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Bruce v. Woodford

February 3, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge


I. Screening Order

Plaintiff Vincent C. Bruce ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed his original complaint onFebruary 20, 2007. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on February 25, 2007. (Doc. 8.) On March 10, 2008, the Court ordered that Plaintiff either file an amended complaint or notify the Court of willingness to proceed only on claims found to be cognizable. (Doc. 9.) On June 5, 2008, after receiving an extension of time, Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint. (Doc. 16.) Plaintiff's second amended complaint is presently before the Court for screening.

A. Screening Requirement

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).

B. Pleading Requirements

1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

"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. Pro. 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. Pro. 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)).

C. Plaintiff's Complaint and Rule 18(a)

Plaintiff is currently a state prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California. Plaintiff was formerly imprisoned at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility ("SATF") and the California Correctional Institution ("CCI"), where the acts he complains of occurred. Plaintiff names the following defendants regarding the alleged events at SATF: Jeanne Woodford, former director of the California Department of Corrections ("CDCR"); Derral Adams, warden; Eddie Sanchez, Chief Deputy Warden; Lydia Hense, J. Ward, and K. Clark, associate wardens; D. Fulks, former captain and current associate warden; Correctional officer ("C/O") E. Tripp; Correctional Counselor II S. Frauenheim; Correctional Captain T. P. Wan; Correctional Lieutenants A. Lloren, F. P. Fields, and Schottegen; Chief Medical Officer N. Bhatt; and medical doctors Snow and D. Kyle ("SATF defendants"). (Doc. 16, pp. 3-4, ¶¶ 7-22.)

Plaintiff names the following defendants regarding the alleged events at CCI: former warden J. Sullivan; M. Carrasco, associate warden; Correctional lieutenants J. Gentry, K. L. Large, and R. L. Johnson; and C/Os T. Turmezei, D. Blankenship, J. Bellinger, G. Zucker, Adams, and Gronillo ("CCI defendants"). (Id., pp. 4-5, ¶¶ 23-33.)

1. Rule 18(a)

Plaintiff makes allegations regarding events at both SATF and CCI. The Court finds that the events alleged at each prison are unrelated. The Court further finds that the alleged actions of Bhatt, Snow, and Kyle are unrelated to the events alleged against the other SATF defendants, namely retaliation, due process, and conditions of confinement. Plaintiff's complaint thus fails to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a). "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).

Though Plaintiff may state cognizable section 1983 claims, Plaintiff's complaint violates Rule 18(a). The Court will focus its analysis on Plaintiff's allegations regarding events at SATF that do not include the allegations against Bhatt, Snow, and Kyle. Plaintiff's claims against defendants N. Bhatt, Snow, D. Kyle, J. Sullivan, M. Carrasco, J. Gentry, K. L. Large, R. L. Johnson, T. Turmezei, D. Blankenship, J. Bellinger, G. Zucker, Adams, and Gronillo are dismissed without prejudice for non-compliance with Rule 18(a). Plaintiff is advised that if he wishes to pursue a section 1983 claim against the CCI defendants as well as against N. Bhatt, Snow, and D. Kyle, Plaintiff should file separate complaints regarding each.

2. Plaintiff's Allegations Regarding Retaliation, Due Process, and Conditions of Confinement at SATF

Plaintiff alleges the following regarding events at SATF. Plaintiff was a member of the Men's Advisory Council ("MAC") at SATF. Between April 2002 and February 2004, SATF officials instituted numerous restrictions on the facility in which Plaintiff was housed. On February 27, 2004, Plaintiff and approximately six dozen inmates began a peaceful hunger strike to protest the restrictions. Defendants Fulks and Wan discussed the hunger strike with Plaintiff and other MAC representatives. Fulks and Wan discussed the strike with defendant Clark and told Plaintiff that he was breaking no rules with a hunger strike. On Saturday and Sunday, more inmates joined the hunger strike, which was reported in the media. On Sunday February 29, defendants Adams, Sanchez, Clark, and Fulks held a meeting and decided to lock up Plaintiff and four other spokespersons and to restrict access to the media. (Doc. 16, pp. 8-9, ¶¶ 50-57.)

Plaintiff was placed in segregation. Plaintiff and four inmates were charged with "Conspiracy to Assault Staff and Orchestrating a Hunger Strike." A few weeks later, Plaintiff and these inmates were cleared of conspiracy to assault staff but received disciplinary reports for inciting a hunger strike. This report was authored by Tripp, reviewed by Wan, and approved by Clark. Adams, Sanchez, Hense, Ward, Clark, Fulks, Wan, and Frauenheim all had discussions and meetings regarding ...

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