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Jackson v. Williams

February 9, 2010

RAYMOND D. JACKSON, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
B.C. WILLIAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and is before the undersigned pursuant to plaintiff's consent. See 28 U.S.C. § 636; see also E.D. Cal. Local Rules, Appx. A, at (k)(4).

Plaintiff has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. His declaration makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2). However, this does not end the inquiry. The court must also review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to determine whether it states a claim.

The court has reviewed plaintiff's complaint, and for the limited purposes of § 1915A screening, finds that it states cognizable First Amendment claims against defendant Williams. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The complaint does not state a cognizable claim against defendants Hudnall, Haydenfield or California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides: Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. An individual defendant is not liable on a civil rights claim unless the facts establish the defendant's personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a causal connection between the defendant's wrongful conduct and the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978).

A district court must construe a pro se pleading "liberally" to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000). While detailed factual allegations are not required, "[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 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "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 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). Although legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations, and are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 1950.

Plaintiff specifically alleges that defendant Williams' actions caused plaintiff's state court action based on a hazardous condition on the prison yard handball courts, to be dismissed. Compl. at 6. As for defendant Haydenfield, however, plaintiff claims only that Haydenfield caused plaintiff to miss a June 6, 2008 court call. Id. at 7. Plaintiff does not indicate whether this call was part of the same lawsuit that Williams allegedly interfered with, or if it relates to a second lawsuit plaintiff was litigating. To state a claim he was denied access to the courts, plaintiff must allege that the deprivation actually injured his litigation efforts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350-55 (1996). It is plaintiff's responsibility to allege facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff's conclusory allegations against defendant Haydenfield do not meet the plausibility standard.

As for defendant Hadnall, plaintiff claims only that he denied and/or ignored plaintiff's inmate appeals regarding Williams' alleged interference with plaintiff's ability to access to the courts. Compl. at 6. Plaintiff may not impose liability on Hadnall on this basis. There are no constitutional requirements regarding how a grievance system is operated. See Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003) (holding that prisoner's claimed loss of a liberty interest in the processing of his appeals does not violate due process because prisoners lack a separate constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance system). Therefore, the alleged failings of defendant Hadnall cannot support a claim for relief for violation of a constitutional right.

To state a claim for conspiracy, plaintiff must allege specific facts showing two or more persons intended to accomplish an unlawful objective of causing plaintiff harm and took some concerted action in furtherance thereof. Gilbrook v. City of Westminster, 177 F.3d 839, 856-57 (9th Cir. 1999); Margolis v. Ryan, 140 F.3d 850, 853 (9th Cir. 1998) (to state claim for conspiracy under § 1983, plaintiff must allege facts showing an agreement among the alleged conspirators to deprive him of his rights); Delew v. Wagner, 143 F.3d 1219, 1223 (9th Cir. 1998) (to state claim for conspiracy under § 1983, plaintiff must allege at least facts from which such an agreement to deprive him of rights may be inferred); Burns v. County of King, 883 F.2d 819, 821 (9th Cir. 1989) (per curiam) (conclusory allegations of conspiracy insufficient to state a valid § 1983 claim); Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 626 (9th Cir. 1988). Plaintiff has not alleged specific facts showing that defendant agreed to accomplish an unlawful objective. Nor does he allege facts from which any agreement could be inferred. Therefore, plaintiff fails to state a claim for conspiracy.

Finally, state agencies, such as the CDCR, are not "persons" within the meaning of section 1983. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); see also Allison v. California Adult Authority, 419 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1969). Further, they are entitled to absolute immunity from monetary damages actions under the Eleventh Amendment. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 337-45 (1979); see also Aholelei v. Dep't of Public Safety, 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007) ("The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages in federal court against a state, its agencies, and state officials acting in their official capacities."). CDCR must therefore be dismissed from this action.

Plaintiff may proceed forthwith to serve defendant Williams and pursue his claims against only him or he may delay serving any defendant and attempt to state cognizable claims against defendants Haydenfield and Hadnell.

If plaintiff elects to attempt to amend his complaint to state cognizable claims against defendants Haydenfield and Hadnell, he has 30 days so to do. He is not obligated to amend his complaint. However, if plaintiff elects to proceed forthwith against defendant Williams, against whom he has stated cognizable claims for relief, then within 20 days he must return materials for service of process enclosed herewith. In this event the court will ...


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