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Ortiz-Garcia v. Morgan

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 25, 2014

ANGEL ORTIZ-GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILLIP MORGAN, et al., Defendants.

Angel Ortiz-Garcia, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Angel Ortiz-Garcia, an inmate at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis (D.I. 5). The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(a).

On December 5, 2012, Plaintiff was classified to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, a maximum security institution, but as of the date Plaintiff filed the Complaint, he remained housed at the HRYCI "surrounded by unsentenced inmates. In return [he] got into a scuffle and [was] sent to the hole." (0.1. 3, ¶ 2). Plaintiff is afraid that he will hurt an unsentenced person and receive "extra time." ( Id. at ¶ 3). He seeks a transfer to the VCC so that he may receive an education, job skills, and readiness for his departure from incarceration when he returns to society.

This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant). The Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).

The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(8)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).

A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must take three steps: "(1) identify[] the elements of the claim, (2) review[] the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) look[] at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluat[e] whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

It is well established that an inmate does not possess a liberty interest arising from the Due Process Clause in assignment to a particular custody level or security classification or a place of confinement. See Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221-22 (2005) (Constitution does not give rise to liberty interest in avoiding transfer to more adverse conditions of confinement); Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 245 (1983). The custody placement or classification of state prisoners within the State prison system is among the "wide spectrum of discretionary actions that traditionally have been the business of prison administrators rather than of the federal courts." Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976). "As long as the conditions or degree of confinement to which [a] prisoner is subjected is within the sentence imposed upon him and is not otherwise violative of the Constitution, the Due Process Clause does not in itself subject an inmate's treatment by prison authorities to judicial oversight.'" Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468 (1983) (quoting Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 242 (1976)). See also Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 480 (1995). Therefore, Plaintiff can succeed under the Due Process Clause only if state law or regulation has created a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in remaining free from administrative detention. However, neither Delaware law nor Department of Correction regulations create a liberty interest in a prisoner's classification within an institution. See 11 Del. C. § 6529(e).

In addition, the Delaware Supreme Court has recognized that prison officials have discretion to house inmates at the facilities they choose. Walls v. Taylor, 2004 WL 906550 (Del. 2004) (citing Brathwaite v. State, No. 169, 2003 (Del. Dec. 29, 2003). Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court has held that an inmate has no due process right to be incarcerated in a particular institution whether it be inside the state of conviction, or outside that state. Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. at 251. Plaintiff's claim fails as a matter of law.

Therefore, the Complaint will be dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(8)(i) and 1915A(b)(1). The Court finds that further amendment is futile.

An appropriate order will be entered.


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