014, on the grounds that such claims fail to state a claim (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii)): (i) overcrowded conditions of confinement claims, (ii) verbal harassment claims, (iii) failure to protect claims, (iv) claims against defendant Owens, (v) inadequate medical care claims, (vi) claims of deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical condition, and (vii) claims of negligence; and

         d. Grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date of this Court's Order accompanying this Opinion, in the event Plaintiff elects to address the pleading deficiencies described herein, with respect to confinements after September 28, 2014, only.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. 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. (Complaint § V.) 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 30 days of the date of this order, as explained below.

         B. Claims Of: (a) Overcrowded Conditions of Confinement, (b) Verbal Harassment, and (c) Failure to Protect: Dismissed With Prejudice As To Confinements From Which Plaintiff Was Released Prior To September 28, 2014

         8. Several of the claims set forth in the Complaint are time-barred under the two-year statute of limitations governing Section 1983 claims and must be dismissed with prejudice on that basis, as now explained.

         9. First, Plaintiff alleges that he was “forced to sleep on [the] floor” and “had to sleep in cells at times with two other inmates, ” thus supposedly experiencing overcrowded conditions of confinement at CCCF during the periods: (a) from “11/13/15 to 9/11/16”; and (b) “also 2012 & 2014.” (Docket Entry 1, Complaint §§ III(B), III(C) and page 4.) Although Plaintiff does not specify whether his “2012 & 2014” allegation refers to two separate incarcerations with different release dates, this Court reasonably construes § III(B) of the Complaint to so indicate two separate detentions: one occurring in 2012 and another in 2014. Plaintiff's overcrowded conditions claims arising out of confinements from which he was released prior to September 28, 2014 are hereinafter referred to as the “Expired Overcrowding Claims, ” for reasons more fully explained below.

         10. Second, Plaintiff alleges that “Warden Owens, Sgt. Vernon, Mrs. Kareem, [and] Nurse Houston . . . was [sic] not supportive and made me feel as [if] I had no rights. Any grievances made by my [sic] was met with reprisel [sic].” (Docket Entry 1, Complaint § III(C).) Although the Complaint does not identify the particular language of the alleged verbal communications or the dates when the supposed events occurred, this Court reasonably construes these contentions in the Complaint to allege unconstitutional threats, acts, and verbal abuse against Plaintiff. See generally Aleem-X v. Westcott, 347 F. App'x 731, 732 (3d Cir. 2009) (discussing claims under § 1983 for verbal abuse during confinement). Such claims arising out of confinements from which Plaintiff was released prior to September 28, 2014 are hereinafter referred to as the “Expired Harassment Claims, ” for reasons more fully explained below.

         11. Third, Plaintiff alleges that CCCF “officers” would “not do anything to prevent violence against other inmates who do not wish to partake in violence.” (Complaint page 4.) Although the Complaint does not identify which “officers” were involved in these supposed events or the dates when they occurred, the Court construes these contentions in the Complaint as alleging a Due-Process-grounded failure to protect claim. See generally Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 366-67 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing unsentenced inmates' protection claims under the Due Process Clause). Plaintiff's failure to protect claims arising out of confinements from which he was released prior to September 28, 2014 are hereinafter referred to as the “Expired Failure to Protect Claims, ” for reasons more fully explained below.

         12. Plaintiff's Expired Overcrowding Claims, Expired Harassment Claims, and Expired Failure to Protect Claims, all of which arise out of confinements from which Plaintiff was released prior to September 28, 2014 (all three claim categories are hereinafter referred to collectively as the “Time-Barred Claims”), are barred by the statute of limitations and are therefore dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim, as the Court now proceeds to explain.

         13. “[P]laintiffs who file complaints subject to dismissal should receive leave to amend unless amendment would be inequitable under [§ 1915] or futile.” Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). Here, this Court denies leave to amend the Complaint's Time-Barred Claims because they have lapsed under the statute of limitations, which is governed by New Jersey's two-year limitations period for personal injury.[3]See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010). The accrual date of a § 1983 action is determined by federal law, however. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007); Montanez v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., 773 F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). “Under federal law, a cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which the action is based.” Montanez, 773 F.3d at 480 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         14. Accordingly: (a) with respect to Plaintiff's 2012 incarceration at CCCF, the two-year statute of limitations for Plaintiff's Time-Barred Claims (Wilson, 471 U.S. at 276; Dique, 603 F.3d at 185) expired in 2014 (specifically, they lapsed on the date in 2014 that was two years after his release from the 2012 incarceration); and (b) with respect to Plaintiff's 2014 incarceration at CCCF, the two-year statute of limitations for Plaintiff's Time-Barred Claims expired in 2016 (specifically, they lapsed on the date in 2016 that was two years after his release from the 2014 incarceration).

         15. However, the Clerk's Office of this Court did not receive Plaintiff's Complaint until September 28, 2016 (Docket Entry 1); that is, Plaintiff had not filed this action prior to expiration of the two-year limitations period on the Time-Barred Claims.

         16. “Although a complaint is not formally filed until the filing fee is paid, a complaint [is deemed] constructively filed as of the date that the clerk received the complaint -- as long as the plaintiff ultimately pays the filing fee or the district court grants the plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis.”[4] McDowell v. Delaware State Police, 88 F.3d 188, 191 (3d Cir. 1996).[5]

         17. Here, the Clerk's Office of this Court received Plaintiff's Complaint on September 28, 2016 (Docket Entry 1), which is more than two years after: (a) Plaintiff's experience of alleged overcrowded conditions, alleged verbal harassment, and alleged failure to protect during his 2012 incarceration, and (b) his experience of similar alleged conditions during any incarceration from January 1 - September 27, 2014. See Complaint § III(B). The Time-Barred Claims in Plaintiff's Complaint are thus expired pursuant to the statute of limitations: that is, Plaintiff's overcrowded conditions claims, harassment claims, and failure to protect claims arising out of confinements from which he was released prior to September 28, 2014 were not timely filed and are now barred from suit.

         18. As there are no grounds for equitable tolling of the statute of limitations, [6] the Complaint's Time-Barred Claims will be dismissed with prejudice. Ostuni, 532 F. App'x at 112 (per curiam) (affirming dismissal with prejudice due to expiration of statute of limitations).

         C. Claims Of (a) Overcrowded Conditions of Confinement, (b) Verbal Harassment, (c) Failure to Protect, (d) Inadequate Medical Care, and (e) Deliberate Indifference to Plaintiff's Medical Condition: Dismissed Without Prejudice As To Confinements From Which Plaintiff Was Released On Or After September 28, 2014

         19. Several of the claims set forth in the Complaint fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and must be dismissed without prejudice on that basis. The Court will address these claims in turn.

         20. First, Plaintiff alleges that he was “forced to sleep on [the] floor with flat mat, ” that he “slept at times next to toilet, showers & other areas of cell block [that] had black mold and/or rust I breathed, ” and that he “had to sleep in cells at times with two other inmates.” (Complaint § III(C) and page 4.) Such overcrowded conditions claims arising out of confinements from which Plaintiff was released on or after September 28, 2014[7] ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.