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El-Shaddai v. Clark

October 5, 2009


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


(Doc. 1)

Screening Order

Plaintiff Adonai El-Shaddai, a/k/a James R. Wilkerson,*fn1 is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperisin this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed his complaint on January 5, 2009.

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. § 915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to § 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). 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. Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (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 conclusions are not. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Although accepted as true, "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). A plaintiff must set forth "the grounds of his entitlement to relief," which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 555-56 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To adequately state a claim against a defendant, plaintiff must set forth the legal and factual basis for his claim.

II. Plaintiff's Claim

A. Factual background

The genesis of this case is plaintiff's failure to receive two containers of prayer oil. The relevant background has been determined from various documents appended to the complaint and incorporated by reference, including a Second Level Appeal Response to a prior administrative proceeding (Log No. CEC-C-08-00460), dated May 28, 2008.*fn2 In that proceeding, plaintiff contended that custody staff at Centinela State Prison ("Centinela") denied him packages and prayer oil in retaliation for his use of his religious name.*fn3

Plaintiff had brought at least two prior grievances concerned, at least in part, with his failure to receive packages and prayer oil. In the course of a prior grievance proceeding, prison staff told plaintiff that they had contacted two suppliers, Halalco Books and Access Securepak, both of which reported having no record of a package shipped to plaintiff's religious or committed name. Thus, at the Informal (first) Level of Review, plaintiff's appeal was denied because (1) Access reported that plaintiff's package had been returned because the name and CDC number did not match, and (2) Dawah Books, supplier of prayer oil, reported that they had sent no packages to an inmate whose CDC number was 08083. Plaintiff then advised staff that his CDC number is C-08082, not C-08083.

According to the Second Level Appeal Response (Log No. CEC-C-08-00460), plaintiff reordered the missing packages using his committed name and correct CDC number. The Access order was received at Centinela but returned to Access because of damaged contents. Plaintiff finally received a replacement Access package on April 28, 2008. Plaintiff did not receive the prayer oils ordered from Dawah.

Because prison personnel could not provide an original order date, Dawah could not determine whether the replacement prayer oils had ever been sent. Accordingly, the Second Level Appeal Response directed plaintiff to re-submit his ...

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