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Pollard v. Harrington

March 18, 2010

JERRY E. POLLARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
K. HARRINGTON, DEFENDANT.



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

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS (Doc. 1)

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner housed at Kern Valley State Prison proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on May 1, 2009, and transferred to this court on July 9, 2009. In the order transferring the case to this district, the court noted that Plaintiff "has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 USC section 1983 alleging that certain correctional officers at that facility violated his constitutional rights." The complaint appears to be in the form of a letter from Plaintiff to the Warden at Kern Valley State Prison regarding the loss of certain items of his personal property.

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).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to 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). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

A review of Plaintiff's letter reveals that Plaintiff is seeking the return of certain items of his personal property. Plaintiff also indicates that he was held in the Administrative Segregation Unit for over two months without being formally charged with any misconduct.

To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant acted under color of state law and (2) the defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). "A person deprives another of a constitutional right, where that person 'does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.'" Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 988 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). "[T]he 'requisite causal connection can be established not only by some kind of direct, personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion a series of acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.'" Id. (quoting Johnson at 743-44).

A. Property

"An unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by a state employee does not constitute a violation of the procedural requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a meaningful post-deprivation remedy for the loss is available." Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). Thus, where the state provides a meaningful post-deprivation remedy, only authorized, intentional deprivations constitute actionable violations of the Due Process Clause. An authorized deprivation is one carried out pursuant to established state procedures, regulations, or statutes. Piatt v. McDougall, 773 F.2d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Knudson v. City of Ellensburg, 832 F.2d 1142, 1149 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the instant case, plaintiff has not alleged any facts which suggest that the deprivation of his personal property was "authorized" under the definition above. The California Legislature has provided a remedy for tort claims against public officials in the California Government Code, Sections, 900, et seq. Because plaintiff has not attempted to seek redress in the state system, he cannot sue in federal court on the claim that the state deprived him of property without due process of the law. The court concludes that this claim must, therefore, be dismissed as frivolous. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d).

B. Administrative Segregation

Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995) holds that a prisoner has a federal liberty interest in being free from confinement changes that impose an "atypical and significant hardship ... in relation to the ordinary incidents if prison life." The Ninth Circuit interprets Sandin to mean that confinement in a disciplinary segregation unit for non-punitive reason does not implicate a liberty interest because such segregation falls within the terms of confinement ordinarily contemplated by a prison sentence, May v. Baldwin, 109 F.3d 557, 565 (9th Cir. 1997), while placement in a security housing unit (SHU) for disciplinary reasons implicates federal liberty interests if conditions in the SHU materially differ from conditions faced by inmates in purely discretionary segregation, such as administrative segregation or protective custody, or if SHU conditions, as compared with conditions in the general population, create a "major disruption" in the prisoner's environment. Resnick v. Hayes, 200 F.3d 641, 646 (9th Cir. 2000). If plaintiff was not deprived of time credits as a result of the disciplinary hearing in question, the due process deprivation claim is deficient because the complaint does not include any facts that explain why the actions of any defendant caused ...


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