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Rodriguez v. Hamel

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 17, 2018

JAIME RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DEREK HAMEL, et al., Defendants.

          Jaime Rodriguez, FCI Fort Dix, Plaintiff pro se

          Daniel J. Gibbons, Esq., Office of the U.S. Attorney Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns alleged retaliation suffered by Plaintiff Jaime Rodriguez, an inmate who is presently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, in Fort Dix, New Jersey. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that certain prison employees at FCI Fort Dix retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment because Plaintiff filed inmate grievances regarding stolen property. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff seeks to bring his claim pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). At issue is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, which is ripe for adjudication. The Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as this case concerns a federal question. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff, at all times relevant to the Amended Complaint, was an inmate incarcerated at FCI Fort Dix. ECF No. 9, Am. Compl., ¶ 3. While he was there, at some point in December 2014, an MP3 charging station shared by the inmates in Plaintiff's housing unit was “removed without authorization, ” i.e. stolen. Id., ¶ 56. It was not replaced. Id., ¶¶ 60-61. The stolen MP3 charger caused conflict among the inmates in Plaintiff's housing unit, and Plaintiff, along with another inmate, filed inmate grievances over the issue. Id., ¶¶ 58, 65-68. After filing the inmate grievances, Plaintiff was transferred to another housing unit and reassigned to a new job within that unit. Id., ¶¶ 80-86.

         Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a Complaint in November 2015, ECF No. 1, and in August 2016, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, ECF No. 9. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment when they transferred Plaintiff to a new housing unit and reassigned him to a new job after he filed an inmate grievance. ECF No. 9 at 1.

         II. Standard of Review

         In a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading must set forth a claim for relief which contains a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; the complaint must provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual allegations. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (per curiam). The issue in a motion to dismiss is whether the plaintiff should be entitled to offer evidence to support the claim, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (the Rule 8 pleading standard “‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element.”); Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).

         The onus is on the plaintiff to provide a well-drafted complaint that alleges factual support for its claims. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss 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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original and internal citations omitted). The court need not accept unsupported inferences, Cal. Pub. Employees Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), nor legal conclusions cast as factual allegations, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Legal conclusions without factual support are not entitled to the assumption of truth. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not” satisfy the requirements of Rule 8).

         Once the court winnows the conclusory allegations from those allegations supported by fact, which it accepts as true, the court must engage in a common sense review of the claim to determine whether it is plausible. This is a context-specific task, for which the court should be guided by its judicial experience. The court must dismiss the complaint if it fails to allege enough facts “to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A “claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint that shows that the pleader is entitled to relief - or put another way, facially plausible - will survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 229 (3d Cir. 2010).

         III. Discussion

         In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants seek the dismissal of the claims against them based on the Supreme Court of the United States' decision in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843 (2017). See ECF No. 33. The Ziglar decision changed the landscape of civil rights remedies against federal employees. Whereas prior to Ziglar, courts construed the scope of cognizable suits brought pursuant to Bivens as coextensive with those brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, now district courts are directed first to analyze Bivens suits to determine whether the suit seeks to extend Bivens to “new contexts” and, if so, whether there are “special factors” that would counsel against extending Bivens liability to the new context.

         In Ziglar, the Supreme Court explained that it has only recognized a Bivens remedy in three cases: (1) Bivens itself, which implied a damages action to compensate persons whose Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated by federal officers; (2) Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228 (1979), which recognized a right under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment for an administrative assistant to sue a member of congress for her firing because she was a women; and (3) Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980), in which the Court held that the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause provides a damages remedy for failure to provide adequate medical care. Ziglar, 137 S.Ct. at 1854. “These three cases - Bivens, Davis, and Carlson - represent the only instances in which the Court has approved of an ...


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