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Eugene Everett Welch v. M. Martel

April 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff has consented to proceed before the undersigned for all purposes. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). By order filed February 3, 2011, plaintiff's complaint was dismissed and plaintiff was granted the option of voluntarily dismissing his action because his claims concerning lack of a paid prison job failed to state a cognizable civil rights claim, or, in the event he could state a cognizable claim, filing an amended complaint. On April 7, 2011, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Plaintiff was previously granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. No. 8.)

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

Plaintiff's amended complaint suffers from the same defects as his original complaint. Plaintiff contends the state superior court ordered plaintiff to pay $10,000.00 in restitution, and the court allegedly told plaintiff he would be given a prison job to pay off the restitution order.*fn1 It appears plaintiff previously had a paying prison job, but due to health problems he lost the paid position. Plaintiff states the prison will not give plaintiff a paying job because of plaintiff's medical problems. Plaintiff has again failed to allege a violation of a specific constitutional or other federal right.

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," or that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978) ("Congress did not intend § 1983 liability to attach where . . . causation [is] absent."); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976) (no affirmative link between the incidents of police misconduct and the adoption of any plan or policy demonstrating their authorization or approval of such misconduct). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979) (no liability where there is no allegation of personal participation; Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 941 (1979) (no liability where there is no evidence of personal participation). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982) (complaint devoid of specific factual allegations of personal participation is insufficient).

First, plaintiff names Matthew L. Cates, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), and M. Martel, Warden of Mule Creek State Prison, as defendants. Plaintiff claims defendant Cates runs the CDCR, and tells staff what they can and can't do, and alleges defendant Martel is in charge of the prison and its inmates, and what they can and cannot do or what they get and do not get. Plaintiff has failed, however, to indicate either defendant is personally responsible for plaintiff's placement in a nonpaying position or had any connection with this placement. These allegations are insufficient to state a cognizable claim against defendants Cate and Martel.

Second, plaintiff contends his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment have been violated. Plaintiff's amended complaint also fails to state a cognizable civil rights claim as more fully addressed below.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits any state deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 672 (1977). To determine whether a due process violation has occurred, the court engages in a two-step analysis. The court first considers whether the plaintiff possesses a constitutionally protected interest with which the state has interfered. See Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005) (court must determine whether a Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest is implicated). If such an interest is implicated, the court then addresses the second step, and determines whether the interference was accomplished by sufficient procedural safeguards. Id. at 224.

A protected liberty interest may arise from either the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution "by reason of guarantees implicit in the word 'liberty,'" or from "an expectation or interest created by state laws or policies." Wilkinson, 545 U.S. at 221 (citations omitted); Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 (1995). Whether a state has established a liberty interest through its prison regulations is determined by focusing on the nature of the deprivation. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484. These interests are limited to freedom from a restraint that "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Id. at 484.

This court concludes that plaintiff fails to state a due process claim because plaintiff cannot allege that a right encompassed within the Fourteenth Amendment's protections is implicated. Plaintiff has no liberty interest in having or keeping a particular prison work assignment. Indeed, inmates have no constitutional right to work. Baumann v. Arizona Dep't of Corrections, 754 F.2d 841, 845 (9th Cir. 1985). Although California created a sentence credit scheme in exchange for performance in a work, training, or education program, the scheme does not create a state liberty interest. Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1094-95 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 481 U.S. 1069 (1987) abrogated in part on other grounds by Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472 (1995).*fn2 Moreover, the expectation of keeping a particular job, or any job, in prison does not implicate a property or liberty interest entitled to Fourteenth Amendment due process protection. James v. Quinlan, 866 F.2d 627, 630 (3rd Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 870 (1989); see also Bravot v. Calif. Dept. of Corr., 2006 WL 47398 at *4 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 9, 2006) ("Since plaintiff does not have a constitutional right to a prison job, much less to a particular job, he is not entitled to due process procedural protections prior to being deprived of his work, nor is he constitutionally entitled to any back wages for the loss of that job nor to reinstatement in his old ...

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