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Dietle v. Pleasant Valley State Prison


November 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


(Doc. 25)

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Darrell L. Dietle ("Plaintiff") is a California 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 March 21, 2008 via motion rather than complaint. Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's complaint, filed on November 3, 2008 in compliance with the Court's orders.

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

Plaintiff is currently housed at High Desert State Prison in Susanville. The events at issue in this action occurred at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga. Plaintiff alleges claims arising out of unsafe conditions of confinement and denial of access to the courts, in violation of his rights under the United States Constitution. Plaintiff is seeking money damages, and names Pleasant Valley State Prison, Warden James Yates, and unspecified staff members as defendants.

A. Pleasant Valley State Prison as a Defendant

Plaintiff names Pleasant Valley State Prison as a defendant. Plaintiff may not sustain an action against a state prison. The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from hearing suits brought against an unconsenting state. Brooks v. Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Co., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted); see also Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1122 (1996); Puerto Rico Aqueduct Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993); Austin v. State Indus. Ins. Sys., 939 F.2d 676, 677 (9th Cir. 1991). The Eleventh Amendment bars suits against state agencies as well as those where the state itself is named as a defendant. See Natural Resources Defense Council v. California Dep't of Tranp., 96 F.3d 420, 421 (9th Cir. 1996); Brooks, 951 F.2d at 1053; Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (concluding that Nevada Department of Prisons was a state agency entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity); Mitchell v. Los Angeles Community College Dist., 861 F.2d 198, 201 (9th Cir. 1989). Because Pleasant Valley State Prison is a part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which is a state agency, it is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit.

B. Warden Yates as a Defendant

Although Plaintiff names Warden Yates as a defendant, there are no allegations linking actions or omissions of Yates to a deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Under section 1983, Plaintiff is required to show that Defendants (1) acted under color of state law, and (2) committed conduct which deprived Plaintiff of a federal right. Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 987 (9th Cir. 2007). "A person deprives another of a constitutional right, where that person'does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.'" Id. at 988 (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). "[T]he'requisite causal connection can be established not only by some kind of direct, personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion a series of acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.'" Id. (quoting Johnson at 743-44). "[T]here is no pure respondeat superior liability under § 1983, [and] a supervisor [may only be held] liable for the constitutional violations of subordinates'if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them.'" Id. (quoting Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989)).

C. Claim for Unsafe Conditions of Confinement

Plaintiff alleges that he was exposed to a hazardous environment which caused serious health problems. Plaintiff further alleges that following his placement in administrative segregation, he went without a cup, a spork, a toothbrush, soap, a towel, tooth powder, showers, and food.*fn1

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006).

Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and only those deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9, 112 S.Ct. 995 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). In order to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that prison officials knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to Plaintiff. E.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,847, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998).

Plaintiff's vague allegations are insufficient to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff's factual allegations must adequately support a claim that one or more named defendants "[knew] of and disregard[ed] an excessive risk to [Plaintiff's] health or safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. The Court will provide Plaintiff with the opportunity to amend his claims.

D. Claim for Denial of Access to the Courts

Plaintiff's claim for denial of access to the courts arises from the alleged theft of two petitions for writ of habeas corpus, which were confiscated when Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation. Plaintiff alleges that he had pending deadlines in the cases and when his attorney called and spoke with Sergeant Tooris, the sergeant said they did not care about the deadlines and Plaintiff was not getting back his petitions, legal mail, or legal work.

Inmates have a fundamental constitutional right of access to the courts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346, 116 S.Ct. 2174, 2177 (1996). The right is limited to direct criminal appeals, habeas petitions, and civil rights actions. Id. at 354, 2181-82. Claims for denial of access to the courts may arise from the frustration or hindrance of "a litigating opportunity yet to be gained" (forward-looking access claim) or from the loss of a meritorious suit that cannot now be tried (backward-looking claim). Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 412-15, 122 S.Ct. 2179, 2185-87 (2002). To prevail on a claim, Plaintiff must show that he suffered an actual injury by being shut out of court. Id. at 415, 2187; Lewis, 518 U.S. at 351, 2180.

Plaintiff's vague allegations are not sufficient to support a claim that he suffered an actual injury as a result of being deprived of his two petitions. In addition, Plaintiff does not link the deprivation of the petitions to any named defendants. For these reasons, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for denial of access to the courts. The Court will provide Plaintiff with the opportunity to amend his claim.

III. Conclusion and Order

Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any claims upon which relief may be granted under section 1983. Plaintiff's complaint shall be dismissed, with leave to amend to cure the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no "buckshot" complaints).

Plaintiff's amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights, Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 987-88. Although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007) (citations omitted).

Finally, Plaintiff is advised that an amended complaint supercedes the original complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the prior or superceded pleading," Local Rule 15-220. Plaintiff is warned that "[a]ll causes of action alleged in an original complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived." King, 814 F.2d at 567 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth, 114 F.3d at 1474.

Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. The Clerk's Office shall send Plaintiff a civil rights complaint form;

2. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for failure to state any claims under section 1983;

3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint; and

4. If Plaintiff fails to comply with this order, this action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.



Inmate No.

(Name of Plaintiff)

(Case Number)



________________________________ Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________

(Names of all Defendants)

Previous Lawsuits (list all other previous or pending lawsuits on back of this form):

A. Have you brought any other lawsuits while a prisoner? Yes No

B. If your answer to A is yes, how many?

Describe previous or pending lawsuits in the space below. (If more than one, use back of paper to continue outlining all lawsuits.)

1. Parties to previous lawsuit:



2. Court (if Federal Court, give name of District; if State Court, give name of County)

3. Docket Number 4. Assigned Judge

5. Disposition (For example: Was the case dismissed? Was it appealed? Is it still pending?)

6. Filing date (approx.) 7. Disposition date (approx.)

Administrative Remedies


A. Is there an inmate appeal or administrative remedy process available at your institution?

Yes No

B. Have you filed an appeal or grievance concerning ALL of the facts contained in this complaint?

Yes No

If your answer is no, explain why not

C. Is the process completed?

Yes___ If your answer is yes, briefly explain what happened at each level.

No If your answer is no, explain why not.

Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). If there is an inmate appeal or administrative remedy process available at your institution, you may not file an action under Section 1983, or any other federal law, until you have first completed (exhausted) the process available at your institution. You are required to complete (exhaust) the inmate appeal or administrative remedy process before filing suit, regardless of the relief offered by the process. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001); McKinney v. Carey, 311 F.3d 1198, 1999 (9th Cir. 2002). Even if you are seeking only money damages and the inmate appeal or administrative remedy process does not provide money, you must exhaust the process before filing suit. Booth, 532 U.S. at 734.


(In Item A below, place the full name of the defendant in the first blank, his/her official position in the second blank, and his/her place of employment in the third blank. Use item B for the names, positions and places of employment of any additional defendants.)

A. Defendant is employed as at

Additional defendants

Statement of Claim

(State here as briefly as possible the facts of your case. Describe how each defendant is involved, including dates and places. Do not give any legal arguments or cite any cases or statutes. Attach extra sheets if necessary.)


(State briefly exactly what you want the court to do for you. Make no legal arguments. Cite no cases or statutes.)

under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

Signature of Plaintiff

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