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Turner v. Doe

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 17, 2018

JANE DOE, et al., Defendants.



         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 alleging a violation of his Fifth Amendment equal protection rights in his prison employment. (ECF No. 7). On May 18, 2018, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant William Gonzalez, the only remaining Defendant. (ECF No. 87). Currently before the Court are Plaintiffs motion to alter judgment (ECF No. 88), motion “objecting” to the denial of his motion for the appointment of counsel (ECF No. 93), motion to stay judgment (ECF No. 94), motion to amend the complaint (ECF No. 95), and motion to amend his motion to stay judgment (ECF No. 96). For the following reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiffs motions and affirm Magistrate Judge Donio's August 7, 2018, Order denying appointment of counsel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As discussed more thoroughly in the Court's May 18, 2018, Opinion (ECF No. 86), 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 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 2; ECF No. 75-1, at 1).

         According to Defendant William Gonzalez, a UNICOR foreman, Plaintiff held the position of electronics assembler and was training to become a clerk at cable operations. (See ECF No. 70-2, at 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 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 3-4). When Plaintiff learned of the decision, he stated that he was quitting and never returned to work. (See Id. at 5). Former Defendant Donna Scott ultimately reassigned another inmate who already had the requisite license to serve as clerk. (See Id. at 5-6).

         Plaintiff disputes Defendant Gonzalez's factual narrative. Plaintiff contends that from May to September 2014, he already held the position of clerk on Cable Operation No. 2. (See ECF No. 75, at 2). 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 a Hispanic inmate replaced him because of racial discrimination. (See Id. at 7).

         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 Plaintiffs 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).

         After some litigation, on December 19, 2016, this Court granted summary judgment as to Defendant Scott. (See ECF No. 42). On March 17, 2017, the Marshals Service was able to execute a summons on Defendant Gonzalez. (See ECF Nos. 49, 50). Ultimately, the Court granted Defendant Gonzalez's motion for summary judgment on May 18, 2018 (ECF No. 87). More specifically, in light of Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843 (2017), this Court declined to extend a Bivens remedy to an action for damages based on a claim of racial discrimination under the Fifth Amendment, in a prison-workplace environment. (ECF No. 87, at 11).


         Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) governs motions to alter judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and allows parties to seek reconsideration of what they believe are “overlooked” matters. See Carney v. Pennsauken Twp. Police Dep't, No. 11-7366, 2013 WL 4501454, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug. 21, 2013) (citations omitted). “The standard for reargument is high” and courts should “only sparingly” grant reconsideration. Yarrell v. Bartkowski, No. 10-5337, 2012 WL 1600316, at *3 (D.N.J. May 7, 2012) (citing United States v. Jones, 158 F.R.D. 309, 314 (D.N.J. 1994)). To be successful on a motion for reconsideration, a party has the burden to demonstrate: “(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [issued its order]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999); see also Berry v. Jacobs IMC, LLC, 99 Fed.Appx. 405, 410 (3d Cir. 2004).


         A. Plaintiff's Motion to Alter Judgment and Related Motions

         After reviewing Plaintiffs submissions, the Court will deny his motion to alter judgment. In its earlier Opinion, the Court engaged in the multi-step framework for determining whether Defendant Gonzalez's alleged actions established a cognizable Bivens claim. First, the Court found that Plaintiffs Fifth Amendment discrimination claim was a new Bivens context because “none of the three prior Bivens cases addressed federal prisoners in the prison-employment context.” (ECF No. 86, at 6-7 (citing Alexander v. Ortiz, No. 15-6981, 2018 WL 1399302, at *4-5 (D.N.J. Mar. 20, 2018) (finding that Fifth Amendment prison-employment discrimination claim presented a “new context” for Bivens cases)).

         The Court then considered whether Plaintiff had any alternative remedies and concluded that he did not have an alternative remedial process for protecting his interest. See Alexander, 2018 WL 1399302, at *6 (finding no alternative remedy available for damages for a Fifth Amendment violation in the prison-employment context). Finally, the Court considered whether special factors warranted hesitation in extending a Bivens remedy. The Court determined, in light of Ziglar, Alexander, and the peculiar issues related to prison administration, that it should be left to the legislative and executive branches to determine whether an action for damages for racial discrimination exists in the prison-workplace ...

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