ASHLEY v. METELOW et al
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/7/2017. (tf, n.m.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 15-3153 (JBS-AMD)
DAVID METELOW, et al.,
Keith Ashley, Plaintiff Pro Se
East Jersey State Prison
Lock Bag R
Rahway, NJ 07065
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
Before the Court is Plaintiff Keith Ashley’s (“Plaintiff”),
motion to amend his civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Docket Entry 11. This Court granted Plaintiff's
application to proceed in forma pauperis and permitted the
complaint to proceed in part on January 22, 2016. Plaintiff now
moves to amend his complaint to address the deficiencies noted
by the Court. For the reasons stated below, the motion is
granted and the amended complaint shall proceed in part.
Plaintiff shall serve the amended complaint within 90 days of
this Opinion and Order.
Plaintiff originally filed this civil rights action against
Defendants David Metelow and Don Siebert, Supervisors of
Education at South Woods State Prison (“SWSP”), Mr. Marrocco,
Teacher for the culinary arts program, and Tanya Steltz,
Secretary for Facility III alleging they violated his right to
Free Association under the First Amendment, the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the New Jersey
Administrative Code for denying him entrance into the SWSP
Culinary Arts Program and for failing to inform him of the
complete requirements for entry. After reviewing the complaint,
the Court permitted the complaint to proceed only against
Siebert and Marrocco as he had not sufficiently alleged personal
involvement by the other named defendants. Plaintiff now seeks
to add additional defendants and to reinstate his claims against
the dismissed defendants.
Plaintiff applied to join the SWSP culinary arts program at
various points in time between October 2007 and July 2014 during
his confinement at that facility. Proposed Amended Complaint,
Docket Entry 11 ¶ 1. He specifically alleges he applied to the
program on October 23, 2007, September 28, 2009, December 9,
2009, June 24, 2013, August 28, 2013, September 22, 2013, April
24, 2014, July 7, 2014, and July 11, 2014. Id. ¶ 1(B)(1) n.16.
He alleges Steltz placed him on the computer literacy class
waiting list without verifying his high school diploma, but
rejected him from the culinary arts program for failure to
verify his diploma. Id. ¶ 1(B)(1)(a)-(b) n.17-18.
Plaintiff also alleges he was scheduled for an entry
interview on August 20, 2013, but Lynch turned him away from the
interview site stating Plaintiff’s name was not on the interview
list. Id. ¶4(F). Plaintiff states he saw his name on the list
and that Lynch had a “personal vendetta” against him. Id. ¶ 4(F)
n.32. He filled out a grievance form objecting to his absence
from the list, and he received a letter from Seibert indicating
that the certificate earned through the program expired after
five years, therefore inmates with parole eligibility or maximum
release dates within the next two years are given preference for
entry into the program. Id. ¶ 4(H). Plaintiff alleges Caucasian
inmates with more than two years left before their parole
eligibility dates and who were put on the waiting list after
Plaintiff were permitted to enroll in the program. See id. ¶¶
Plaintiff wrote to SWSP Administrator Nelsen regarding the
difficulty he was having enrolling in the program. Nelsen
responded: “This office is in receipt of your appeal received on
October 8, 2013, in reference to participating in the Culinary
Arts Program. Be advised that you are not banned from Culinary
Arts class. A review of your Education Department record
revealed that you have been off and on the Culinary Arts Waiting
List since 2007.” Id. ¶ 4(H). Plaintiff states he wrote to
Nelsen, Metelow, and Siebert about being denied entry into the
class on several occasions over the years regarding his repeated
denials of entry into the program and alleged discrimination by
SWSP staff. Id. ¶ 6(VI).
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a
party to amend a pleading once as a matter of course twenty-one
(21) days after serving the pleading or twenty-one (21) days “after
a responsive pleading or service of a motion under Rule 12(b),
(e), or (f), whichever is earlier.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(A)(B). 11. Plaintiff has not served the original complaint.
A court may deny leave to amend a pleading where it court
finds: (1) undue delay; (2) undue prejudice to the non-moving
party; (3) bad faith or dilatory motive; or (4) futility of
amendment. Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000).
“‘Futility' means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to
state a claim upon which relief could be granted.” Id. The Court
applies the same standard of legal sufficiency as applies under
Rule 12(b)(6). “The court should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2).
Plaintiff seeks to reinstate his claims against Steltz and
Metelow and to add claims against Lynch and Nelsen. As in the
original complaint, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged
violations of the First Amendment Right to Free Association, the
Equal Protection Clause, and the New Jersey Administrative Code
by Siebert and Marrocco. Construing the proposed amended
complaint liberally and giving Plaintiff the benefit of all
reasonable inferences, he has also sufficiently alleged these
claims against Nelsen, Metelow, and Steltz. The Clerk’s Office
shall be directed to reinstate Metelow and Steltz as defendants.
Plaintiff has not sufficiently stated a claim against
Lynch, however. The only factual allegation against Lynch in the
proposed amended complaint is that he turned Plaintiff away from
his August 23, 2013 interview. Plaintiff states Lynch has a
“personal vendetta” against him, but does not elaborate on the
nature of that alleged vendetta. Proposed Amended Complaint ¶
4(F) n.32. Although Plaintiff claims he saw his name on the
interview list, the response to his grievance indicates his name
“was deleted from apt sheet” as the result of an “input error.”
Exhibit A P-8. This corresponds with Lynch’s statement to
Plaintiff that he was not on the interview list. Proposed
Amended Complaint ¶ 4(F). There are insufficient facts to
reasonably infer Lynch discriminated against Plaintiff on the
basis of his race or otherwise violated Plaintiff’s rights when
he sent Plaintiff back to the housing unit. The claims against
Lynch are dismissed without prejudice.
To the extent the proposed amended complaint could be
construed as raising a state law claim of intentional infliction
of emotional distress, see id. ¶ 4(D)(5), he has failed to state
a claim. To plead a prima facie case of intentional infliction
of emotional distress under New Jersey law, a plaintiff must
submit facts supporting an inference that “(1) the defendant
acted intentionally; (2) the defendant's conduct was so
outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go
beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as
atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community; (3)
the defendant's actions proximately caused him/her emotional
distress; and (4) the emotional distress was so severe that no
reasonable [person] could be expected to endure it.” Soliman v.
Kushner Cos., Inc., 77 A.3d 1214, 1229 (N.J. Sup. Ct. App. Div.
2013) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in
Plaintiff only cursorily states: “These defendants acted in
a way that is extreme or outrageous for the purpose of causing
emotional distress; the plaintiff has actually suffered severe
or extreme emotional distress; and the defendant’s conduct
caused the emotional distress.” Proposed Amendment Complaint ¶
4(D)(5) n.22. “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’
or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action’” is insufficient to meet the pleading standards.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This claim is
therefore dismissed without prejudice.
For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff’s motion to amend
his complaint is granted. The intentional infliction of
emotional distress claim and the claims against Lynch are
dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff shall serve the amended
complaint within 90 days of the date of this Opinion and Order.
An appropriate order follows.
February 7, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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