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Avila v. Cate

December 14, 2009

PERRY ROBERT AVILA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING CERTAIN CLAIMS AND DEFENDANTS FROM ACTION, AND AUTHORIZING SERVICE OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT ON EQUAL PROTECTION CLAIM

(Doc. 1)

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Perry Robert Avila, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on May 26, 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. Plaintiff's Claims

A. Equal Protection Claim

Plaintiff, who is Hispanic, alleges that his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment were violated when prison officials placed Hispanic inmates on race-based lock-downs in 2007 at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California.*fn1 (Doc. 1, Comp., court record pp. 20, 32-34.)

"The Equal Protection Clause . . . is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike." City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985) (citing Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216 (1982)). Prisoners are protected from racial discrimination by the Equal Protection Clause, Walker v. Gomez, 370 F.3d 969, 973 (2004), and express racial classifications are immediately suspect, Johnson v. California, 543 U.S. 499, 509, 125 S.Ct. 1141, 1146 (2005). Racial classifications are subject to strict scrutiny, and the government bears the burden of proving that the classification was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. Johnson, 543 U.S. at 505.

"'To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment a plaintiff must show that the defendants acted with an intent or purpose to discriminate against the plaintiff based upon membership in a protected class.'" Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 686 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998)). "Intentional discrimination means that a defendant acted at least in part because of a plaintiff's protected status." Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1082 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Maynard v. City of San Jose, 37 F.3d 1396, 1404 (9th Cir. 1994)) (emphasis in original).

1. Defendants Meadors, Sullivan, Jones, Gonzalez, and Peterson

On January 10, 2007, Defendants Meadors and Sullivan issued an update to a modified program affecting Hispanic inmates.*fn2 The notice listed the restrictions in place, and stated that the investigation into potential violence by Hispanic inmates was continuing, although no ...


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