MCNAIR v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al, No. 1:2016cv06928 - Document 3 (D.N.J. 2017)

Court Description: OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/8/2017. (dmr)
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MCNAIR v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al Doc. 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JAMIR McNAIR, Plaintiff, Civil Action No. 16-cv-06928(JBS-AMD) v. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, WARDEN JAMES OWENS, CAMDEN COUNTY BOARD OF FREEHOLDERS, and METRO POLICE DEPARTMENT, OPINION Defendants. APPEARANCES Jamir McNair, Plaintiff Pro Se 1513 Thorn Street Camden, NJ 08104 SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge: 1. Plaintiff Jamir McNair seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), Warden James Owens (“Owens”), Metro Police Department (“MPD”), and 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 1 Dockets.Justia.com 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, BOF, MPD, and Owens; and (2) dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii). 4. First, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as to claims made against CCCF because it is not a “state actor” within the meaning of § 1983. See Crawford v. McMillian, 660 F. App’x 113, 116 (3d Cir. Oct. 21, 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). 5. Second, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as to claims made against BOF because it is not a legal entity separate from Camden County and is therefore not independently subject to suit. See Bermudez v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL 1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases). “There is no respondeat superior theory of municipal liability, so a city may not be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for 2 the actions of its agents. Rather, a municipality may be held liable only if its policy or custom is the ‘moving force’ behind a constitutional violation.” Sanford v. Stiles, 456 F.3d 298, 314 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). See also Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 122 (1992) (“The city is not vicariously liable under § 1983 for the constitutional torts of its agents: It is only liable when it can be fairly said that the city itself is the wrongdoer.”). A Complaint must plead facts showing that the relevant Camden County policy-makers are “responsible for either the affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a well-settled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990).1 In other words, Plaintiff must set forth facts supporting an inference that Camden County itself was the “moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. 6. Third, construing the Complaint to assert claims against Camden County Police (Complaint at 1 (naming “Metro 1 “Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict. Government custom can be demonstrated by showing that a given course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually to constitute law.” Kirkland v. DiLeo, 581 F. App'x 111, 118 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (alteration in original). 3 Police Department” as a defendant)), the Complaint must similarly be dismissed with prejudice as to claims made against MPD. “[A] city police department is a governmental sub-unit that is not distinct from the municipality of which it is a part.” Jackson v. City of Erie Police Dep't, 570 F. Appx. 112, 114 n.2 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Camden County Police (i.e., “Metro Police Department”) are not distinct from Camden County, and the Complaint asserts no facts alleging that Camden County was the “moving force” behind an alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. 7. Fourth, the Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice as to claims made against Owens because the Complaint does “[not] allege[] any personal involvement by [the warden] in any constitutional violation – a fatal flaw, since ‘liability in a § 1983 suit cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.’” Baker v. Flagg, 439 F. App’x 82, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)). “[Plaintiff’s] complaint contains no allegations regarding [the] Warden. ‘Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.’ Thus, [plaintiff] failed to state a claim against [the] Warden.” Bob v. Kuo, 387 F. App’x 134, 136 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. 4 Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009)). Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims against Owens must be dismissed with prejudice. 8. Finally, 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). 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. 10. To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim2, 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 2 “The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Samuels v. Health Dep’t, No. 161289, 2017 WL 26884, slip op. at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 3, 2017) (citing Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012)); Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x 230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F. App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). 5 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, 556 U.S. at 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. With respect to alleged facts giving rise to his claims, Plaintiff states: “The housing officer assigned me to a cell knowing it [had] 4 other inmates in their [sic] with urine on the floor and species [sic] on the floor.” Complaint § III(C). 12. Plaintiff states that the purported events giving rise to these claims occurred “on or around Jan 12, 2014, 2015, 2016[.]” Id. § III(B). 13. With respect to alleged injuries from these events, Plaintiff states: “No serious injuries just a few bumps for hitting on the table and fallen [sic] over another inmate and 6 hitting my head on table. No treatment was administered to me[,] just Advil.” Id. § IV. 14. Plaintiff seeks $1.1 million in relief. Id. § V. 15. These claims must be dismissed because the Complaint does not set forth enough factual support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred. 16. 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[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 relevant factors are the length of the 7 confinement(s), whether plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, any specific individuals who were involved in creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement, any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of confinement, etc. 17. Furthermore, there are also not enough facts for the Court to infer Plaintiff was denied adequate medical care. In order to set forth a cognizable claim for violation of his right to adequate medical care, an inmate must allege: (1) a serious medical need; and (2) behavior on the part of prison officials that constitutes deliberate indifference to that need. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003). A mere assertion that Plaintiff received only Advil for sustaining “a few bumps” (Complaint § IV) is insufficient to meet the pleading standard in the absence of any facts. If Plaintiff wishes to pursue this claim, Plaintiff should provide facts supporting both of the requirements in any amended complaint. 18. Plaintiff may be able to amend the Complaint to particularly identify adverse conditions that were caused by specific state actors, that caused Plaintiff to endure genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time, and that were excessive in relation to their purposes. To that end, 8 the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint within 30 days of the date of this order.3 19. Plaintiff is further advised that any amended complaint must plead specific facts regarding the conditions of confinement. In the event Plaintiff files an amended complaint, Plaintiff 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. 20. 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 complaint may not adopt or repeat claims that have been dismissed with prejudice by the Court. 3 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to service. 9 21. For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is: (a) dismissed with prejudice as to the CCCF, Owens, Metro Police Department, and BOF; and (b) dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim. An appropriate order follows. February 8, 2017 Date s/ Jerome B. Simandle JEROME B. SIMANDLE Chief U.S. District Judge 10