Edwards v. Department of Human Services, 021518 FED3, 17-2662

Docket Nº:17-2662
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:JAMES EDWARDS, Appellant v. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES; ELIZABETH CONNOLLY; DIVISION OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIVE SERVICES; VALERIE L. MIELKE; JENNIFER VALEZ
Judge Panel:Before: VANASKIE, COWEN and NYGAARD, Circuit Judges
Case Date:February 15, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

JAMES EDWARDS, Appellant

v.

DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES; ELIZABETH CONNOLLY; DIVISION OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIVE SERVICES; VALERIE L. MIELKE; JENNIFER VALEZ

No. 17-2662

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

February 15, 2018

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) February 14, 2018

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-05623) District Judge: Honorable Peter G. Sheridan

Before: VANASKIE, COWEN and NYGAARD, Circuit Judges

OPINION [*]

PER CURIAM

James Edwards appeals from the District Court's orders granting the defendants' motion to dismiss and denying his motion for reconsideration in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm.

Edwards, a patient at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, a state-run facility, filed a complaint in the District of New Jersey against the Hospital's operators, alleging that they violated his due process rights by failing to pay him a "personal needs allowance" of $40 during months that he received $100 or more for working as a "patient worker." The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, arguing that Edwards does not have a substantive or procedural due process right to a personal needs allowance. Over Edwards' opposition, the District Court agreed with the defendants' position and, on March 20, 2017, granted the motion to dismiss. Edwards filed a motion for reconsideration, which was docketed on May 8, 2017. The District Court denied that motion by order entered July 10, 2017. Edwards filed his notice of appeal on July 31, 2017.

We have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.1 Our review of the District Court's decision to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) is de novo. Dique v. N. J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 2010). We review for abuse of discretion the District Court's order denying Edwards' motion for reconsideration. See Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 673 (3d Cir. 1999).

The Medicaid program "provide[s] federal financial assistance to States that choose to reimburse certain costs of medical treatment for needy persons." Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 301 (1980). States, like New Jersey, that participate in the Medicaid program must submit for federal approval a state plan that describes the methods and standards for operating the program. 42 U.S.C. § 1396a. One of the requirements for approval is "a monthly personal needs allowance for certain institutionalized individuals and couples." 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(50). The allowance is intended for "clothing and other personal needs of the individual … while in an institution[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(q)(1)(A)(i). The personal needs allowance is deducted from the individual's monthly income, which otherwise is applied to the cost of care. 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(q)(1)(A). New Jersey participates in the Medicaid program through the New Jersey Medical Assistance and Health Services Act. N.J.S.A. § 30:4D-1, et seq.

In his complaint, Edwards claimed that his due process rights derive from one section of that Act, N.J.S.A. § 30:4D-6a.2 Under that provision, Medicaid recipients who reside in an inpatient psychiatric hospital are entitled to retain from their monthly income a minimum $35 personal needs allowance. N.J.S.A. § 30:4D-6a; see also N.J.A.C. § 10:71-5.7(b) ("[a] personal needs allowance in the amount of $35.00 shall be deducted from the institutionalized individual's income."). According to the defendants, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital "goes beyond any statutory requirement by affirmatively paying a monthly [personal needs allowance] to patients who have no income."

To establish a substantive due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment on these facts, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a state actor engaged in conduct that deprived him of a protected property interest and that the deprivation shocks the conscience. Chainey v. Street, 523 F.3d 200, 219 (3d Cir. 2008). A procedural due process claim requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendants deprived him of a protected property interest and that the state procedure for challenging the deprivation was...

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