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Carter v. Munoz

August 27, 2008


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


Findings and Recommendations Following Screening of Complaint

I. Procedural History

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. On August 11, 2008, the Court issued an order finding that Plaintiff's complaint states an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Munoz, Paz, Parra, and Silva arising from the conditions Plaintiff was subjected to in the management cell, a due process claim against Defendant Munoz for placement in the management cell, and a First Amendment claim against Defendant Munoz for retaliation. However, the Court found that Plaintiff's complaint does not state any cognizable claims for denial of due process with respect to the voided Rules Violation Report or for denial of equal protection, and does not state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment arising out of denial of outdoor exercise.

Plaintiff was ordered to either file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in its order or notify the Court that he is willing to proceed only on the claims found to be cognizable. On August 25, 2008, Plaintiff filed a notice stating his willingness to proceed on the claims found to be cognizable by the Court in its order. Accordingly, based on Plaintiff's notice, this Findings and Recommendations now issues.

II. Screening Requirement

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)).

III. Plaintiff's Claims

The events at issue in this action allegedly occurred at California State Prison-Corcoran. 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 ...

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