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West v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

September 23, 2009


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


(Doc. 8)

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Gerald A. West ("plaintiff") is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which provides a remedy for violation of civil rights by federal actors. Plaintiff filed this action on July 22, 2009 and filed an amended complaint on August 10, 2009.

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).

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)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Id. at 1949.

II. Summary of Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in Terre Haute, Indiana. The events giving rise to this action occurred at USP-Atwater in Atwater, California. Plaintiff brings this action against defendants Federal Bureau of Prisons ("FBOP"), Warden D. Smith, Director of FBOP Harley G. Lappin, and two unnamed officers. Plaintiff seeks money damages.

Plaintiff alleges that on October 26, 2007, he arrived at USP-Atwater from USP-Coleman in Florida. Plaintiff informed staff that he was concerned about being placed in general population because of a "prior stabbing incident" at USP-Coleman, but states that his concerns were ignored.

Inmate Morton also arrived at USP-Atwater that day. The next day, Plaintiff alleges that inmate Morton was mistaken for Plaintiff by a group of inmates, who attacked and stabbed inmate Morton. At the infirmary, inmate Morton informed an unknown officer (Doe 1) that Plaintiff was the intended victim. Defendant Doe 1 ignored the information and told inmate Morton that his shift was nearly over and that he was going home. Plaintiff states that the housing unit was placed on lock-down for an emergency count by an unknown duty officer (Doe 2). When the cell doors were reopened twenty minutes later, Plaintiff was beaten and stabbed six times in his cell by three inmates. Plaintiff contends that he should not have been placed in general population. Plaintiff contends that Doe 2 should have kept the unit on lock-down until an investigation was completed.

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006).

Although prison conditions may be restrictive and harsh, prison officials must provide prisoners with food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Prison officials have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse. Id. at 833; Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th Cir. 2005). The failure of prison officials to protect inmates from attacks by other inmates may rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation where prison officials know of and disregard a substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff. E.g., Farmer at 847; Hearns at 1040.

Plaintiff states a cognizable claim against defendant Doe 1. Plaintiff's allegation that Doe 1 was made aware of a threat to Plaintiff's safety by inmate Morton and failed to take any action is sufficient to support a claim for ...

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