United States District Court, D. Connecticut
GERALD J. SILVA, Plaintiff,
D.K. WILLIAMS, Defendant.
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
MICHAEL P. SHEA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
October 26, 2018, the plaintiff, Gerald J. Silva, a pro
se inmate currently confined at the Federal Correctional
Institution in Danbury (“FCI Danbury”),
Connecticut, brought a civil rights action under Six
Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403
U.S. 388 (1971), against the warden of FCI Danbury, D.K.
Williams. Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 1-2. The plaintiff seeks
monetary and injunctive relief against the defendant for
“garnishing inmates' wages” and “price
gouging” items in the prison commissary. Id.
at 5-6. For the following reasons, the complaint is
Standard of Review
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review prisoner civil
complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is
frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Although
detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must
include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice
of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and
to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory
allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic, 550
U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556
U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 556).
Nevertheless, it is well-established that
“[p]ro se complaints ‘must be
construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest
arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of
America, 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater,
623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules
of solicitude for pro se litigants).
to the plaintiff, the staff at FCI Danbury, under the
administration of the defendant, “have been garnishing
inmates' wages reportedly for the purpose of balancing
[the facility's] budget.” Compl. ¶ 3. Inmates
do not know the amount of payment they will receive until the
end of each pay period. Id. at ¶ 4. As a
result, they are unable to plan their living situations at
FCI Danbury and are often unable to purchase necessary items
through the commissary. Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. The
practice of garnishing inmate wages at FCI Danbury has been
ongoing since 2015, but it has become “more persistent
and egregious over the past year.” Id. at
¶ 7. Many inmates have voiced their concerns about the
situation, but they fear reprisal if they file suit in the
courts. Id. at ¶ 8. Inmates have also alleged
that the defendant and her staff have engaged in
“illegal price [gouging]” of products in the
commissary. Id. at ¶ 11. For example, an MP3
player which costs $88.90 in the commissary retails for only
$12.00 outside the facility. Id.
plaintiff brings this action against the defendant in her
individual and official capacities under Bivens, 403
U.S. 388. Compl. at 2. He requests that this lawsuit be
designated as a class action for all inmates at FCI Danbury
who have been affected by the garnishing of wages and/or the
“price gouging” of items in the commissary.
See Id. at ¶¶ 9, 11. The case must be
dismissed because plaintiff fails to allege facts showing
standing, and he also does not state a plausible
constitutional claim of “price gouging.”
the plaintiff fails to establish standing to bring suit
because he never alleges that he suffered any cognizable
injury as a result of the defendant's conduct. He alleges
that the defendant and her staff “have been garnishing
inmates' wages, ” but he never alleges that he was
one of those inmates. Nor does he allege that he purchased
any products at the commissary or was otherwise a victim of
III of the United States Constitution “gives the
federal courts jurisdiction over only ‘cases and
controversies,' and the doctrine of standing serves to
identify those disputes which are appropriately resolved
through the judicial process.” Whitmore v.
Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 154-55 (1990). In order to
establish standing under Article III, the plaintiff must show
“(1) an injury in fact, (2) a causal connection between
that injury and the complained-of-conduct, and (3) a
likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable
decision.” Cohen v. Rosicki, Rosicki & Assocs.
P.C., 897 F.3d 75, 80 (2d Cir. 2018) (quoting Lujan
v. Defs. Of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)).
plaintiff fails the first requirement in this case because he
fails to allege that he, himself, suffered any injury in
fact. The Court cannot discern from the allegations whether
the plaintiff is seeking to bring this case only on behalf of
other inmates at FCI Danbury or as a result of his own
injury. Thus, the complaint fails to demonstrate the
plaintiff's standing and must be dismissed for lack of
with respect to the plaintiff's allegation that the
defendant and her staff are “price gouging” items
in the commissary, he has failed to state a plausible claim.
Courts in this Circuit have held that “prisoners have
no constitutional right to access a commissary.”
Montalvo v. Lamy, 139 F.Supp.3d 597, 606 (W.D.N.Y.
2015); see also Torres v. Droun, No. 3:01-CV-1844
(DJS) (TPS), 2004 WL 721729, at *7 (D. Conn. Mar. 30, 2004)
(“plaintiff has no constitutional right to purchase
items from the commissary or outside vendors”).
Therefore, even if the plaintiff had standing, his claim
regarding inmates' ability to purchase items through the
commissary is not cognizable.
the Court will dismiss the case without prejudice and permit
plaintiff to file an amended complaint. In particular, the
Court finds that if the plaintiff can allege facts showing
that he has standing, his claim under Bivens based
on the “garnishing [of] inmates' wages” may
state a claim for violation of a constitutional right.
Bivens authorizes claims for damages against federal
officials in their individual capacities for damages only
where the conduct is found to violate the claimant's
constitutional rights. Dunn v. U.S. Federal Bureau of
Prisons, No. 3:03-CV-1928 (JBA), 2006 WL 695805, at *4
(D. Conn. Mar. 20, 2006) (citing Ellis v. Blum, 643
F.2d 68, 84 (2d Cir. 1981)); see also M.E.S., Inc. v.
Snell, 712 F.3d 666, 671 (2d Cir. 2013) (Bivens
claim limited to alleged constitutional violations).
well established that “‘[t]he Constitution of the
United States does not create a property or liberty interest
in prison employment.'” Campbell v.
Quiros, No. 3:17-CV-946 (CSH), 2018 WL 888723, at *9 (D.
Conn. Feb. 13, 2018) (quoting Richard v. Fischer, 38
F.Supp.3d 340, 352 (W.D.N.Y. 2014)). Accordingly, the
plaintiff's property rights, in this case earned wages,
must stem from an independent source of law (i.e. federal
statute or regulation). See Onwuazombe v. Dodrill,
No. 07-CIV-873 (DLC), 2008 WL 1758641, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr.
16, 2008). In order to state a deprivation of a property
interest, the plaintiff “must have more than a
unilateral expectation; [h]e must, instead, have a legitimate
claim of entitlement” to those wages. Id.
(quoting Bd. Of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577
(1972)). “A court will find there to be a property
interest if the relevant statutes and regulations
‘meaningfully channel  official discretion by
mandating a defined administrative ...