United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and
Addictive Services, Elizabeth Connolly, and Valerie L. Mielke
(collectively referred to as "Defendants"), files
the instant motion seeking to dismiss all claims against them
for failing to set forth a claim upon which relief may be
granted ("Motion"). ECF No. 11.
is a psychiatric patient at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital,
and is involuntarily committed there by reason of his
insanity. Plaintiff alleges that under state statutes, he is
entitled to a monthly allowance of $40, which the State has
paid him in the past, but only when his own income at the
hospital did not exceed $100 during a given month. Plaintiff
further asserts that this alleged deprivation, when his
income exceeded $100 per month, was done without any hearing
or an opportunity to be heard and, as such, violates his due
Court initially administratively terminated the Motion, after
granting an oral application for pro bono counsel from
Plaintiff, until such time counsel may be appointed.
See ECF No. 14. However, upon further consideration,
the Court finds that the Complaint does not state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, so the Court reinstates the
Motion, vacates its prior order to appoint counsel, and
dismisses the Complaint. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) (stating that in a case where the plaintiff has
been granted in forma pauperis status, "the
court shall dismiss the case at any time if the
court determines that... the action or appeal. . . fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted[.]")
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."
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "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.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted).
While a complaint . . . does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiffs 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) (citations omitted).
core question in this case is whether Plaintiff has a
protected right to the alleged $40 payment from the state.
"A procedural due process claim is subject to a
two-stage inquiry: (1) whether the plaintiff has a[n] . . .
interest protected by procedural due process, and (2) what
procedures constitute due process of law." Fanti v.
Weinstock, 629 F. App'x 325, 330 (3d Cir. 2015);
Huertas v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't. of Corr., 553 F.
App'x 64, 66 (3d Cir. 2013) ("Procedural due process
rights are triggered by deprivation of a legally cognizable
... interest."). If Plaintiff does not have a protected
interest in the $40, he cannot succeed on his due process
Motion, Defendants explain the state statutes in question.
According to Defendants, Defendants, the statutes in question
concern New Jersey's implementation of the Medicaid
program, the program that is paying for the cost of Plaintiff
s medical treatments. As prescribed by federal law, a state
Medicaid program is entitled to offset a patient's income
before any payment is made to cover the cost of medical
treatments. However, federal law also provides for
"allowances" that should not count as income, one
of which is called a "personal needs allowance"
("PNA"), defined as "reasonable in amount for
clothing and other personal needs of the individual while in
an institution[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(q)(1)(A)(i).
The minimum amount of this PNA is $30. 42 U.S.C. §
1396a(q)(2). In essence, patients are entitled to keep a
minimum portion of their income for personal needs, while the
rest must be used to pay for their medical treatment.
state statutes in question, from which Plaintiffs claims are
derived, make references to this allowance. See
N.J.S.A. § 30:4D-6a (stating that certain individual
eligible for Medicaid services "is entitled to a $35.00
monthly personal needs allowance"); N.J.S.A. §
30:4-68.2 (stating that certain individual "who is a
recipient of... State assistance ... shall be entitled to a
$35.00 monthly personal needs allowance"). Defendants
contend that the PNA referenced in these statutes corresponds
exactly to the one mandated by federal law. Thus, the
"allowance" is not so much an affirmative
obligation to provide Plaintiff with a minimum income, but
merely a mandatory offset that the state must exclude when
calculating what portion of Plaintiff s income should be used
to pay for his medical costs. Plaintiff has filed no
opposition to dispute this argument.
Defendant's argument persuasive. Indeed, the committee
statement for N.J.S.A. § 30:4D-6a specifically states
the statute's purpose is to ensure that the allowance
"is not counted as income" and deducted from
payment. See Senate Revenue, Finance and
Appropriations Committee Statement, N.J.S.A. § 30:4D-6a.
There is no reference in these statutes regarding any
affirmative payment the state must make to Plaintiff.
Therefore, I am unsure why Plaintiff has been receiving $40
from the state in those months when his income did not exceed
$100, but it is clear the source of that income is not the
statutes asserted in the Complaint. As such, the Complaint
fails to identify the source of his alleged property right in
the $40 in question, and Plaintiffs claims against all
defendants are dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. Although Defendant Jennifer
Valez is not a party to the instant Motion, the claim claim