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Williams v. Camden County (Prison)-CCCF Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 10, 2018

DEREK S. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAMDEN COUNTY (PRISON) - CCCF CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, LIEUTENANT DANFORD, and SGT. JONES, Defendants.

          Derek S. Williams, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         1. Plaintiff Derek S. Williams seeks to bring a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County Prison (Prison) - CCCF Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), Lieutenant Danford (“Danford”), and Sgt. Jones (“Jones”) for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1.

         2. Plaintiff seeks to bring this civil action without prepayment of fees or security. Docket Entry 1-3. Based on Plaintiff's affidavit of indigency, the Court will grant his application to proceed in forma pauperis.

         3. At this time, the Court must review the 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.

         4. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will: (a) dismiss with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against CCCF, on the grounds that 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 Plaintiff's allegations of unconstitutional conditions of confinement during the confinement period April 20, 2015 - August 21, 2015, on the grounds that such claims are barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations and therefore fail to state a claim (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii)); (c) dismiss without prejudice Plaintiff's unconstitutional conditions of confinement claims as to overcrowding, food, and unsanitary conditions, during the confinement period March 10, 2017 - March 14, 2017, on the grounds that those allegations fail to state a claim (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii)); and (d) grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date that this Opinion and accompanying Order are entered on the docket, in the event Plaintiff elects to address the pleading deficiencies described in this Opinion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         5. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff “was subjected to unsafe and unsanitary crowded living conditions which resulted in crowded/overcrowded housing and sleeping quarters.” Complaint § III(C). Plaintiff states that he “was placed in a cell that accommodated two inmates [but] at all times housed four inmates.” Id. Plaintiff states that these events occurred “4/30/2015 - 8/21/2015” and “3/10/2017 - 3/14/2017.” Id. § III(B). Plaintiff states that he sustained “no injuries, but [the conditions] caused high level of intense frustration, anxiety and lack of sleep.” Id. § IV. He seeks “compensation for emotional distress [and] pain and suffering.” Id. § V.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         6. Section 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review complaints prior to service of the summons and complaint in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. The Court 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.

         7. 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). “[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)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Claims Against CCCF: Dismissed With Prejudice

         8. Plaintiff brings his Complaint against “Camden County (Prison) - CCCF Correctional Facility.” Complaint at 1. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff experienced unconstitutional conditions of confinement while confined at “Camden County Correctional Facility - Jail.” Complaint § III(B).

         9. 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)).

         10. 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.

         11. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from defendants for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Complaint § V. However, neither Camden County Correctional Facility nor Camden County Jail (see Complaint at 1 and 3) are a “person” within the meaning of § 1983. 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. Therefore, the claims against these entities must be dismissed with prejudice. See Crawford v. McMillian, 660 Fed.Appx. 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).

         12. 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 that this Opinion and accompanying Order are entered on the docket.

         B. Claims Regarding (a) Overcrowded Conditions of Confinement, (b) Food, and (c) Unsanitary Conditions: Dismissed With Prejudice As To Confinements From Which Plaintiff Was Released Prior To October 2, 2016

          13. Several of the claims set forth in the Complaint are time-barred under the pertinent statute of limitations and must be dismissed with prejudice on that basis. ...


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