SINGLETON v. CAMDEN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS et al, No. 1:2016cv08996 - Document 6 (D.N.J. 2017)

Court Description: OPINION. Signed by Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/8/17. (jbk, )
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SINGLETON v. CAMDEN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS et al Doc. 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY TERRAY L. SINGLETON, Plaintiff, v. HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE Civil Action No. 16-cv-08996 (JBS-AMD) CAMDEN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS; CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, OPINION Defendants. APPEARANCES: Terray L. Singleton, Plaintiff Pro Se 1088782/ 160812C South Woods State Prison 215 S. Burlington Road Bridgeton, NJ 08302 SIMANDLE, District Judge: 1. Plaintiff Terray L. Singleton seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Camden County Board of Freeholders (“Freeholders”) and 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 alleges he experienced unconstitutional conditions of confinement while detained at the CCCF during the following dates: February 11, 1999 to August 27, 1999; October 15, 2002 to May 30, 2003; December 15, 2006 to July 11, 2007; November 20, 2009 to October 28, 2010; July 21, 2015; January 2 29, 2016 to February 21, 2016; and February 23, 2016 to the present. Complaint § III. The fact section of the complaint states: “I was housed in areas over populated being forced to sleep on the floor also housed in cells where my cell leaked rain water on us.” Id. 6. Even construing the Complaint as seeking to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged prison overcrowding, any such purported claims must be dismissed because the Complaint does not set forth sufficient factual support for the Court to infer that a constitutional violation has occurred. 7. 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 3 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 dates and length of the confinement(s), whether Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner, etc. 8. Moreover, Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to support an inference that the named Defendants are personally liable for the alleged constitutional violations. 9. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from CCCF for the allegedly unconstitutional conditions of his 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, 660 F. App’x 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)). 10. Moreover, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts regarding the personal liability of the Freeholders. As the governing body of Camden County, the Freeholders cannot be held liable under § 1983 solely on a theory of respondeat superior. Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690–91 (1978). Plaintiff must instead plead facts showing that the 4 Freeholders 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 the Freeholders were the “moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. 11. As Plaintiff may be able to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies noted by the Court, the Court shall grant Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint within 30 days of the date of this order. 12. To the extent the complaint seeks relief for conditions Plaintiff encountered during his numerous confinements occurring before December 5, 2014, those claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiff filed his complaint on December 5, 2016. Claims brought under § 1983 are governed by New Jersey's two-year 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). 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). 5 “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 CCCF would have been immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of his detention; therefore, Plaintiff’s claims of his detentions of February 11, 1999 to August 27, 1999, October 15, 2002 to May 30, 2003, December 15, 2006 to July 11, 2007, and November 20, 2009 to October 28, 2010, are barred by the statute of limitations. In the event Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, he should focus on the facts of any confinement that ended after December 5, 2014. 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 6 explicit. Id. To avoid confusion, the safer course is to file an amended complaint that is complete in itself.2 Id. 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. An appropriate order follows. June 8, 2017 Date s/ Jerome B. Simandle JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. District Judge 2 The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to service. 7