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Ashley v. Metelow

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 7, 2017

KEITH ASHLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID METELOW, et al., Defendants.

          Keith Ashley, Plaintiff Pro Se

          OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         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.

         II. BACKGROUND

         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. ¶¶ 4(D)(9)(a), (G).

         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).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         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 ...


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