WATSON v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, No. 1:2016cv06505 - Document 3 (D.N.J. 2017)

Court Description: OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/18/17. (js)
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WATSON v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY Doc. 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY KEVIN G. WATSON, Plaintiff, v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE Civil Action No. 16-cv-06505 (JBS-AMD) OPINION Defendant. APPEARANCES: Kevin G. Watson, Plaintiff Pro Se 401 Gregorys Way Voorhees, NJ 08043 SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge: 1. Plaintiff Kevin G. Watson seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”). Complaint, Docket Entry 1. 2. Section 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review complaints prior to service 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 Dockets.Justia.com 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 dismiss the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). 4. 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). “[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)). 5. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from CCCF for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. As the CCCF is not a “state actor” within the meaning of § 1983, the claims against it must be dismissed with prejudice. See Crawford v. McMillian, No. 16-3412, 2016 WL 6134846 (3d Cir. Oct. 21, 2016) (“[T]he prison is not an entity subject to suit under 42 2 U.S.C. § 1983.”) (citing Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973)). 6. Plaintiff may be able to amend the complaint to name state actors 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.1 7. Plaintiff is advised that the amended complaint must plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a constitutional violation has occurred in order to survive this Court’s review under § 1915. Plaintiff alleges he experienced unconstitutional conditions of confinement on September 14, 2011, July 24, 2013, September 29, 2013, December 18, 2014, January 15, 2015, May 1, 2015, and October 13, 2016.2 Complaint § III. In the factual portion of the complaint, Plaintiff states: “Was stripped searched, forced to get bu[ck] naked, not in front of one officer, but two, forced to spread my [buttocks] . . . was very uncomfortable and embarrassed. Also living conditions, mild[ew] in shower and rooms, eating conditions are unsanitary. 3 people sometimes 4 to 5 in a room . . . .” Complaint § III. Even accepting these statements as true for screening purposes 1 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to service. 2 Given that Plaintiff filed his complaint on October 5, 2016, the Court presumes the October 13, 2016, date is an error. 3 only, there is not enough factual support for the Court to infer a constitutional violation has occurred. 8. 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 F. App'x 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 violates due process rights. See Hubbard v. Taylor, 538 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (noting due process analysis requires courts to consider whether the totality of the conditions “cause 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.”). 9. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint, he should include specific facts, such as the dates and length of his confinement(s), whether he was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved 4 in creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement, and any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of confinement.3 10. Moreover, Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a Fourth Amendment violation for an improper strip search. Under the Fourth Amendment, inmates have a limited right of bodily privacy “subject to reasonable intrusions necessitated by the prison setting.” Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 325 (3d Cir. 2016). This right is very narrow, however. Id. at 326. 11. “The test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment . . . requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails. Courts must consider the scope of the particular intrusion, the 3 To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions Plaintiff encountered during confinements prior to September 29, 2014, those claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Claims brought under § 1983 are governed by New Jersey's twoyear limitations period for personal injury. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010). “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 v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr., 773 F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). The allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCJ would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore, the statute of limitations for some of Plaintiff's claims expired sometime in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Plaintiff’s claims arising from events or conditions he encountered on September 14, 2011, July 24, 2013, and September 29, 2013, are therefore dismissed with prejudice. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, he should focus on facts of his 2014 and 2015 confinements. 5 manner in which it is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the place in which it is conducted.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979). A prisoner search policy is constitutional if it strikes a reasonable balance between the inmate's privacy and the needs of the institution. Parkell, 833 F.3d at 326 (citing Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders of Cty. of Burlington, 132 S. Ct. 1510, 1515, 1517 (2012)). 12. Plaintiff’s cursory allegations that the strip search was uncomfortable and embarrassing is insufficient to state a claim for relief. In the absence of further facts regarding the circumstances of the search, the claim cannot proceed at this time. Plaintiff may amend this claim in an amended complaint, however. 13. Plaintiff should note that when an amended complaint is filed, the original complaint no longer performs any function in the case and cannot be utilized to cure defects in the amended complaint, unless the relevant portion is specifically incorporated in the new complaint. 6 Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure 1476 (2d ed. 1990) (footnotes omitted). An amended complaint may adopt some or all of the allegations in the original complaint, but the identification of the particular allegations to be adopted must be clear and explicit. Id. To avoid confusion, the safer course is to file an amended complaint that is complete in itself. Id. The amended 6 complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been dismissed with prejudice by the Court. 14. For the reasons stated above, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. The Court will reopen the matter in the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint within the time allotted by the Court. 15. January Date An appropriate order follows. 18, 2017 s/ Jerome B. Simandle JEROME B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge 7