FROM: District Court of the Third Judicial District, In and
For the County of Powell, Cause No. DV-15-48 Honorable Ray
Dayton, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Eugene Ford, Self-Represented, Deer Lodge, Montana
Appellee:Rebekah J. French, Special Assistant Attorney
General, Risk Management & Tort Defense Division, Helena,
Justice Beth Baker delivered the Opinion of the Court.
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
Eugene Ford, an inmate at Montana State Prison, appeals the
Third Judicial District Court's order dismissing his
discrimination complaint against Prison officials for failure
to state a claim. We affirm.
Ford works on the yard crew within the Prison's
perimeter. The Department of Corrections revised its inmate
pay classification scale in 2011 in order to address
budgetary issues and incentivize good behavior. The revisions
increased wages for inmates working outside the Prison's
perimeter and therefore did not apply to Ford. Ford exhausted
his administrative grievance remedies after learning that he
would not receive a wage increase. He filed a complaint
alleging discrimination and denial of equal protection
because he asserted that he did not receive the same wages as
other inmates doing essentially the same work outside the
The State moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to M. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The District Court granted the State's
motion. Relying on §§ 50-30-151 and -152, MCA, and
Quigg v. South, 243 Mont. 218, 793 P.2d 831 (1990),
the court reasoned that, as an inmate, Ford did not have a
right to be paid for the work he did at the Prison. As such,
the court determined that it could not grant Ford the relief
he requested-to be paid the same wage as those inmates doing
work outside the Prison's perimeter.
We review a district court's ruling on a motion to
dismiss pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) de novo.
Western Sec. Bank v. Eide Bailly LLP, 2010 MT 291,
¶ 18, 359 Mont. 34, 249 P.3d 35. In so doing, we
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff and take as admitted all well-pleaded factual
allegations. Western Sec. Bank, ¶ 55.
Montana statute provides that an inmate may be required to
"perform general maintenance and repair work on prison
grounds and facilities and assist in providing services
essential to the administration of the prison." Section
53-30-151(2), MCA. Section 53-30-152, MCA, clarifies that
"[a]n inmate working pursuant to 53-30-151 is not an
employee, either public or private, and employment rights
accorded other classes of workers do not apply to such
inmates." This Court has relied on §§
53-30-151 and -152, MCA, to hold that "prison inmates
cannot, under the theory of a civil deprivation, recover
minimum wages for labor since the work has been authorized by
the legislature by statutes." Quigg, 243 Mont.
at 220, 793 P.2d at 832.
As the District Court concluded, Ford cannot "avoid the
effect" of §§ 53-30-151 and -152, MCA, by
relying upon discrimination and equal protection claims.
Quigg, 243 Mont. at 220, 793 P.2d at 832. Under
§ 53-30-152, MCA, Ford does not have a right to be paid
for the work he performed at the Prison. Consequently, Ford
does not have a right to receive the same wage as those
inmates working outside the Prison's perimeter. The
District Court correctly concluded that Ford's complaint
failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Ford asserts that Village of Willowbrook v. Olech,
528 U.S. 562, 120 S.Ct. 1073 (2000), allows him to bring an
equal protection claim even though he is not a member of a
traditionally recognized protected class. As we have
explained before, however, the United States Supreme Court
recognized in Olech that the plaintiff stated a
sufficient claim for relief as a class of one "because
of the 'irrational and wholly arbitrary' demand by
the village." Strizich v. Kirkegard, No. OP
14-0740, 377 Mont. 435, 348 P.3d 171, *2-3 (table) (Nov. 25,
2014) (quoting Olech, 528 U.S. at 565, 120 S.Ct. at
1075). Ford "has not presented any claim of spite, ill
will or wholly arbitrary action by [Prison] officials."
Strizich, *3. Taking as true the factual allegations
in Ford's complaint, Western Sec. Bank, ¶
55, wages were raised for inmates working outside the
Prison's perimeter as an incentive. We "afford
prison officials wide-ranging discretion to adopt and enforce
rules to preserve order and discipline among inmates."
Strizich, *3 (citing Jellison v. Mahoney,
1999 MT 217, ¶ 12, 295 Mont. 540, 986 P.2d 1089).
Adopting a wage increase that incentivizes behavior that
would qualify an inmate to work outside the Prison's
perimeter is rationally related to preserving order and
discipline among inmates. As such, Ford's equal
protection claims are without merit as a matter of law.
We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I,
Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which
provides for memorandum opinions. In the opinion of the
Court, the case presents a question controlled by settled
law. We affirm ...