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Thomas v. California Dep't of Corrections

January 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Wunderlich United States Magistrate Judge


(Doc. 1)

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Edward Lee Thomas ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

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

A. Summary of Complaint

Plaintiff is incarcerated at the California Department of Corrections in Avenal, California. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and acted deliberately indifferent to serious threats to Plaintiff's safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff names the California Department of Corrections, R. Pimentel, J. Pappenfus, and Dorothy Johnson as defendants.

Plaintiff's factual allegations regarding how defendants' actions put Plaintiff's life in danger are not entirely clear. Plaintiff's complaint is handwritten and contains a number of grammatical errors, and, despite its best effort, the Court has difficulty comprehending the basis for Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff appears to allege that Defendant R. Pimentel, CCRS of Records in Avenal State Prison, falsified documents stating that day-for-day credits were denied to Plaintiff and others based upon a memorandum to Plaintiff that carried other inmates' log numbers on four different appeals levels. Plaintiff alleges that this action placed Plaintiff's life in jeopardy against the other inmates whose name and log numbers appeared on Plaintiff's memorandum. attendance attendance

Plaintiff's complaint alleges a second claim for deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Plaintiff alleges that he was seen by Dr. Smith (not named as a defendant) for symptoms in his right leg. Plaintiff was experiencing severe pain in his leg. An x-ray of Plaintiff's leg was taken and no problems were detected. No further diagnosis or treatment was given by doctors. Plaintiff's alleges that if his leg is not properly treated, it may require amputation.

B. Claim for Deliberate Indifference to Threats to Plaintiff's Safety

Plaintiff appears to allege that defendants' actions placed Plaintiff in danger of physical abuse from other inmates. "Prison officials have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse." Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1250-51 (9th Cir. 1982). "To establish a violation of this duty, the prisoner must establish that prison officials were "deliberately indifferent" to serious threats to the inmate's safety." See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

Plaintiff's complaint states that his claim for deliberate indifference to threats to his safety stems from "false placement of another prison inmate file of charges on memorandum, which could cause great bodily harm to be inflected [sic] upon Plaintiff character of being responsible for such breach of security by staff members oversite [sic] of wrongful summary of crimes committed." (Compl. 5). Plaintiff's complaint also states that Defendant Pimentel "falsified documents stating that [plaintiff's] credits of day-for-day was denied him and others based upon a memorandum to ...

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