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Knapp v. Cate

October 13, 2009

ERIC CHARLES RODNEY KNAPP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF EITHER TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT OR TO NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIMS FOUND TO BE COGNIZABLE

(Doc. 25)

RESPONSE DUE WITHIN 30 DAYS

Plaintiff Eric Charles Rodney Knapp ("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 Sierra Conservation Center ("SCC") in Jamestown, California. Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for the violation of his rights under First Amendedment. Plaintiff names M. Alexander (psychologist), Backlund (psychologist), P. Bolles (medical appeals coordinator), Matthew Cate (CDCR agency secretary), F. X. Chavez (chief deputy warden), Ivan D. Clay (warden), T. Esquer (appeals coordinator), D. E. Gibb (captain), Nola Grannis (chief, CDCR inmate appeals), C. Hammond (staff services manager), S. Hannah (correctional counselor II), C. Koenig (captain), Russel "Rusty" Otto (chief psychologist), M. Pate (correctional counselor II), Peters (psychiatrist), Rick Pimental (captain), P. T. Rawlinson (associate warden), K. Robertson (psychologist), M. Scott (classification services representative), W. Semsen (appeals coordinator), and John Stclair (chief medical officer) as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff is ordered to either notify the Court of his willingness to proceed only on the claims found to be cognizable in this order, or to file an amended complaint.

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 November 20, 2008. (Doc. #1.) The Court screened Plaintiff's Original Complaint on April 13, 2009. (Doc. #14.) The Court dismissed Plaintiff's Original Complaint for failing to state any claims and granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on July 30, 2009. (Doc. #25.) This action proceeds on Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint.

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff alleges that he was retaliated against by Defendants because he is well-known for exercising his First Amendment rights via administrative grievances, habeas corpus petitions, and other legal claims. Plaintiff also alleges that he is being retaliated against because his mother is known to advocate on behalf of prisoners abused by the CDCR. Plaintiff alleges that his mother is the founder of "United for No Injustice, Oppression, Neglect" ("UNION"), a group that actively advocates on behalf of prisoners. Plaintiff claims that he has been subjected to retaliatory transfers to different prisons and retaliatory interference with his medical treatment.

Starting at some point in 2003, Plaintiff was housed in a single-cell after he attempted to kill himself. Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome that is exacerbated when he is housed with another inmate. Plaintiff's mental health dramatically improved after he was single celled.

On July 31, 2008, Plaintiff was transferred to SCC. On August 13, 2008, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Koenig and Pate brought Plaintiff before a Unit Classification Committee ("UCC"). Plaintiff alleges that members of the UCC knew about Plaintiff's litigious behavior and political activism and chose to harass Plaintiff in retaliation for Plaintiff's litigious history. At the meeting, Plaintiff was falsely told by Koenig and Pate that SCC does not single cell prisoners, that the mental health doctors had no say in whether prisoners are single-celled, repudiated Plaintiff's mental health assessments, told Plaintiff that the documentation in his prison record about his mental condition had mysteriously disappeared, callously interrogated Plaintiff about his past traumas, told Plaintiff his single-cell status would be revoked, and put Plaintiff on a waiting list for a job assignment requiring physical labor despite orders from doctors prohibiting Plaintiff from engaging in physical labor. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Cate, Clay, Esquer, Koenig, and Pate knew about the meeting but failed to take corrective action on Plaintiff's behalf.

On August 13, 2008, Plaintiff alleges that Koenig and Pate prepared a "CDC form 128-G" that was placed in Plaintiff's permanent prison record and contained fraudulent statements aimed at revoking Plaintiff's single-cell status. Plaintiff alleges that the form stated that Plaintiff had no medical or mental conditions qualifying as disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act or Americans with Disabilities Act, that Plaintiff's single-cell status had been lawfully revoked by CDCR officials in 2003 and 2005. On November 13, 2008, Plaintiff was brought before another ICC meeting to address his single-cell status where Defendants Clay, Gibb, Hannah, and Otto informed Plaintiff that they had decided to revoke Plaintiff's single-cell status and would give "Mental Health" approximately one week to withdraw their recommendations for Plaintiff's single-cell status.

Plaintiff also alleges that since he arrived at SCC on July 31, 2008, he discovered that the conditions in his cell were "unlike any he had previously encountered elsewhere." (Compl. 54:14-16.) Plaintiff alleges that the cells "emanate an overpoweringly dank and musty smell much like old basements," "[a]ir barely puffs and trickles into most of the cells through a single vent," the mattress racks are heavily corroded with rust, and "[d]ust, flaked-off skin, dandruff, lint . . . just float around inside the cells and get breathed into prisoners' lungs." (Compl. 54:18-55:4.) Plaintiff alleges that he filed grievances about the in-cell conditions and that Defendants Chavez, Clay, Esquer, Grannis, Pimental, and Semsen knew of the conditions and did not take corrective action.

Plaintiff's remaining factual allegations concern events that occurred after Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit. For reasons explained below, those events are not properly the subject ...


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