United States District Court, D. New Jersey
L. LINARES, CHIEF JUDGE
before the Court is the Complaint, (ECF No. 1), and
application to proceed in forma pauperis, (ECF No.
1-1), of Plaintiff Larry Mason. Based on Plaintiffs
application, leave to proceed in forma pauperis is
warranted in this matter, and the Court will therefore grant
Plaintiffs application to proceed in forma pauperis.
As the Court is granting Plaintiff in forma pauperis
status in this matter, this Court is required to screen his
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Pursuant to the statute, this Court must dismiss Plaintiffs
claims if they are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a
claim for relief, or seek damages from a defendant who is
immune. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will
dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint without prejudice in its
Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to raise a claim pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Administrator George Robinson and
Major Bruce Kerner of Northern State Prison based on his
having lost his prison job. (ECF No. 1). Specifically,
Plaintiff contends that the administrator and major employed
a policy of firing certain inmates from their prison jobs at
random, and that he was a victim of such a firing. (ECF No. 1
at 5-6). Plaintiff contends that he was fired from a
high-level kitchen job at the prison without cause or
explanation, that he was then reassigned to the lowest level
of employment at the prison, and that he was not given a
valid explanation for this change. (ECF No. 1 at 5- 6).
According to Plaintiff, this has lowered his prison wages,
and has reduced the number of work credits he receives going
forward. (ECF No. 1 at 5- 6). Plaintiff has not alleged that
he was deprived of any already earned work credits, only that
he lost the ability to earn the "maximum allowed [number
of] work credits" per week, which he was previously able
to do. (ECF No. 1 at 5-6).
Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134,
§§ 801-10, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26,
1996) ("PLRA"), district courts must review
complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is
proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B), or seeks damages from a state employee,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The PLRA directs
district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that
is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is
subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff has been
granted in forma pauperis status.
to the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, "a pleading that offers 'labels or
conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'" 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell At/antic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua
sponte screening for failure to state a
claim, the complaint must allege
"sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim
is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC Shady side,
578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). "A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster,
764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings
are liberally construed, "pro se litigants
still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to
support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina,
Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013).
seeks to bring a claim against two prison officials based on
alleged violations of his constitutional rights arising out
of his having lost his prison job at Northern State Prison.
"To establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must demonstrate a violation of a right protected
by the Constitution or laws of the United States that was
committed by a person acting under the color of state
law." Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d
Cir. 2000); see also Woodyard v. Cty. of Essex, 514
Fed.Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013) (Section 1983 provides
"private citizens with a means to redress violations of
federal law committed by state [actors]"). "The
first step in evaluating a section 1983 claim is to
'identify the exact contours of the underlying right said
to have been violated' and to determine 'whether the
plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right
at all.'" Nicini, 212 F.3d at 806 (quoting
Cty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841
contends that his firing without explanation denied him a Due
Process right based on an alleged property interest he
possessed in retaining his prison job and the ability to
prospectively earn the maximum number of work credits
available. As the Third Circuit has long held, however,
prison "inmates do not have a liberty or property
interest in their job assignments that would give rise to Due
Process Clause protection." Watson v. Sec 'y Pa.
Dep 't of Con:, 567 Fed.Appx. 75, 78 (3d Cir. 2014);
see also James v. Quinlan, 866 F.2d 627, 629-30 (3d
Cir. 1989); Morales v. Grondolsky, No. 08-2969, 2009
WL 1545841, at *3 (D.N.J. May 29, 2009). Likewise, while
prisoners do have a liberty interest in prison time reduction
credits that they have already earned, see, e.g., Wolff
v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556-57 (1974), they have
"no constitutionally protected 'liberty'
interest in an opportunity to work or receive work credits
while incarcerated in the New Jersey prison system."
Rowe v. Fauver, 533 F.Supp. 1239, 1245 (D.N.J.
1982); see also Monroe v. Bryan, 487 Fed.Appx. 19,
21 (3d Cir. 2012) (loss of eligibility to earn good time
credits too attenuated to amount to protected liberty
interest absent the loss of any previously earned credits);
Rodriguez-Ramos v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No.
14-3942, 2015 WL 6082300, at *7 (D.N.J. Oct. 15, 2015);
Drisco v. Williams, No. 13-1144, 2015 WL 5097790, at
*8 (D.N.J. Aug. 27, 2015); Colon v. Zickefoose, No.
12-3433, 2013 WL 6497957, at *6 (D.N.J. Dec. 11, 2013)
(prisoner has "no liberty interest in the
opportunity to earn" prison credits). As such,
Plaintiff had neither a liberty nor a property interest in
his prior prison employment, nor a liberty interest in his
opportunity to continue earning the maximum number of
work-based time credits going forward. Because Plaintiff had
neither a cognizable liberty nor property interest, and his
sole claim under the Due Process Clause fails to state a
claim for which relief may be granted. Plaintiffs Complaint
is therefore dismissed without prejudice.
reasons stated above, Plaintiffs application to proceed
in forma pauperis is GRANTED, his Complaint shall be
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE in its entirety, and Plaintiff
shall be granted leave to file an amended complaint if he so
chooses within thirty days. An appropriate Order accompanies