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Turner v. Doe

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 18, 2018

TIMOTHY A. TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
JANE DOE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT B. KUGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Timothy A. Turner, is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at FCI Schuylkill in Minersville, Pennsylvania. He is proceeding pro se with an amended complaint against Defendant William Gonzalez alleging a violation of his Fifth Amendment equal protection rights in his prison employment. (ECF No. 7). Currently before the Court is Defendant Gonzalez's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 70) and Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 71). For the following reasons, Defendant Gonzalez's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         At all times relevant to the allegations in the amended complaint, Plaintiff was incarcerated at FCI Fairton in New Jersey. (See ECF No. 70-2 at p. 1). Plaintiff, an African-American inmate, worked in the electronics factory (the “Factory') that was part of the Federal Prison Industries (“UNICOR”) program from October 2010 to September 2014. (See Id. at p. 2; ECF No. 75-1 at p. 1). During this time, the Factory had five cable operations that manufactured cable assemblies. (See ECF No. 70-2 at p. 2).

         According to Defendant William Gonzalez, a UNICOR foreman, Plaintiff held the position of electronics assembler and was training to become a clerk on Cable Operation No. 2. (See Id. at pp. 2-3). To perform the duties of a clerk, an inmate requires access to a software license, which costs approximately $3, 000. (See Id. at p. 2). On September 29, 2014, Defendant Gonzalez informed Plaintiff that due to financial difficulties, the Factory could not afford to obtain a software license for him to become a clerk. (See ECF No. 70-2 at pp.3-4). When Plaintiff learned of the decision, he stated that he was quitting and never returned to work. (See Id. at p. 5). On October 9, 2014, former Defendant Donna Scott, the UNICOR factory manager, completed the paperwork to terminate Plaintiff because he had not appeared at work since September 29, 2014. (See id.). On October 13, 2014, former Defendant Scott reassigned another inmate who already had the requisite software license to serve as clerk for Cable Operation No. 2. (See Id. at pp. 5-6).

         Plaintiff disputes Defendant Gonzalez's factual narrative. Plaintiff contends that from May to September 2014, he held the position of clerk on Cable Operation No. 2. (See ECF No. 75 at p. 3). While Plaintiff agrees that Defendant Gonzalez, who is Hispanic, informed him that he was being removed from his position due to a reduction of jobs, Plaintiff asserts that he was actually replaced by a Hispanic inmate because of race discrimination. (See Id. at p. 7). Plaintiff further claims that when he asked Defendant Gonzalez for the reason why he was being replaced and requested to transfer to another department, Defendant Gonzalez supposedly became irate, used a marker to black out Plaintiff's written transfer request, and threatened to assign Plaintiff to pick up trash. (See Id. at p. 8).

         B. Procedural History

         On August 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed a civil complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (See ECF No. 1). On September 15, 2015, the Court granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed the complaint without prejudice for failure to state a claim for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1). (See ECF No. 3). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on October 6, 2015, and the Court permitted the amended complaint to proceed past screening as to the claims against Defendants Scott and Gonzalez. (See ECF No. 5).

         The Clerk's Office transmitted the U.S. Marshals Service Forms 285 on December 3, 2015, and the Marshals Service received the returned forms on December 16, 2015. (See ECF Nos. 6 & 8). The Clerk's Office issued summonses to Defendants Scott and Gonzalez, on December 16, 2015. (ECF No. 9). However, the Clerk's Office never received a completed summons or waiver of service from the Marshals Service with regard to Defendant Gonzalez.

         On December 19, 2016, this Court granted summary judgment as to Defendant Scott. (See ECF No. 42). On March 17, 2017, the Marshals Service returned an executed summons for Defendant Gonzalez showing service. (See ECF Nos. 49 & 50). On March 30, 2017, this Court denied Plaintiff's first Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant Gonzalez as premature. (See ECF Nos. 56 & 57). Defendant Gonzalez filed an answer to Plaintiff's amended complaint on May 30, 2017. (See ECF No. 61). On October 27, 2017, Defendant Gonzalez filed a Motion for Summary Judgment that is presently before this Court (ECF No. 70). On November 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed a second Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant Gonzalez, which is also currently before this Court (ECF No. 71).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is “material” to the dispute if it could alter the outcome, and a dispute of a material fact is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Az. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)) (“Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'”). In deciding whether there is any genuine issue for trial, the court is not to weigh evidence or decide issues of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Because fact and credibility determinations are for the jury, the non-moving party's evidence is to be believed and ambiguities construed in its favor. Id. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

         Although the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the non-movant likewise must present more than mere allegations or denials to successfully oppose summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The non-moving party must at least present probative evidence from which the jury might return a verdict in his favor. Id. at 257. Where the non-moving party fails to “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that ...


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