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Thompson v. Kernan

October 5, 2009

TRAVIS RAY THOMPSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SCOTT KERNAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING CERTAIN CLAIMS (Doc. 31)

Plaintiff Travis Ray Thompson ("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 Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California. Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint states a cognizable claim for violation of his Eighth Amendment rights against Defendants Alvarez and Redenius. All other claims in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint are dismissed without leave to amend.

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).

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under 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)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II. Background

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed the Original Complaint in this action on April 13, 2007. (Doc. #1.) Before his Original Complaint was screened by the Court, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint on July 18, 2007. (Docs. #8.) The Court granted Plaintiff's motion on November 20, 2007. (Doc. #14.) Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on January 2, 2008. (Doc. #17.) Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint was screened by the Court on March 17, 2009. (Doc. #22.) Plaintiff was ordered to either file a Second Amended Complaint or to proceed only on the claims found to be cognizable by the Court. Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on April 28, 2009. (Doc. #25.) Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint was screened on June 15, 2009. (Doc. #30.) Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint was dismissed for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Plaintiff was given leave to amend. Plaintiff filed his Third Amended Complaint on July 13, 2009. (Doc. #31.) This action proceeds on Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint.

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff's complaint is a chronological narrative of injuries and indignities that he has suffered while in prison. Plaintiff's complaint begins against Defendant Yeager, the state court judge the presided over Plaintiff's criminal trial for assault and battery, whom Plaintiff alleges is liable for convicting Plaintiff and sending him into the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation where he allegedly suffered numerous constitutional injuries. Plaintiff's complaint continues against prison officials that allegedly engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy aimed at retaliating against Plaintiff for filing lawsuits and inmate grievances that threatened the political interests of the prison guard's union (the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, hereinafter "CCPOA").

Plaintiff's wide-ranging allegations complain of prison officials who deprived Plaintiff of access to legal materials. Plaintiff describes disputes in which Plaintiff would protest prison official misconduct by holding his meal tray or library books hostage until a prison supervisor arrived to negotiate with Plaintiff and provide the relief he sought. Plaintiff would then be charged with a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") for delaying a peace officer, which Plaintiff characterizes as "retaliatory" or "false". Plaintiff also complains that the RVR hearings and determinations are tainted because all the prison officials involved were members of the CCPOA or CCPOA-friendly, and thus held "conflicts of interest." Citing the accumulation of numerous RVRs on Plaintiff's record, the Institutional Classification Committee ("ICC") would in-turn retain Plaintiff in the Secured Housing Unit ("SHU"). Plaintiff claims that his term in the SHU is "indefinite" because of the apparent never-ending cycle of prison official misconduct responded to by Plaintiff holding his meal tray hostage.

Plaintiff's complaint also alleges prison officials engaged in a wide-ranging pattern of misconduct. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that prison officials were censoring his mail. Plaintiff alleges that on one occasion correctional officers deliberately set-up Plaintiff in order to pepper-spray him.Plaintiff claims that a correctional officer interfered with Plaintiff's right of access to the courts by calling the trust office and telling them to reject Plaintiff's IFP application. Plaintiff complains that prison officials ignored or denied Plaintiff's inmate grievances complaining about staff misconduct. Plaintiff claims that prison officials improperly interfered with Plaintiff's attempts to seek transfer to a federal prison.In sum, Plaintiff's complaint names approximately 73 parties as defendants and alleges that they violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

III. Discussion

A. Claims Arising After Plaintiff Filed This Action (4/13/2007)

Plaintiff's allegations describe events that occurred after he filed the original complaint in this action. Plaintiff filed the original complaint in this action on April 13, 2007. (Doc. #1.) Plaintiff's factual allegations between paragraphs 80 and 157 of his complaint describe events that took place after April 13, 2007. Plaintiff may not expand the scope of litigation by adding claims regarding events that took place after Plaintiff filed suit. The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that Plaintiff exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Exhaustion must occur prior to filing suit. McKinney v. Carey, 311 F.3d 1198, 1199-1201 (9th Cir. 2002). "[A] prisoner does not comply with [§ 1997e(a)] by exhausting available remedies during the course of litigation." Id. at 1199.

Plaintiff's claims regarding events that occurred after April 13, 2007 were not fully exhausted at the time he initiated this action on April 13, 2007. Plaintiff must exhaust his administrative remedies for those claims and then raise them in a separate lawsuit.

B. Claims Against Defendant Yeager

Plaintiff names Yeager, a state court judge, as a defendant for his actions in sentencing Plaintiff to CDCR custody. Plaintiff alleges that he was charged with multiple counts of assault and battery and one count of possession of a weapon in prison and that Yeager presided over the trial. Plaintiff complains that Yeager rejected Plaintiff's "political defense" that he was charged by guards because of his anti-CCPOA activities. Plaintiff also complains that Yeager rejected Plaintiff's request for placement in a federal prison and that Yeager is liable for ...


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