United States District Court, N.D. California
October 18, 2005.
LAWRENCE GEORGE HASH, Plaintiff,
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAXINE CHESNEY, District Judge
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
Lawrence Hash, a California prisoner proceeding pro se, filed
the above-titled civil rights action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, against California prison officials. In a separate order,
plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
Plaintiff alleges that a prison guard, Officer B. Thornberry
("Thornberry"), for reasons of animosity towards plaintiff,
intentionally confiscated plaintiff's personal property while
conducting a cell search. Plaintiff further alleges that the
property has not been returned to him. According to plaintiff,
the confiscation and failure to return the property to him
violates both prison procedures and state law.
A. Standard of Review
A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any
case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity
or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable
claims and dismiss any claims that 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. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se
pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th
Cir. 1988). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2)
that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under
the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
B. Legal Claims
Plaintiff's claim that prison officials improperly deprived him
of his personal property does not state a cognizable claim for a
constitutional violation. Plaintiff alleges that the confiscation
and failure to return his property violates state law and prison
regulations. As explained above, to state a claim under § 1983,
plaintiff must allege the violation of federal law. The federal
right to due process does ordinarily require notice and an
opportunity for some kind of hearing prior to the deprivation of
a significant property interest. See Memphis Light, Gas &
Water Div. v. Craft, 436 U.S. 1, 19 (1978). Plaintiff does not
allege that he was not provided a hearing or notice, however. As
a consequence his complaint does not state a cognizable claim for
relief under § 1983.
Even if plaintiff could amend his complaint to state in good
faith that he was deprived of adequate notice and an opportunity
to be heard, such amendment would not state a due process claim
in this case, because the deprivation of plaintiff's property, as
alleged in the complaint, was random and unauthorized. Neither
the negligent nor intentional deprivation of property states a
due process claim under § 1983 if the deprivation was random and
unauthorized. See Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535-44
(1981) (finding no claim where state employee negligently lost
prisoner's hobby kit), overruled in part on other grounds,
Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986); Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984) (finding no claim for
intentional destruction of inmate's property). The availability
of an adequate state post-deprivation remedy, e.g., a state tort
action, precludes relief because it provides sufficient
procedural due process. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113,
128 (1990); King v. Massarweh, 782 F.2d 825, 826 (9th Cir. 1986). California law provides such adequate
post-deprivation remedy. See Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813,
816-17 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Cal. Gov't Code §§ 810-895).
Here, as noted, the deprivation of plaintiff's personal
property was random and unauthorized, as plaintiff alleges that
it was done out of animosity and in order to harass him, and that
it was not authorized by state law or part of any official prison
procedure. Plaintiff may follow state law procedures for bringing
a tort claim in state court against state officials for depriving
him of his personal property. Such a claim, however, does not,
even if amended as stated above, state a cognizable claim for
relief under federal law.
For the reasons expressed, plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED for
failure to state a cognizable claim for relief.
The Clerk shall close the file and terminate any pending
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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