MEJIA v. ORTIZ et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 6/23/2014. (nz, )n.m.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
DIEGO FERNANDO MEJIA,
MR. ORTIZ, et al.,
Civil Action No. 11-0937(NLH)
Diego Fernando Mejia
F.C.I. Fort Dix
P.O. Box 2000
Fort Dix, NJ 08640
Plaintiff pro se
HILLMAN, District Judge
Plaintiff Diego Fernando Mejia, a prisoner confined at the
Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, New Jersey, seeks
to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to pursuant to
Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388
(1971), alleging violations of his constitutional rights. 1
This matter previously was administratively terminated based on
Plaintiff’s submission of deficient applications for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff has submitted a new IFP
application which reflects that he is entitled to proceed in
At this time, the Court must review the Complaint to
determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or
malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in
forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which
prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison
The following factual allegations are taken from
Plaintiff’s Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of
Plaintiff alleges that he has a long history of working for
the Federal Prison Industries, also known as “UNICOR.”
According to Plaintiff, he and a group of other UNICOR inmate
workers were placed on a 30-day non-work status, allegedly for
lack of work, after which they were called to attend a meeting
at which the UNICOR factory manager Mr. Ortiz requested that
forma pauperis. Based on his new application and the absence of
three qualifying dismissals within 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), the
Court will direct the Clerk of the Court to re-open this matter,
will grant Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), and will order the Clerk of the
Court to file the Complaint.
they all voluntarily resign from their UNICOR jobs.
contends that Mr. Ortiz planned to reduce his expenses by rehiring these same workers at a lower pay grade, with loss of
longevity pay and vacation pay benefits.
When Plaintiff and
other workers refused to voluntarily resign, they were all
terminated from their UNICOR employment.
Plaintiff argues that
this termination violated Bureau of Prisons policies and his due
Plaintiff alleges that UNICOR supervisor Mr. Dalessandro
has previously subjected prison workers to lay-offs, replacing
them with lower-cost workers, in this same fashion in order to
Finally, Plaintiff states that his performance evaluations
reflect that he has done an excellent job while employed at
UNICOR, 2 and that he was terminated because he is Hispanic.
Petitioner names as defendants UNICOR factory manager Mr.
Ortiz, Assistant factory manager Ms. Long, UNICOR Supervisor Mr.
Dalessandro, and other unknown UNICOR-FCI Fort Dix staff.
seeks restoration to his UNICOR job and back pay since his
termination date of July 12, 2010.
Plaintiff states that the defendants have failed to maintain
complete and accurate performance evaluation records, allegedly
in violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e)(5), but that
the records that are available reflect his excellent work
history and performance.
STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
Every complaint must comply with the pleading requirements
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.”
“Specific facts are not necessary; the
statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the
... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’”
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted).
While a complaint ... does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the
“grounds” of his “entitle[ment] to relief” requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will
not do ... . Factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
That is, a complaint must assert “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id. at 570.
“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
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
The determination whether the
factual allegations plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief is “‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.’”
Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) (citations
Thus, a court is “not bound to accept as true a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation,” and “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (citations omitted).
In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the
Court must be mindful to accept its factual allegations as true,
see James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 679 (3d Cir.
2012), and to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff,
see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); United States
v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992).
Where a complaint can be remedied by an amendment, a
district court may not dismiss the complaint with prejudice, but
must permit the amendment.
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 34
(1992); Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d
Cir. 2002) (dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)), cited
in Thomaston v. Meyer, 519 F.App’x 118, 120 n.2 (3d Cir. 2013);
Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000) (dismissal
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Urrutia v. Harrisburg
County Police Dept., 91 F.3d 451, 453 (3d Cir. 1996).
Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents
In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 389 (1971), the Supreme Court held that
a violation of the Fourth Amendment by a federal agent acting
under color of his authority gives rise to a cause of action
against that agent, individually, for damages.
Court has also implied damages remedies directly under the
Eighth Amendment, see Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980), and
under the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s
Due Process Clause, see Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228 (1979).
It is well established that an inmate has no liberty or
property interest in a particular prison job, or any prison job.
See James v. Quinlan, 866 F.2d 627, 629-30 (3d Cir.), cert.
denied, 493 U.S. 870 (1989); Bryan v. Werner, 516 F.2d 233, 240
(3d Cir. 1975).
While federal law does provide for
discretionary compensation for inmates assigned to work in an
industrial operation such as UNICOR, see 18 U.S.C. 4126(c),
neither § 4126 nor any regulatory scheme developed under it
creates a liberty or property interest on the part of federal
inmates, see, e.g., Huff v. Outlaw, Civil No. 09-0520, 2010 WL
1433466, *8 (D.S.C. March 8, 2010) (collecting cases), report
and recommendation adopted, 2010 WL 1433470 (D.S.C. April 8,
Indeed, there is no constitutional requirement that a
prisoner receive any pay for working at a prison job.
USA, Civil No. 09-0033, 2009 WL 5083401, *4 (W.D. La. Dec. 23,
2009), appeal dismissed as frivolous, 412 F.App’x 690 (5th Cir.
Feb. 16, 2011); Northrop v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, Civil No.
08-0746, 2008 WL 5047792, *8-*10 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 24, 2008)
Cf. Talkowski v. Lane, Civil No. 89-6338,
1990 WL 60706, *2 (N.D. Ill. April 20, 1990) (“By its terms the
Thirteenth Amendment allows involuntary servitude as a
punishment for persons convicted of a crime, like [the
Prison officials thus may compel inmates to work --
even for no pay -- without running afoul of the Thirteenth
Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to state a due
process claim arising out of the termination of his prison
employment and related compensation.
Nor has Plaintiff stated a claim for an equal protection
violation in connection with the termination of his prison job.
Although the Fifth Amendment by its own terms does not
reference equal protection, the Supreme Court has interpreted it
to include an equal protection element, Bolling v. Sharpe,
347 U.S. 497, 499 (1954), that the Supreme Court has analyzed
identically to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, Buckley v. Valeo , 424 U.S. 1, 93 (1976).
v. Lopez, 650 F.3d 952, 961 n.8 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Bolling
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment commands that no State shall "deny to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," which
is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated
should be treated alike.
City of Cleburne, Texas v. Cleburne
Living Center , 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985) (citing Plyler v. Doe,
457 U.S. 202, 216 (1982)); Artway v. Attorney General of New
Jersey , 81 F.3d 1235, 1267 (3d Cir. 1996).
Here, Plaintiff first states that the defendants engineered
a mass termination of inmate workers in order to reduce costs,
then counters that he, individually, was wrongfully terminated
because he is Hispanic.
Plaintiff cannot have it both ways.
all of the inmate employees who refused to voluntarily resign
were terminated as a cost-cutting measure, Plaintiff was not
treated differently on the grounds of his ethnicity.
has Plaintiff failed to state an equal protection claim, but his
factual allegations belie any suggestion of discrimination.
Al-Shahin v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Civil No. 06-5261,
2007 WL 2985553, *11 (D.N.J. Oct. 4, 2007) (dismissing
generalized allegation of equal protection violation asserted by
alien detainee challenging conditions of confinement), cited in
Mebuin v. U.S., Civil No. 13-0443, 2013 WL 4012449 (D.N.J. Aug.
5, 2013) (same).
For the reasons set forth above, the Complaint will be
dismissed with prejudice, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, for
failure to state a claim.
It does not appear that Plaintiff
could cure the deficiencies of his Complaint by amendment.
An appropriate order follows.
At Camden, New Jersey
s/Noel L. Hillman
Noel L. Hillman
United States District Judge
June 23, 2014
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