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Dunaway v. Clark

August 10, 2009

THOMAS DUNAWAY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEN CLARK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN 30 DAYS (Doc. 1)

Plaintiff Thomas Dunaway ("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 Rehabilitation and is incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran, California ("CSATF"). Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiff names Ken Clark (warden) and K. Rocha (correctional counselor) as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim, with leave to file an amended complaint within 30 days.

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 alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights are being violated because he is forced to live in dangerous conditions that threaten his health and safety. Since October 3, 2008, Plaintiff was placed in dayroom housing. Plaintiff alleges that dayroom housing is only utilized for inmates awaiting transfer to level I or level II dorm living facilities. Plaintiff further alleges that the living conditions in dayroom housing are extremely dangerous and life threatening to both staff and inmates. Plaintiff was attacked by a violent inmate on June 17, 2008*fn1 . Plaintiff alleges that the attack was able to occur because of under-staffing in the dayroom.

Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from sleep deprivation because the dayroom lights are on all night. Plaintiff has to share one toilet and one sink with 20 inmates. Plaintiff alleges that he had to defecate in a brown bag because he could not access the toilet.

Plaintiff was told by Defendant Rocha that Plaintiff must either live in the dayroom or be placed in administrative segregation ("Ad-Seg"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Rocha had full knowledge of the dangerous and unconstitutional living conditions in the dayroom. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Rocha is responsible for ensuring thatPlaintiff is housed in a cell and left Plaintiff in dayroom housing even after Plaintiff was assaulted. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Rocha had full knowledge that the bathroom facilities in the dayroom were inadequate and Plaintiff is suffering from sleep deprivation because the bright lights are constantly on in the dayroom.

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Clark had full knowledge of the dangerous and unconstitutional living conditions. Defendant Clark is responsible for ensuring that an adequate number of correctional staff are in the dayroom area to prevent violent incidents. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Clark is aware of the inadequate bathroom facilities and that the bright lights in the dayroom prevent Plaintiff from getting adequate sleep.

III. Discussion

A. Eighth Amendment Claims

Plaintiff claims that the conditions in dayroom housing constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments and "embodies 'broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency.'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (quoting Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 579 (8th Cir. 1968)). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the objective requirement that the deprivation is "sufficiently serious", Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991), and (2) the subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind", Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298). The objective requirement that the deprivation be "sufficiently serious" is met where the prison official's act or omission results in the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities". Id. (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). The subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind" is met where the prison official acts with "deliberate indifference" to inmate health or safety. Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at ...


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