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Hudson v. Brian

July 17, 2009

MICHAEL W. HUDSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TERRY BRIAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

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

Screening Order

Plaintiff Michael W. Hudson 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 his complaint on February 20, 2008. On March 7, 2008, Plaintiff consented to jurisdiction of a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

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, supra, 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." Neitzke 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 Claim

A. Summary of Complaint

Prior to July 2, 2007, Plaintiff, then an inmate at Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP"), filed a Form 602 staff complaint against the Defendants, Correctional Officers Brian and Volker, because his breakfast was always delivered cold.*fn1 Before serving breakfast on July 2, Defendant Brian confronted Plaintiff about the complaint and called Plaintiff "a liar." After Plaintiff retreated from a brief verbal exchange by sitting in the back of his cell, Brian continued a stream of verbal abuse and name-calling, ending in Brian's promising that he would write-up Plaintiff, who would end up in the hole.

Shortly thereafter, Brian delivered a warm breakfast tray to Plaintiff. When the time came for tray pick-up, Plaintiff left his tray on the flat part of the food slot and turned to walk away. The tray fell to the cell floor. Plaintiff turned back to see Brian grinning at him. Plaintiff picked up the refuse from the floor and replaced it on the food slot. Brian told Plaintiff, "I gotcha! You assaulted me!" explaining that Plaintiff had injured Brian by pushing to food tray into Brian's hand so hard as to injure Brian.

Brian looked at the control booth and shouted, "Did you see that?" Defendant Volker was not at his post. When Volker returned, Brian again shouted,"Did you see that?" Volker replied that he had. Brian proceeded to file a Rules Violation Report charging Plaintiff with battery on a peace officer. Plaintiff was relocated to administrative segregation ("AD SEG") pending his disciplinary hearing.

Plaintiff appeared before the Institution Classification Committee on July 5, 2007, and told his version of the July 2 incident. Thereafter, the committee determined that the charge of battery on a peace officer was not supported by the body of the complaint. Plaintiff was released to the facility "A" yard but was assigned a lower group status and lost his job assignment and privileges. Plaintiff was placed on a job waiting list.

Nonetheless, on July 10, 2007, Plaintiff received a serious rule violation report describing the July 2, 2007, incident, scheduling a disciplinary hearing, and referring the matter to the Kern County District Attorney for possible felony prosecution. Following an August 9, 2007, disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff was again found not guilty.

B. Retaliation

Plaintiff contends that, by filing a false disciplinary report, the Defendants violated his due process rights in retaliation for his filing a Form 602 against them. He alleges a laundry list of negative consequences flowing from the false report, including (1) Plaintiff's transfer to the administrative segregation unit ("AD SEG"); (2) reduction of Plaintiff's prison classification, (3) Plaintiff's loss of his prison job and associated ...


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