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Carter v. Munoz

August 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge


Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Desha M. Carter ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed this action on November 30, 2007.

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

The events at issue in this action allegedly occurred at California State Prison-Corcoran, where Plaintiff was housed at the time. Plaintiff alleges claims for violation of his rights under the United States Constitution arising out of events surrounding his placement and retention in a management cell in December of 2006.

On December 1, 2006, Defendant Munoz sought Plaintiff's agreement to take a cellmate and threatened Plaintiff with placement on management cell status if he refused. Plaintiff refused to "conform," and on December 2, 2006, Defendant Munoz had Plaintiff removed from his cell and placed in a holding cage next to another holding cage in which there was another inmate. (Doc. 1, Comp., court record pg. 9, ln. 18.) Defendant Munoz told Plaintiff to see if he was compatible with the other inmate, at which time Plaintiff handed him an inmate appeal grieving the threat to place him on management cell status made the previous day. Defendant Munoz was angered and pressed Plaintiff about taking the other inmate as a cellmate. Plaintiff stated he would not refuse a cellmate, but would not sign a compatibility form, given that signing the form would absolve staff of responsibility if there were problems between the two inmates. Defendant Munoz told Plaintiff he was going on management cell status, and said that Plaintiff was not the only one who could file paperwork and Plaintiff would see what his inmate appeal meant to Defendant.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Munoz asked inmate Perez, who was in cell 117, if he wanted a warmer cell because Defendant needed cell 117 for "a knucklehead." (Id., c.r. pg. 10, ln. 20.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant and inmate Perez are of Mexican descent, and he is not. Defendant Munoz then told Defendant Paz to remove the mattress from cell 117 and prepare an "asshole mattress," which Plaintiff describes as "a slab of cotton with a gauze like covering." (Id., pg. 10, ln. 25 & pg. 11, lns. 13-14.)

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Munoz had him placed in a management cell, described as a "freezer cell," which was nearest to the backdoor and subject to draft from the wind, without linens or clothing, and with an "asshole mattress." (Id., pg. 11, lns. 10-14.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Munoz was advised by Defendant Paz that cells 113 through 117 could be used during the winter months as severe punishment against inmates because of the exposure to freezing temperatures. The outside door was allegedly left open for sixteen hours a day. (Id., pg. 16, lns. 13-15.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in the management cell in retaliation for the grievance he filed, and that Defendant Munoz failed to follow proper procedure in placing him in the management cell because he failed to issue a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") and allow a hearing officer to make findings. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant issued an RVR eleven days later, only after learning Plaintiff had filed an additional grievance.

After Plaintiff was held for ten days in the management cell, Defendant Paz allegedly refused to allow Plaintiff any outdoor exercise for thirty days. Defendant Paz told Plaintiff that he was not permitted yard time on the instruction of Defendant Munoz.

On December 14, 2006, Plaintiff appeared for a hearing on his 114-D lock-up order.*fn1 While Plaintiff was at the hearing, Defendant Munoz authorized the removal of his mattress by Defendant Paz, which left nothing for Plaintiff to sleep on except cold steel. Plaintiff alleges that he suffered back pain, an increase in migraine headaches, and stiffness in his neck, and caught a serious cold which required medical treatment. On December 25, 2006, Plaintiff asked Defendants Parra and Silva for a mattress, but both refused. ...

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