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Barnett v. Norman

March 17, 2010


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


Plaintiff Troas V. Barnett ("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 ("CDCR") and is currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano California. However, the events described in Plaintiff's complaint occurred while he was incarcerated at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California ("CSATF-CSP"). Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff names Martin Gamboa (correctional officer), Angel Duran (correctional officer), Manuel Torres (correctional officer), Tracy Jackson (correctional officer), Johnny Mata (correctional officer), Jason Barba (correctional officer), John Doe #8 (correctional officer), Harold Duncan (correctional officer), Doxie Fachinello (registered nurse), M. Ramiscal (registered nurse), R. Hernandez (registered nurse), John Doe #7 (medical doctor), D. Fulks (facility captain), A. Fouch (correctional lieutenant), A. Castro (correctional investigative unit sergeant), David Norman (investigative services unit correctional officer), Brad Tweedy (investigative services unit officer), John Doe #5 (correctional lieutenant), and Derral G. Adams (warden) as defendants. Plaintiff has consented to jurisdiction by U.S. Magistrate Judge (doc. #9) and no other parties have made an appearance in this action.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff states cognizable claims against Defendants Gamboa, Duran, and Torres for the use of excessive force against Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Court finds that Plaintiffs' remaining claims are either not cognizable or not properly joined in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Those claims will be dismissed without leave to amend and this action will proceed on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against Gamboa, Torres and Duran.

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 August 9, 2005. (Doc. #1.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 11, 2006. (Doc. #19.) Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint on December 21, 2006. (Doc. #25.) Plaintiff's motion to amend was granted on January 10, 2007. (Doc. #26.) Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint on January 31, 2007. (Doc. #27.) On August 14, 2008, the Court screened Plaintiff's second amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. (Doc. #35.) The Court found that Plaintiff's second amended complaint failed to state any claims and did not comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff's second amended complaint was dismissed and Plaintiff was given leave to file a third amended complaint. Plaintiff filed his third amended complaint on October 30, 2008. (Doc. #41.) This action proceeds on Plaintiff's third amended complaint.

B. Factual Background

On November 4, 2003, Plaintiff refused to enter a single-occupancy shower stall with inmate Sven Johnson, causing a confrontation with Defendant Torres. Plaintiff wished to stand outside the shower until Johnson was finished, which angered Torres and caused a verbal argument. Torres then spoke with Defendants Gamboa and Duran. Gamboa and Duran later ransacked Plaintiff's cell. Gamboa and Duran ordered Plaintiff to return to his cell. When Plaintiff saw what happened, he requested to see the sergeant supervisor. Gamboa then grabbed Plaintiff's shirt and shoved him into the cell. Gamboa landed on top of Plaintiff and began to choke Plaintiff with one hand and bludgeoned Plaintiff with a flashlight with his other hand. Duran had entered the cell and began hitting Plaintiff with his baton. The attack continued for 3-4 minutes. Torres had also arrived during the attack but initially did not intervene. After witnessing the attack for a while, Torres activated the housing unit alarm. The officers left Plaintiff lying on the cell floor in a pool of blood.

Plaintiff stood up and left his cell. Gamboa and Duran were inspecting their clothing for any blood from Plaintiff. Gamboa then noticed that Plaintiff exited his cell. Gamboa pepper sprayed Plaintiff and began hitting Plaintiff with a baton. Plaintiff then began struggling with Gamboa and Duran. Torres shot Plaintiff with a round from a block gun. Other correctional officers responded to the alarm. Plaintiff was placed in restraints by Michael Pallares and Defendants Barba and Duncan. Duncan and Pallares escorted Plaintiff out of the housing unit, onto an emergency gurney, into a van and taken to an emergency room due to an open wound in his head. Plaintiff received surgery which included large staples to Plaintiff's skull to close the wound. Plaintiff was cleared for transfer back to CSATF-CSP by Dr. Deering.*fn1 Defendant Doxie Facchinello washed off the blood from Plaintiff's face and hands with a wet sponge. Plaintiff complains that Facchinello filed a false medical report that indicated that Plaintiff sustained an injury to the back of his skull.*fn2 Facchinello "applied an unnecessar[ily] large bandage to Plaintiff's hand" and correctional officers cut off Plaintiff's clothes.

Plaintiff makes numerous complaints about prison officials making false statements, mishandling evidence, and falsely accusing Plaintiff of rules violations in connection with the November 4, 2003 incident. Plaintiff claims that the misconduct violated his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Plaintiff also claims that his rights were violated when prison officials placed a spit mask over Plaintiff's head.*fn3 Plaintiff claims that Jack Hill instructed Defendant Harold Duncan to place a spit mask over Plaintiff's head after falsely asserting that Plaintiff was spitting. ...

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