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Jackson v. CDCR

February 2, 2009


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


I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Fateem L. Jackson ("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 September 27, 2007. On May 16, 2008, the Court issued an order requiring Plaintiff either to file an amended complaint or notify the Court of his willingness to proceed only on the claims found to be cognizable. Plaintiff opted to file and amended complaint. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's first amended complaint ("the complaint") filed June 24, 2008.

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 the Complaint

Plaintiff is a state prisoner currently housed at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California. The events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims allegedly occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the California Correctional Institution ("CCI") in Tehachapi, California. Plaintiff alleges violations of his rights under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

According to the complaint, the strip-search policy in place at CCI permits female correctional officers to participate routinely in visual body-cavity searches of male prisoners. Plaintiff alleges that prisoners at CCI are subjected to nude, full-body cavity searches before and after being released for outdoor exercise. Upon leaving or returning from outdoor exercise, correctional officers line prisoners up in groups of six in each housing unit's "chow hall" and then order the prisoners to disrobe. First Amended Complaint, p. 4: 1-4. Prisoners are then given body-cavity search directives by one correctional officer while another officer searches the prisoners' clothing close by. The complaint states that female correctional officers actively participate in conducting the body-cavity searches by either giving body-cavity search directives or searching the prisoners' clothing. Plaintiff alleges that on several occasions, female and male officers appeared to be jeering and laughing at Plaintiff and other prisoners during the body-cavity searches.

Plaintiff states that the strip-search policy at CCI is humiliating, degrading, and caused him to suffer emotional and psychological injury, including muscle strain, heart palpitations, chronic anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder.

B. Fourth Amendment Claim

The Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches extends to incarcerated prisoners. Michenfelder v. Sumner, 860 F.2d 328, 332 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 558 (1979)).*fn1 In determining the reasonableness of a search under the Fourth Amendment "[c]courts must consider the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the place in which it is conducted." Bell, 441 U.S. at 559. The reasonableness of a prisoner search is determined by reference to the prison context. Michenfelder, 860 F.2d at 332. "When a prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 79 (1987).

Prisoners' legitimate expectations of bodily privacy from persons of the opposite sex are extremely limited. Jordan v. Gardner, 986 F.2d 1521, 1524 (9th Cir. 1993); see also Michenfelder, 860 F.2d 328 (visual body-cavity searches of male inmates conducted within view of female guards held constitutional);*fn2 Grummet v. Rushen, 779 F.2d 491, 492 (high potential for female guards to view male inmates disrobing, showering, and using toilet facilities did not render prison policies unconstitutional); Rickman v. Avaniti, 854 F.2d 327, 327-28 (9th Cir. 1988) (routine visual body-cavity searches of prisoners held constitutional); Thompson v. Souza, 111 F.3d 694, 700-01 (9th Cir. 1997) (visual body-cavity search of prisoners conducted in public held constitutional). Although visual body-cavity searches of male prisoners conducted within view of female officers are generally permissible, abusive cross-gender visual cavity searches may violate the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness standard. Somers v. Thurman, 109 F.3d 614, ...

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