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Scott v. Keller

September 3, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1).

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a ". . . short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague and conclusory.


A. Procedural History

On June 27, 2008, the court issued findings and recommendations that this action be dismissed for failure to state a claim. On August 25, 2008, the district judge declined to adopt the findings and recommendations. In the findings and recommendations, the court identified three potential claims -- (1) denial of medical care; (2) denial of equal protection; and/or (3) the grievance process -- and concluded that plaintiff could not obtain relief on any theory based on the factual allegations set forth in the complaint. In his August 25, 2008, order, the district judge focused on plaintiff's equal protection claim, determining that, given additional factual allegations set forth in plaintiff's objections to the findings and recommendations, it "does not appear untenable as a matter of law."*fn1 Specifically, the district judge stated:

The magistrate judge properly described the equal protection standard as it applies to persons in custody. The magistrate judge appeared to presume, however, that the plaintiff has not been given a release date and therefore reviewed plaintiff's claim with the assumption that plaintiff's complaint alleged that it was this class of persons -- those without a release date -- whom plaintiff complained received unequal protection under the law. Instead, plaintiff appears to allege that he belongs to a class of inmates who do meet the standard for evaluation under Cal. Wel. & Inst. Code §§ 6601, but that CDCR does not conduct these evaluations in a timely manner, while MDO evaluations are timely performed. See Cal. Wel. & Inst. Code §§ 6601 (under SVPA an evaluation for an inmate "serving a determinate sentence" must occur "at least six months prior to" the inmate's scheduled release date). In his objections to the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, plaintiff clarifies that he believes CDCR treats inmates who potentially fall under the SVPA differently from MDO inmates based on a prejudice towards the former's crimes of conviction. He contends that this is an unlawful basis of distinction towards two similarly situated groups. . . .

The district judge referred the case back to the undersigned "for further proceedings consistent with [the August 25, 2008] order."

B. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff names the following as defendants: Keller, Powell, Weinholdt, Williams, Hall, and Grannis. Defendants Keller and Powell are prison psychologists. Defendant Weinholdt is the "CHSAIIA" at Mule Creek State Prison ("MCSP"). Defendant Hall is a correctional officer. Defendant Williams is the manager of health care at MCSP. Defendant Grannis is the chief of the inmate appeals branch of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR").

Plaintiff claims that, on January 22, 2007, he submitted a form 602 inmate appeal "alleging his right to equal protection was being violated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's failure to evaluate him for a diagnosed mental disorder. . . ." He also asserts that CDCR is operating under the "standard practice of waiting until an inmate . . . was six months to parole before conducting such an evaluation. . . ." Plaintiff claims that some inmates are provided immediate mental health treatment while others are not. He states that he has not been provided mental health treatment.

Plaintiff states that, on February 15, 2007, defendant Keller specifically refused to provide him mental health treatment as a "mentally disabled offender." According to plaintiff, defendant Keller "told him that he was 'welcome to be evaluated by an outside source. . . .'" Plaintiff claims that defendant Keller "acted maliciously, with the intent to cause the plaintiff harm or with reckless disregard for the probability of causing such harm."

Plaintiff claims that, on March 15, 2007, defendant Powell also refused to provide mental health treatment. Specifically, defendant Powell allegedly denied his "request for sex offender treatment as related to the [sexually violent predator] law. . . ." As with defendant Keller, plaintiff claims that defendant Powell acted deliberately with the intent to cause him harm. Plaintiff alleges that, on May 10, 2007, defendants Weinholdt and Williams refused to provide medical treatment. His allegations against these defendants are substantially the same as against defendant Powell.

As to defendant Hall, plaintiff alleges that he reviewed his various inmate grievances and "deliberately misquoted the facts by stating the plaintiff 'claims he suffers from a diagnosed mental disorder and has not been afforded evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment.'" (quoting defendant Hall's response to plaintiff's grievances). According to plaintiff, he "has not made a claim that he actually suffers from any diagnosed mental disorder, but rather has alleged that CDCR has failed to conduct the evaluation required by [California's sexually violent predator law] to afford him equal treatment with those evaluated as [mentally disabled offenders]. . . ." Plaintiff claims that defendant Hall's conduct was ...

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