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David v. Camden County Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 27, 2018

KWAME T. DAVID, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DAVID OWENS, and CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS, Defendants.

          Kwame T. David, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE, District Judge:

         I. INTRODUCTION

         1. Plaintiff Kwame T. David seeks to bring a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), David Owens (“Owens”), and the Camden County Board of Freeholders (“BOF”) 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; (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim regarding unconstitutional conditions of confinement from (a) overcrowding, (b) food service, (c) rodents and insects, and (d) inadequate medical care, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii); and (3) allow the Complaint to proceed as to Plaintiff's claim against Owens and BOF for unconstitutional conditions of confinement from unsanitary living spaces.

         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. 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.

         B. Conditions Of Confinement Claims Regarding Overcrowding: Dismissed Without Prejudice

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

         9. The present 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. 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 a constitutional violation has occurred from supposed overcrowding during Plaintiff's confinement at CCCF.

         10. To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim[3], 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)). 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).

         11. A complaint must plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a constitutional violation has occurred in order to survive this Court's screening under § 1915.

         12. However, with respect to the alleged facts giving rise to Plaintiff's claims, the present Complaint states: “While being housed at the jail, the plaintiff was given a thin mattress, 2 sheets and one blanket, and was housed in a[n] overcrowded two man cell with 3 other inmates. Plaintiff slept on dirty floor next to and/or near the toilet . . . Plaintiff was forced to eat meals off of dirty trays from the kitchen . . . Plaintiff broke out in rashes due to dirty showers that have fungus in them and mold . . . Plaintiff slept on dirty blankets.” Complaint § III(C).

         13. Plaintiff states that these events occurred “Sept. 22 - October 2, 2016.” Id. § III(B).

         14. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered “breakout on face and chest and back from dirty showers[, ] blankets and sheets” in connection with these events. Id. § IV.

         15. With respect to damages sought, Plaintiff “will leave monetary relief up to the courts” in connection with his claims. Id. § V.

         16. Even construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged prison overcrowding, any such purported claims must be dismissed because the Complaint does not set forth sufficient factual support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred.

         17. The mere fact that an individual is lodged temporarily in a cell with more persons than its intended design does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348-50 (1981) (holding double-celling by itself did not violate Eighth Amendment); Carson v. Mulvihill, 488 Fed.Appx. 554, 560 (3d Cir. 2012) (“[M]ere double-bunking does not constitute punishment, because there is no ‘one man, one cell principle lurking in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.'” (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 542 (1979))). More is needed to demonstrate that such crowded conditions, for a pretrial detainee, shocks the conscience and thus violate due process rights. See Hubbard v. Taylor, 538 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (“Hubbard II”) (noting due process analysis requires courts to consider whether the totality of the conditions “cause[s] inmates to endure such genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time, that the adverse conditions become excessive in relation to the purposes assigned to them.”). Some ...


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