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Carrea v. Iserman

March 30, 2010

CHRISTOPHER CARREA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
H. ISERMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Larry M. Boyle United States Magistrate Judge

SCREENING ORDER OF FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Chief United States District Judge B. Lynn Winmill earlier issued an Initial Review Order directing Plaintiff Christopher Carrea (Plaintiff) to file an amended complaint in order to clarify his claims. Pursuant to that Order, a First Amended Complaint was filed on May 4, 2009. (Docket No. 14). The Court now reviews the First Amended Complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. The Court also reviews Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions. (Docket No. 17.) Having reviewed the record, and otherwise being fully informed, the following Order is entered, permitting Plaintiff to proceed on some but not of his claims and denying Plaintiff's motion for sanctions.

REVIEW OF AMENDED COMPLAINT

The Court is required to review prisoner and in forma pauperis complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. The Court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

Plaintiff bring his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights statute. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991).

A. Factual Allegations

In order to fully understand all of Plaintiff's grievances, a summary of all of his complaints will be set forth in this section. Plaintiff alleges that on or about May 1, 2007, he filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, Southern District of California, CV07-0809, and that the court staff attempted to contact him in July 2007. He alleges that Defendants State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and its Secretary, Matthew Cate, refused to give Plaintiff his mail from the court in violation of his rights under the First Amendment.

Plaintiff further alleges that from July 2007 to the present, Defendants have continued to refuse to give him his mail and have opened his legal mail outside of his presence. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants have a long history of destroying and losing the mail of inmates in deliberate indifference of inmates' First Amendment rights.

Plaintiff further alleges that his First Amendment right to access the courts was denied. He alleges that he suffered an actual injury in Carrea v. San Diego County et al., Case No. CV07-809-H-AJB (S.D. Cal.), when Defendants refused to allow him into the law library. Plaintiff filed CV07-809 on May 3, 2007. The court issued an order on August 15, 2007, denying Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissing the case without prejudice. Plaintiff was ordered to either resubmit his in forma pauperis application with a certified copy of his prison trust account or pay the full $350 filing fee within 45 days. The order specified that failure to comply with the order would result in the case remaining closed.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hillery Iserman (Vice Principal of Education at Jamestown, California), Defendant Captain Overstreet (Sierra Conservation Center Captain), and Defendant Mitch Lidenbaum (Senior Librarian at the Sierra Conservation Center) refused him access to the law library on the bases that (1) he was not allowed access in the first 70 days of arriving at the facility, and (2) that he must have and/or they must confirm that he has a GED before gaining access to the law library. Plaintiff states that he provided proof that he has a high school diploma, as well as two GEDs, but was still refused access, or sufficient access, to the library.

Plaintiff alleges that the denial of access to the library caused him to be unable to submit documentation in support of his in forma pauperis status and then later to be unable to file an appeal in his Southern District Court. He further alleges that he informed the defendants of his pending court case and need to file an appeal, and that they nonetheless denied his access to the library under the false ground that they "had to be sure" the Plaintiff possessed a GED.

Plaintiff further alleges that these Defendants would not allow Plaintiff adequate time in the library, and that when he requested time in the library, Defendants began to retaliate against him and harass him by filing "all kinds of false things and even had the Plaintiff beaten by one of there [sic] direct employees." Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants directed another inmate to attack him, an incident which occurred in the library on June 27, 2008 (one year after the incident described above). It is unclear whether these statements describe one or two incidents.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Overstreet further retaliated against him by filing false charges of "Mutual Combat" after the beating. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Deputy Warden Chavez and Deputy Warden Smith were aware of Defendants Iserman's and Overstreet's denial of access and harassment, and approved of both, and that Defendant Chavez "continued the justification" and threatened Plaintiff.

Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Dale Orth (Mill and Cabinet Instructor for Sierra Conservation Center, Jamestown, California) and Defendant Lieutenant Knigge (Sierra Conservation Center) worked with the other Defendants in denial of Plaintiff's access to the library and failed to prevent the other Defendants' denial of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Defendant Iserman assigned Plaintiff to Defendant Orth's Mill and Cabinet vocational class with knowledge that Defendant Orth was an avowed racist; that Defendant Orth discriminated against Plaintiff and showed racial animus toward him by refusing him access to the law library and by issuing false Rule Violation Reports against Plaintiff.

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Orth filed charges against Plaintiff on October 12, 2007, for being late to his work assignment even though Defendant Orth knew that another prison official had released Plaintiff late. Plaintiff's documentation submitted with his Amended Complaint shows that he was found "not guilty" because the other prison employee testified that he had in fact released Plaintiff late. Plaintiff alleges that at the hearing on the rules violation, he was instructed by Sergeant Stone (the Hearing Officer), Sergeant McGee, and Defendant Overstreet to report to medical rather than to work in order to prevent further rules violations.

Plaintiff further alleges that on April 1, 2008, he had three medical appointments and a library pass and that he had been told by Correction Officer Carillo and other corrections officers within the vocational unit not to report to vocational education on a day when he had multiple medical appointments in order to avoid a "revolving door." Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Orth had retaliated against him numerous times, and that Plaintiff made a "602 complaint" against him. Plaintiff alleges that in retaliation for that 602 complaint, Defendant Orth filed a 115 Rule Violation against him for "refusal to return to work" on April 1, 2008. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Orth knew that Plaintiff had a "medical ducat" and a library pass, and could not return to work on that day due to the Policy and Custom that inmates who have more than one medical appointment in a day may not return to a vocational assignment. He further alleges that in order to ensure a successful result at the hearing, Defendant Orth provided the hearing officer with new cabinets.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Knigge (the Hearing Officer), refused to allow Plaintiff to talk or to present witnesses or evidence (specifically medical and vocational rehabilitation records) against him, and failed to include Plaintiff's full list of requested witnesses in the Rules Violation Report. According to the Rules Violation Report attached to the Amended Complaint, Defendant Knigge found Plaintiff guilty of evading attendance at his assigned work program. Plaintiff was assessed 30 days of lost privileges, including A1-A Night yard privilege and Friday visits for 90 days; counseling; and a reprimand. The rules violation was reduced to "Administrative" due to "Progressive Discipline".

Plaintiff also includes allegations and a request for relief based on what appears to be some alleged incorrect records of convictions against him for first degree burglary, accessory to a gun charge and terrorist threats. In particular, according to the documentation Plaintiff submitted with his Complaint, his criminal history record from the State of California, Department of Justice, Record Information & Services Program, failed to reflect that certain convictions had been reversed on appeal, but was amended on or before April 25, 2008. (See Section B.4. below.) Plaintiff cryptically alleges that as a result, Defendant Chavez has "stated" that Plaintiff's crimes have "increased in severity" and that he has been "P" coated which appears to be some type of treatment associated with "fire camps" given only to inmates with serious felony charges.

Based on the foregoing allegations, Plaintiff seeks general, specific, and punitive damages in the total amount of $700,000. He also seeks an order of injunctive relief that Defendants stop harassing and beating him, that each Defendant take a course regarding the importance of constitutional and civil rights, and that the State of California stop "listing convictions that he does not have."

B. Review of Defendants and Claims Made Against Them

1. State of California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation

In Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890), the Supreme Court held that the Eleventh Amendment prohibits a federal court from entertaining a suit brought by a citizen against a state. The Supreme Court has consistently applied the Eleventh Amendment's jurisdictional bar to states and state entities "regardless of the nature of the relief sought." See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). As a result, Plaintiff's is not authorized to proceed on his claims against the State of California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

2. CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate

Plaintiff alleges that CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate violated his rights on the grounds that Cate is the official responsible for inmates receiving mail. Cate is the head of the entire CDCR.*fn1

In Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040 (9th Cir. 1989), the court outlined the requirements for a finding of proximate causation:

Liability under section 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant. Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir.1979). A supervisor is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed ...


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