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Merchant v. Lopez

December 23, 2009

CURTIS HARVEY MERCHANT, CDCR #E-79892, PLAINTIFF,
v.
H. LOPEZ; CORRECTIONAL FOOD MANAGER; P. WEITZEIL, CORRECTIONAL FOOD MANAGER SECRETARY; R. MADDEN, CORRECTIONAL FACILITY CAPTAIN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William Q. Hayes United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) [Doc. No. 9]

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Curtis Harvey Merchant ("Plaintiff"), a prisoner currently incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison located in Calipatria, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Defendants Lopez, Weitzeil, and Madden ("Defendants") have filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) [Doc. No. 9]. Plaintiff filed his Opposition on October 7, 2009 [Doc. No. 11] to which Defendants have filed their Reply [Doc. No. 12].

The Court has determined that Defendants' Motion is suitable for disposition upon the papers without oral argument and that no Report and Recommendation from Magistrate Judge Nita L. Stormes is necessary. See S.D. CAL. CIVLR 7.1(d)(1), 72.3(e).

II. PLAINTIFF'S FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff filed an administrative grievance against Defendant Lopez, the Correctional Food Manager for Calipatria State Prison ("CAL") and Defendant Weitzeil, Correctional Food Manger on January 15, 2008. (See Pl.'s Compl. at 3.) In this grievance, Plaintiff alleged that he was being discriminated in his prison job by Defendants Lopez and Weitzeil. (Id.) On May 20, 2008, Plaintiff claims that Weitzeil and Lopez conspired against him by falsely accusing him of "stalking" Defendant Weitzeil which resulted in the loss of Plaintiff's job in the prison's kitchen. (Id.)

Plaintiff claims that another inmate, Johnny Ford, overheard a conversation between Defendant Weitzeil and Assistant Food Manager Roderick in which inmate Ford claims Roderick and Weitzeil agreed that they would remove Plaintiff from his kitchen job if he continued to pursue his job discrimination administrative grievance. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Madden continued to participate in the conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of his prison job by failing to provide Plaintiff with procedural safeguards during his disciplinary hearing. (Id.)

III. DEFENDANTS'MOTION TO DISMISS

A. Defendants' Arguments

Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the following grounds: (1) they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity to the extent Plaintiff seeks money damages against them in their official capacities; (2) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Defendants; (3) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; and (4) Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate he is entitled to injunctive relief. In the alternative, Defendants have filed a Motion for More Definite Statement pursuant to Rule 12(e).

B. FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) Standard of Review

A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal may be based on either a "'lack of a cognizable legal theory' or 'the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'" Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare System, LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121-22 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). In other words, the plaintiff's complaint must provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief." Id. (citing FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2)). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant[s] fair notice of what ... the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).

A motion to dismiss should be granted if plaintiff fails to proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) .

In addition, factual allegations asserted by pro se petitioners, "however inartfully pleaded," are held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519-20 (1972). Thus, where a plaintiff appears in propria persona in a civil rights case, the Court must construe the pleadings liberally and afford plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988).

Nevertheless, and in spite of the deference the court is bound to pay to any factual allegations made, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts which [he or she] has not alleged." Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Nor must the court "accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit" or those which are "merely conclusory," require "unwarranted deductions" or "unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir.) (citation omitted), amended on other grounds, 275 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2001); see also Ileto v. Glock Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 2003) (court need not accept as true unreasonable inferences or conclusions of law cast in the form of factual allegations).

C. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

Defendant Madden seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint to the extent he seeks money damages against him based on actions taken in his ...


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