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Vega v. Daniels

January 12, 2009


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


(Doc. 1)

I. Screening Order

A. Screening Standard

Plaintiff, Jose A. Vega, ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed this action on August 16, 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. A court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. Id. at 514. "'The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.'" Jackson v. Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 755 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004) ("'Pleadings need suffice only to put the opposing party on notice of the claim....'" (quoting Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 977 (9th Cir. 2001))). 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)).

B. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is a state prisoner, currently housed at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP")--where the events at issue in this action allegedly occurred. Plaintiff names the following defendants: Supervising Cook Mrs. S. Daniels ("Mrs. Daniels"); Medical Technical Assistants Brewer ("MTA Brewer") and Harper ("MTA Harper"); Chief Medical Officer F. Igbinoza ("CMO Igbinoza"); and Warden James A. Yates ("Warden Yates").

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on January 4, 2007, he was working in the kitchen when Mrs. Daniels gave him "incorrect and forceful orders" to cook some potatoes which was "a breach of job security order." (Doc. 1, pg. 3.) Plaintiff followed the order so as not to receive a RVR. However, Plaintiff slipped on the floor and fell, sustaining 2nd to 3rd degree burns on his left forearm, hand, and fingers in the process. Rather than summoning medical assistance, Mrs. Daniels instructed Plaintiff to stick his left hand and forearm in a bucket of mustard--with which Plaintiff complied. Subsequent to the initial injury, Plaintiff complains of the medical care and treatment that he received for his injuries.

Plaintiff lists thirty-six (36) legal authorities in a page which he has entitled: "Constitutional Violations." Plaintiff follows this list with a semi-chronological rendition of facts--without delineating which facts he feels show violations of which of his constitutional rights. The Court provides Plaintiff with the following law that appears to apply to his claims. However, the Court is simply unable to ascertain any factual basis for a number of Plaintiff's listed "Constitutional Violations." Further, in that list, several of Plaintiff's attempts at legal citations are woefully incomplete--to wit "Law §76., Law §77, Law §78 CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT. RIGHTS §10, CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT MEDICAL CARE COMMON LAW." Cruel and unusual punishment and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs are addressed herein under the standards for Eighth Amendment claims. Beyond that, the Court is at a loss as to what constitutional violations Plaintiff is attempting to allege via the above incomplete citations/claims.

Plaintiff is cautioned that alleging claims that turn out to be frivolous will result in negative consequences. "The controlling principle appears in Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a)'A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

The Court provides Plaintiff with the following law that appears to apply to his claims. However, the Court is simply unable to ascertain any factual basis for a number of Plaintiff's listed constitutional rights which he alleges were violated. The Court will not guess as to which facts Plaintiff believes show any given constitutional violation(s). It is Plaintiff's duty to correlate his claims for relief with their alleged factual basis. If Plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, Plaintiff must demonstrate how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights.Plaintiff is advised that if he chooses to file an amended complaint, and fails to comply with Rule 18(a), the Court will count all frivolous/non-cognizable unrelated claims that are dismissed therein as strikes such that he may be barred from filing in forma pauperis in the future.

Further, the Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law]... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights. The complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Plaintiff merely states his factual allegations in a semi-chronological rendition of events subsequent to his initial injury. Plaintiff does not specify which actions (or inactions) by any given defendant allegedly caused him to suffer any constitutional deprivation. Plaintiff must specifically identify which defendant(s) he feels are responsible for every alleged violation of his constitutional rights. Identifiers such as "Defendant(s) Medical Personnel," "the Defendants," "one of Defendants (sic) Registered Nurses," "Custodial Defendants,""Defendants (sic) Custody Staff," "Defendants (sic) Assignment Office," "Defendants (sic) Medical Doctor," "Defendants Medical Clinic," and "Defendant(s)," without surname specificity, are insufficient to link a specific defendant to unconstitutional actions. Further, while Plaintiff lists CMO Igbinoza and Warden Yates as defendants in the caption and on the form complaint, he fails to mention them in his factual allegations, or to otherwise state any factual allegations as to what they did, or did not do, that Plaintiff feels violated his constitutional rights. Thus, CMO Igbinoza and Warden Yates are properly dismissed at this time.

C. Claims for Relief 1. First Amendment

Under his list of "Constitutional Violations," Plaintiff lists the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. (Doc. 1, pg. 4.)

a. Speech

In determining whether a regulation of a prison restricting freedom of speech rights of a prisoner bears a reasonable relationship to legitimate penological interests, a court is to consider:

(1) whether there is a rational connection between the restriction and the legitimate governmental interest used to justify it; (2) whether alternative avenues of exercising the right remain open to the inmate; (3) whether accommodation of the right will have an adverse impact on the guards, other inmates, and prison resources generally; and (4) whether obvious, easy alternatives to the restriction exist. Sisneros v. Nix 884 F.Supp. 1313 (S.D. Iowa 1995) aff'd in part, remanded on other grounds in part, 95 F.3d 749 (8th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim as his factual allegations fail to show that his speech was restricted in any way.

b. Religion

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

." U.S. Const., amend. I. Prisoners "retain protections afforded by the First Amendment," including the free exercise of religion. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348, 107 S.Ct. 2400 (1987). However, "'[l]awful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system.'" Id. (quoting Price v. Johnson, 334 U.S. 266, 285, 68 S.Ct. 1049, 1060 (1948)). "In order to establish a free exercise violation, [a prisoner] must show the defendants burdened the practice of his religion, by preventing him from engaging in conduct mandated by his faith, without any justification reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Freeman v. Arpaio,125 F.3d 732, 736 (9th Cir. 1997). Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim as he fails to show that he was prohibited from exercising his religious beliefs in any way.

c. Retaliation

Allegations of retaliation against a prisoner's First Amendment rights to speech or to petition the government may support a section 1983 claim. Rizzo v. Dawson, 778 F.2d 527, 532 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135 (9th Cir. 1989); Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995). "Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal." Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim as he fails to show that he was subjected to any adverse action as a result of engaging in protected conduct.

2. Eighth Amendment

Under his list of "Constitutional Violations," Plaintiff lists the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the ...

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