United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ARTHUR T. CHESTER, III, Plaintiff,
CAPE MAY COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court by way of Plaintiff Arthur T.
Chester, III's Complaint, asserting violations of the
First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Presently before the Court is
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 25).
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant
case arises from Plaintiffs pretrial detention at the Cape
May County Correctional Center. On June 10, 2015, Plaintiff
entered the jail as a result of his arrest for burglary and
related charges. Plaintiff alleges that upon entering the
jail, he informed Defendants Logue or Schienk that he had a
“no-contact order” against a fellow inmate, Aaron
Shelton, who was the leader of the bloods gang members in the
jail. Plaintiff feared Mr. Shelton and other
bloods members because Mr. Shelton burglarized Plaintiffs
home and Plaintiff testified against Mr. Shelton.
several weeks, Mr. Shelton harassed Plaintiff by taking
Plaintiffs food trays and making Plaintiff wash Mr.
Shelton's laundry. According to Defendants, there is no
evidence that any Cape May employees “ever witnessed or
were informed that plaintiff had to clean for Shelton or any
other blood members.” (ECF No. 25-4, at 4-5). Plaintiff
strongly disputes this allegation, contending that he
informed Defendants about these issues on official
correspondence, but does not cite to anything other than the
Complaint. (ECF No. 26-1, at 1).
early July of 2015, the State transferred Mr. Shelton to
Camden County. After his departure, other bloods members took
Plaintiffs food trays and called him a rat or snitch. (ECF
No. 25-4, at 5). Plaintiff contends that he composed a number
of correspondence slips for protection detailing the above,
but never received a response. (ECF No. 25-4, at 7).
Plaintiff did, however, keep copies for himself.
(Id.). Additionally, although Plaintiff recalls
speaking to some defendants regarding those slips, he cannot
recall the names of those individuals. (Id.).
parties dispute whether Defendants are in possession of any
of those slips and whether Plaintiff handed in the slips in
the first place. Plaintiff does not specify to whom he
provided the slips and implies that some or all of the
Defendants ignored or destroyed his correspondence, or both.
(ECF No. 26-1, at 2). Defendants maintain that none of the
slips “were or are in the possession of the
Defendants]” and that “therefore . . . plaintiff
never did hand in these . . . slips.” (ECF No. 25-4, at
on July 18, 2015, Waladin Snow, an alleged bloods member,
attacked Plaintiff, resulting in serious injuries. The
parties dispute whether the injuries resulted from a mutual
fight or an orchestrated “hit, ” who initiated
the fight, and the integrity of the investigation relating to
the incident. (ECF No. 26-1, at 2-3). Plaintiff also contends
that Defendants ceded control of the area of the jail where
these events took place, to the bloods.
January 4, 2017, Plaintiff named Cape May County; Sheriff
Gary Schaffer; Warden Donald Lombardo; Lieutenant Campbell;
Sergeant Prince; Sergeant Faircloth; Sergeant Caldwell;
Sergeant Rucci; Correctional Officer Sharp; Correctional
Officer Schenck; and Correctional Officer Weatherby as
Defendants in this action. Plaintiff brings claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated
Plaintiffs rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and
STANDARD OF REVIEW
should grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Tolan v. Cotton, 572
U.S. 650, 656-57 (2014). In deciding a motion for summary
judgment, a court must construe all facts and inferences in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See
Cotton, 572 U.S. at 657. The moving party bears the
burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact
remains. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322-23 (1986). “[W]ith respect to an issue on which the
nonmoving party bears the burden of proof, ” the moving
party may discharge its burden “by
‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the district
court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” Id. at 325.
moving party meets its threshold burden, the opposing party
must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as
to a material fact for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also
Fed. R Civ. P. 56(c) (setting forth types of evidence that
may show that genuine issues of material fact exist). The
non-moving party must at least present probative evidence
from which the jury might return a verdict in his favor.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. Where the non-moving
party fails to “make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof
at trial, ” the movant is entitled to summary judgment.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “[Unsupported
allegations . . . and pleadings are insufficient to repel
summary judgment.” Schoch v. First Fid.
Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990);
see also Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. State Sys.
of Higher Educ, 470 F.3d 535, 538 (3d Cir. 2006)
(“To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the
nonmoving party needs to show specific facts such that a
reasonable jury could find in that party's favor, thereby
establishing a genuine issue of fact for trial.”).
Municipal Liability Under § 1983
County of Cape May argues that summary judgment is
appropriate because Plaintiff has failed to support his claim
against a local government entity under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. To succeed on a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must
allege two things: first, a violation of a right under the
Constitution, and second, that a “person” acting
under color of state law committed the violation. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Piecknick v. Com. of
Pa., 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d. Cir. 1994)). The Supreme
Court has established that § 1983's definition of
“person” includes municipalities and other local
government entities. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.
of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).
plaintiff may not, however, hold a local government unit
“liable for the unconstitutional acts of its employees
on a theory of respondeat superior.”
Thomas v. Cumberland Cty., 749 F.3d 217, 222 (3d
Cir. 2014). To hold such an entity liable under § 1983,
plaintiffs must demonstrate that a local government unit
adopted a policy or custom and that such policy or custom had
been “the moving force” behind the deprivation of
their constitutional rights. See Monell, 436 U.S. at
policy generally requires that a local governing body's
officers officially adopt and promulgate a “statement,
ordinance, regulation, or decision.” Id. at
690. A municipal custom, although lacking the formal approval
of a policy, refers to those official practices which are
“so permanent and well settled as to constitute . . .
the force of law.” Id. at 691.
certain circumstances, a municipality's failure to
properly train its employees and officers can amount to a
“custom” under § 1983. See City of
Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989). When a
plaintiff alleges that a policy “concerns a failure to
train or supervise municipal employees, liability under
section 1983 requires a showing that the failure amounts to
‘deliberate indifference' to the rights of persons
with whom those employees will come into contact.”
Thomas, 749 F.3d at 222 (quoting Carter v. City
of Phila., 181 F.3d 339, 357 (3d Cir. 1999)). “A
pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained
employees is ‘ordinarily necessary' to demonstrate
deliberate indifference for purposes of failure to
train.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 62
(2011) (quoting Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cty.,
Okl. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 409 (1997)).
“first inquiry in any case alleging municipal liability
under § 1983 is . . . whether there is a direct causal
link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged
constitutional deprivation.” Canton, 489 U.S.
at 385. The County of Cape May may satisfy its burden for
summary judgment by showing “that there is an absence
of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case,
” and does so here. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at
325. Assuming arguendo that there was a violation of
a constitutional right, Plaintiff has failed to provide
evidence to show that the County contributed to that
violation. See West, 487 U.S. at 48.
alleges that the County of Cape May “facilitated”
a “conspiracy of silence” by maintaining a
deficient record keeping system for detainee complaints. (ECF
No. 1, at 4; ECF No. 26, at 10). He contends that unlike the
electronic system at state prisons, the handwritten
correspondence system allows the County to avoid liability
“when it does not want to be informed of
problems” and allows the County to thwart or deny
access to the courts. (ECF No. 26, at 10). Plaintiff also
contends that the County failed to establish and enforce any
policy, practice, or custom to supervise, control, or
otherwise prevent the alleged violations in the Complaint.
(ECF No. 1, at 7).
initial matter, Plaintiff does not explain his theory as to
how a deficient recordkeeping system, could prevent a person
from say, filing a complaint in federal or state court. To
the extent that Plaintiff contends that the system makes it
intentionally more difficult to prove claims in
court, he ...