United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER OF DISMISSAL DOCKET NOS. 1, 8
M. CHEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael Shatswell, formerly an inmate at the Correctional
Training Facility in Soledad and currently an inmate at the
Santa Rita Jail, filed this pro se civil right
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint is now
before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. His
“motion to seal” the action also is before the
Court for review.
Shatswell alleges in his complaint that he was denied his
right to due process when prison officials “improperly
remov[ed him] from a college program designed to allow [him]
to earn an earlier release.” Docket No. 1 at 3. He
further alleges that he was “denied the opportunity to
earn [his] G.E.D., which would also allow [him] to earn an
earlier release.” Id. He also alleges that
Defendants “claim[ Mr. Shatswell has] no proof of
having a G.E.D. or college degree and [he is] somehow
disqualified from taking both.” Id. He seeks
complaint alleges that the college coordinator at the prison
refused to recognize Mr. Shatswell's G.E.D. certificate
(that Mr. Shatswell insisted was real) because it was a copy
rather than a sealed original and prison officials were
unable to prove that Mr. Shatswell actually had a G.E.D.
Id. at 5. Prison officials allegedly would not allow
Mr. Shatswell to take college courses due to the lack of an
adequate G.E.D. certificate and would not let him earn
another G.E.D. Id. Because Mr. Shatswell could not
take college courses, he allegedly could not earn a college
regulation allows time credits for certain educational
achievements by prisoners. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §
3043.5. A prisoner can earn “educational merit
credit” of 90 days for earning a high school diploma or
high school equivalency certificate, and 180 days for earning
an associate of arts or science degree or a bachelor of arts
or science degree. Id. at § 3043.5(b). There
are limitations on the credits, however: credit can
“only be awarded once to an inmate upon proof the
diploma, certificate, or degree was conferred during the
inmate's current term of incarceration, ” and
credit for a high school diploma or equivalency certificate
“shall not be awarded to inmates” already
possessing such a degree, approved equivalent, or a college
degree before entering prison on his current term.
Id. at § 3043.5(c). Moreover, upon release to
parole or discharge from parole, any excess educational merit
credit is deemed void. Id. at § 3043.5(e).
federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any
case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental
entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the
court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any
claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See
Id. at § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se
pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v.
Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.
a complaint “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. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and
(2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under
the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42, 48 (1988).
do not have a constitutional right to an education. See
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348 (1981) (deprivation
of rehabilitation and educational programs does not violate
the Eighth Amendment); Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801
F.2d 1080, 1092 (9th Cir. 1986) (“A liberty interest
does not arise even when administrative segregation imposes
‘severe hardships,' such as ‘denial of access
to vocational, educational, recreational, and rehabilitative
programs'”); Baumann v. Arizona Dep't of
Corr., 754 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1985) (“General
limitation of jobs and educational opportunities [in prison]
is not considered punishment.”). Thus, district courts
repeatedly have rejected § 1983 claims based on prison
officials' denial of access to educational opportunities
for prisoners. See, e.g., Neal v. California, 2019
WL 3975456, at *2, report and recommendation
adopted, 2019 WL 5822744 (E.D. Cal. 2019) (dismissing as
“without merit” plaintiff's claims that
defendants failed to provide him with the necessary
educational materials to earn early release including access
to college programs and e-readers); Hodge v.
Santiesteban, 2019 WL 2386056, at *1 (E. D. Cal. 2019)
(relying on Rhodes and Toussaint for
proposition that “there is no constitutional right to
education in prison” and dismissing claim for relief
based upon removal from education course when plaintiff was
labelled a gang member); Godoy v. Brown, 2019 WL
359418, at *2 (N.D. Cal. 2019) (“With respect to
plaintiff's allegations regarding the prisons'
failure to provide educational programs, plaintiff is advised
that there is no constitutional right to education or
rehabilitation in prison.”)
the alleged actions of Defendants that caused Mr. Shatswell
to be unable to enroll in G.E.D. or college courses did not
violate his constitutional rights because he had no
constitutional right to educational opportunities. Leave to
amend will not be granted because it would be futile: the
federal constitution simply does not guarantee the right Mr.
Shatswell seeks to enforce.
Shatswell's complaint suggests that his main concern is
not so much a desire to obtain an education and instead is a
desire to obtain the time credits that are available as a
result of taking educational courses. For the reasons
explained next, even if one assumed there was some
constitutional right to take educational courses that could
result in an earlier release - which the Court has just
concluded there is not -- Mr. Shatswell ...