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Cohea v. Adams

February 26, 2009

DANNY JAMES COHEA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
D. ADAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT OR TO NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIMS FOUND TO BE COGNIZABLE (Doc. 1) RESPONSE DUE WITHIN 30 DAYS

Plaintiff Danny James Cohea ("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 is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations and is currently incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran, California ("CSP-Corcoran").Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for violations of his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff names D. Adams (warden, CSP-Corcoran), J. Jones (correctional counselor II), N. Hicinbothem (correctional counselor II), N. Kush (licensed vocational nurse), J. Guzman (library technical assistant), I. Vela-Lopez (correctional officer), and Does 1-5 as defendants.

I. 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).

"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. Background

Plaintiff was transferred from California State Prison - Calipatria ("CSP-Calipatria") to CSP-Corcoran in January 2008. At the time, Plaintiff had several pending lawsuits. Plaintiff's legal materials were confiscated by CSP-Calipatria prison officials to be packed and transferred with Plaintiff to CSP-Corcoran. After he arrived at Corcoran, Plaintiff immediately submitted several requests for access to his legal materials as well as access to the law library to prepare pleadings for his numerous lawsuits. Plaintiff did not receive access to his legal materials or access to the law library and began filing administrative grievances regarding the access denials in February 2008. Plaintiff was not given access to the law library until March 3, 2008.

Plaintiff's legal materials were being stored in 22 boxes in the law library. Plaintiff requested that his 22 boxes of legal materials be transferred to his housing unit but his request was denied by Defendant Vela-Lopez. Defendant Vela-Lopez gave Plaintiff five days (March 3, 4, 6, 10 and 11) to sort through the 22 boxes to retrieve whatever documents he needed. When Plaintiff requested the release of all his legal materials again, Defendant Vela-Lopez told Plaintiff that "he should have thought about that before he filed all those complaints about getting to the law library". (Compl. 8.) Plaintiff's time in the law library was further limited because he would be escorted to the law library late, or removed from the law library early. On one occasion, Defendant Vela-Lopez fabricated a rules violation report ("RVR") in order to have Plaintiff escorted from the law library early.

Since the five days Plaintiff was given in March to sort through his 22 boxes of legal materials, Plaintiff was only given access to the law library once, on June 30, 2008. Due to the limited amount of time that Plaintiff was given in the law library to work on his pending lawsuits, Plaintiff missed a number of filing deadlines.

III. Discussion

A. Retaliation Claim

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against him because he filed inmate grievances regarding his access to the law library. In the prison context, 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). "[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). An allegation of retaliation against a prisoner's First Amendment right to file a prison grievance is sufficient to support a claim under section 1983. Bruce v. Ylst, 351 F.3d 1283, 1288 (9th Cir. 2003).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Vela-Lopez retaliated against Plaintiff by fabricating a RVR because Plaintiff filed inmate grievances regarding access to the law library. Defendant Kush retaliated against Plaintiff by filing a false medical report in support of Defendant Vela-Lopez's RVR. Defendants Jones, Hicinbothem and Does 1-5 deliberately failed to investigate Plaintiff's grievances against Defendants Vela-Lopez and Kush in retaliation against Plaintiff filing grievances. ...


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