High
v.
Cnty. of Camden

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEYOct 28, 2016
Civil Action No. 16-cv- 05960 (JBS-AMD) (D.N.J. Oct. 28, 2016)

Civil Action No. 16-cv- 05960 (JBS-AMD)

10-28-2016

EMERSON CHARLES HIGH, Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF CAMDEN, Defendant.

APPEARANCES: Emerson Charles High, Plaintiff Pro Se 1164 Sycamore Street Camden, NJ 08103


OPINION

APPEARANCES: Emerson Charles High, Plaintiff Pro Se
1164 Sycamore Street
Camden, NJ 08103 SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:

1. Plaintiff Emerson Charles High seeks to bring a civil rights complaint pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Camden County Jail for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Camden County Jail ("CCJ"). 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 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) (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)).

5. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from CCJ for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement. As the CCJ 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 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.

The amended complaint shall be subject to screening prior to service.

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. The factual portion of the complaint states in its entirety: "Sleeping on the floor and strip search." Complaint § III. Even accepting the statement as true for screening purposes 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 in creating or failing to remedy the conditions of confinement, and any other relevant facts regarding the conditions of confinement.

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 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)). 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.

12. Plaintiff also has not pled sufficient facts to impose liability on Camden County. "There is no respondeat superior theory of municipal liability, so a city may not be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for 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.").

13. Plaintiff 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). 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.

"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). --------

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. An appropriate order follows. October 28, 2016
Date

s/ Jerome B. Simandle


JEROME B. SIMANDLE


Chief U.S. District Judge