United States District Court, D. New Jersey
THOMAS L. BULLOCK, Plaintiff,
GERALDINE COHEN, et al., Defendants.
L. Bullock Plaintiff Pro se
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
Thomas L. Bullock (“Plaintiff”) seeks to bring a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(ECF No. 1.) Based on his affidavit of indigence (ECF No.
1-1), the Court previously granted Plaintiff leave to proceed
in forma pauperis and ed the Clerk of the Court to
file the Complaint. (ECF No. 2.)
time, the Court must review Plaintiff's Complaint,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), 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 should be dismissed without
brings this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, against the following defendants: (1) Geraldine Cohen,
Warden of Atlantic County Justice Facility
(“ACJF”); (2) Cheryl DeBoise, a medical services
supervisor at ACJF; (3) Atlantic County Chairman Frank
Formica; and (4) Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson.
Complaint, Plaintiff presents a litany of grievances about
the conditions at ACJF. Plaintiff asserts that ACJF is
overcrowded, as evidenced by the fact that three men share a
cell designed for one person, and by the fact that there are
only two showers per 48-60 people. (Compl. at ¶ 4.)
Although Plaintiff fails to specify whether he himself is a
convicted inmate or a non-convicted pretrial detainee, he
complains that ACJF improperly intermingles convicted
inmates, pretrial detainees, and psychiatric patients.
alleges that a federal inmate whom he was housed with had
scabies. (Id.) Plaintiff claims “that within
two weeks [of being housed together, that inmate] claimed
something was itching him.” (Id.) While
Plaintiff notes that he and that inmate received medical
treatment after reporting the issue to ACJF medical staff,
Plaintiff claims that this would never have happened had ACJF
properly screened this inmate. (Id.)
complains about ACJF's unclean and unsanitary conditions.
Plaintiff notes that the showers have mold and mildew, and
that inmates frequently complain of dizziness after
showering. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that there are
frequent sewage backups. (Id.) Plaintiff also
asserts that doors in the jail frequently malfunction, and
that this “causes all types of problems[,
e.g., ] eating late, missing court,
complains about the food served at ACJF. Plaintiff avers that
the food portions are inadequate, that leftovers are
frequently served, and “90% of the time food is not
cooked, cold or objects are found.” (Id.)
Plaintiff claims that “to question the issue, you are
threatened, other times locked down.” (Id.)
complains that the ACJF commissary engages in “price
gauging, ” as evidenced by the fact that it charges
$1.16 for one package of ramen noodles, $.61 for an oatmeal
packet, and $3.25 for indigent kits. (Id.) Plaintiff
also complains that ACJF charges for medical and dental
vis-à-vis several isolated, one-sentence declarations,
complains that: (1) ACJF has no law library; (2)
“religion services [are] violated [because there is] no
designated place to assemble[;]” and (3) ACJF only
offers “recreation and fresh air once or twice a week,
does not claim to have directly interacted with any of the
four defendants identified in his pleading, nor does he claim
that any of the four named defendants have been made aware of
Plaintiff's specific grievances.
Plaintiff's claims against Warden Geraldine Cohen appear
to arise solely out of Warden Cohen's supervisory
responsibilities at ACJF to “[make] sure [all ACJF
inmates/prisoners'] needs are accommodated and making
sure each department within the facility is in compliance
with the facility rules towards all prisoners.”
(See Compl. ¶ 3.)
claims against Cheryl DeBoise likewise appear to be based
solely on her role as an ACJF medical supervisor. Indeed,
although Plaintiff fails to detail any specific actions
undertaken by Ms. DeBoise which have directly caused him
harm, Plaintiff claims that Ms. DeBoise deprived him of his
constitutional rights by “intentionally ignor[ing] the
fact that her staff are failing to screen, diagnose and give
adequate medical attention.” (Id.)
claims against Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson and
Atlantic County Chairman Frank Formica similarly appear to
arise out of their respective roles as Atlantic County's
executive and the chairman of its governing body. Indeed,
other than asserting that these defendants have deprived him
of his constitutional rights because they have intentionally
ignored the fact that ACJF “is not in compliance[,
]” Plaintiff does not make any specific factual
allegations against either of these defendants. (Id.
at Attached Sheet.) Plaintiff requests an award of $2, 500,
000.00 in monetary damages. (Id. at ¶ 5.)
Standards for a Sua Sponte Dismissal
courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which
a person is proceeding in forma pauperis.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This statute
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. Id.
This action is subject to sua sponte screening for
dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) because
Plaintiff is proceeding as indigent.
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,
complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter”
to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v.
UPMC 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.” Belmont v. MB
Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470, 483 n.17 (3d Cir.
2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678); see also
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (“Determining
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]
a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”).
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).
Section 1983 Actions
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. . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
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
560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
reasons detailed infra, Plaintiff's Complaint
will be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a
Conditions of Confinement
noted above, Plaintiff's Complaint sets forth a litany of
grievances about the conditions at ACJF. Many of these
factual allegations fall under the ambit of a Section 1983
“conditions of confinement” claim. Plaintiff
fails to specify whether he was a pretrial detainee or a
convicted prisoner while housed at ACJF. In considering
Plaintiff's constitutional challenges to his conditions
of confinement, this distinction has some bearing. Indeed,
whereas, pretrial detainees are protected from punishment
under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause,
convicted inmates are protected only from punishment that is
cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-36, 536 n.16 (1979);
accord Mestre v. Wagner, 488 Fed.Appx. 648, 649 (3d
Cir. 2012) (noting that plaintiff's claims would be
governed by the Fourteenth Amendment if he were pretrial
detainee and by the Eighth Amendment if he were a convicted
prisoner) (citing Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150,
164 (3d Cir. 2005) (hereinafter “Hubbard