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Harris v. Zamudio


September 25, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. He seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 72-302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). An initial partial filing fee of 1.82 will be assessed by this order.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

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).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 1216, pp. 235-235 (3d ed. 2004). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, No. 07-1015, 2009 WL 1361536 at * 12 (May 18, 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740, 96 S.Ct. 1848 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, 89 S.Ct. 1843 (1969).

The complaint states a colorable claim for relief against defendant C. (or L.) Zamudio (Jr.) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

Following an inmate stabbing incident on 6/14/05 of which plaintiff claims to have been a victim and for which he seeks to implicate defendant Zamudio for failing to protect plaintiff from that attack, plaintiff alleges that he was returned to the prison facility from the hospital on 6/23/05, when he was placed in the treatment facility; he was told by defendant Captain R. Hill, who reviewed his segregation order, that he would be scheduled for committee. Complaint, p. 9. Plaintiff states that he was moved on 6/28/05, and went to a psychiatric committee on 7/5/05, and was told he would return the next day, but was moved again on the night of the 7/05/05. Id. Plaintiff spoke to a new (and unnamed) counselor on 7/13/05, who told plaintiff he was to go to committee that day, but he was never called. Id. Plaintiff claims that during his stay in B-1, which appears to have been from the night of 7/05/05 until 8/01/05 (less than a month), or alternatively from 6/23/05 until 8/01/05 (about five or six weeks) defendants James Walker, R. Hill, and B. Forsterer deprived him of his Eighth Amendment right to be free cruel and unusual punishment because plaintiff was never given an opportunity to go to group or walk-alone yard. Complaint, pp. 9-11. Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief and money, including punitive, damages.

Although a temporary denial of exercise does not per se constitute an Eighth Amendment violation, denial of all outdoor exercise for an extended period may. May v. Baldwin, 109 F.3d 557, 565 (9th Cir. 1997) (temporary deprivation of 21 days without outdoor exercise with no medical effects not a substantial deprivation); Hayward v. Procunier, 629 F.2d 599, 603 (9th Cir. 1980) (30-day emergency lockdown period was an unusual circumstance justifying denial of outdoor exercise); see also LeMaire v. Maass, 12 F.3d 1444, 1457-1458 (9th Cir. 1993) (while exercise is "one of the basic human necessities protected by the Eighth Amendment," where restriction from outdoor exercise arose from inmate's abuse of the privilege and posing a security risk, plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim for deprivation thereof failed); but see, Spain v. Procunier, 600 F.2d 189, 199-200 (9th Cir. 1979) (upholding district court decision that inmates confined with almost total lack of outdoor exercise for period of years was cruel and unusual punishment, and requiring they be allowed one hour of outdoor exercise, five days a week, absent poor weather, unusual circumstances); see also, Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090 (9th Cir. 1996)(defendants not entitled to summary judgment where plaintiff produced evidence showing deprivation of outdoor exercise for six-month period in administrative segregation). The Ninth Circuit has clarified the elements necessary to state a deprivation that would rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation:

An Eighth Amendment claim that a prison official has deprived inmates of humane conditions must meet two requirements, one objective and one subjective. Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir.1995). "Under the objective requirement, the prison official's acts or omissions must deprive an inmate of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. The subjective requirement, relating to the defendant's state of mind, requires deliberate indifference." Id. (citations omitted).

Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1132-1133 (9th Cir. 2000).

In Lopez, the Ninth Circuit found that plaintiff's claim that he was denied all outdoor exercise for six and a half weeks met the objective requirement for an Eighth Amendment claim. 1132-1133. The Lopez court noted that:

The clear implication of May is that temporary denials of outdoor exercise must have adverse medical effects to meet the Eighth Amendment test, while long-term deprivations are substantial regardless of effects.

Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d at 1133 n. 15 (see May v. Baldwin, supra).

In claiming that he did not receive group or walk-alone yard activity, presumably outside exercise, for a little less than a month or perhaps a period of six weeks, plaintiff does not necessarily state a constitutional deprivation, particularly where there is a clear inference to be drawn that plaintiff appears to have been recuperating from one or more stab wounds during this period. Moreover, plaintiff makes no specific allegation linking the conduct of defendants Walker, Hill, and Forsterer to the alleged deprivation. These defendants will be dismissed but plaintiff will be granted leave to amend.

If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). Also, the complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 96 S.Ct. 598 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Furthermore, vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

In addition, plaintiff is informed that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. Local Rule 15-220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. This is because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, in an amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged.

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's July 29, 2009, request to proceed in forma pauperis (Docket No. 9) is granted;

2. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. Plaintiff is assessed an initial partial filing fee of $1.82. All fees shall be collected and paid in accordance with this court's order to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith.

3. Plaintiff's claims against defendants Walker, Hill, and Forsterer are dismissed for the reasons discussed above, with leave to file an amended complaint within thirty days from the date of service of this Order. Failure to file an amended complaint will result in a recommendation that these defendants be dismissed from this action.

4. Upon filing an amended complaint or expiration of the time allowed therefor, the court will make further orders for service of process upon some or all of the defendants.


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