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Young v. Smalls

April 15, 2010

HOWARD YOUNG, CDCR #F-44590, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LARRY SMALLS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Dana M. Sabraw United States District Judge

ORDER DISMISSING SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(20 & 1915A(b)

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 10, 2009, Howard Young ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison located in Delano, California, and proceeding in pro se, filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court issued an Order on January 19, 2010 dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint for failing to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) & 1915A(b). The Plaintiff was notified of the deficiencies of pleading and provided an opportunity to file a First Amended Complaint. However, on that same day, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 12].

Because Plaintiff could not have received the Court's Order in time to correct the problems the Court identified in his previous pleading, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint and gave him leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. On April 5, 2010, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") [Doc. No. 21].

II. SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C.§§1915(e)(2)&1915A(b)

As the Court stated in its previous Order, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program," "as soon as practicable after docketing." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these provisions of the PLRA, the Court must sua sponte dismiss complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or which seek damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 446 (9th Cir. 2000) (§ 1915A); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (discussing § 1915A).

"[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick, 213 F.3d at 447; Barren, 152 F.3d at 1194 (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). In addition, the Court's duty to liberally construe a pro se's pleadings, see Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988), is "particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). However, in giving liberal interpretation to a pro se civil rights complaint, the court may not "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id.

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Liability

Section 1983 imposes two essential proof requirements upon a claimant: (1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 124 S.Ct. 2117, 2122 (2004); Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

2. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claims

In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges his due process rights were violated when he was placed in Administrative Segregation ("Ad-Seg"). "The requirements of procedural due process apply only to the deprivation of interests encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property." Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569 (1972). State statutes and prison regulations may grant prisoners liberty interests sufficient to invoke due process protections. Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-27 (1976). However, the Supreme Court has significantly limited the instances in which due process can be invoked. Pursuant to Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483 (1995), a prisoner can show a liberty interest under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment only if he alleges a change in confinement that imposes an "atypical and significant hardship... in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Id. at 484 (citations omitted); Neal v. Shimoda, 131 F.3d 818, 827-28 (9th Cir. 1997).

In Sandin, the Supreme Court considered three factors in determining whether the plaintiff possessed a liberty interest in avoiding disciplinary segregation: (1) the disciplinary versus discretionary nature of the segregation; (2) the restricted conditions of the prisoner's confinement and whether they amounted to a "major disruption in his environment" when compared to those shared by prisoners in the general population; and (3) the possibility of whether the prisoner's sentence was lengthened by his restricted custody. Id. at 486-87.

Therefore, to establish a due process violation, Plaintiff must first show the deprivation imposed an atypical and significant hardship on him in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 483-84. Plaintiff must allege "a dramatic departure from the basic conditions" of his confinement that would give rise to a liberty interest before he can claim a violation of due process. Id. at 485; see also Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1088-89 (9th Cir. 1996), amended by 135 F.3d 1318 (9th Cir. 1998). Here, Plaintiff alleges that while he was housed in Ad-Seg, he was denied outdoor exercise for a period of nine months, was kept in a cell that contained wastewater which caused him to contract an infection, and his cell lights remained on twenty four (24) hours a day. Based on these allegations, the Court finds that Plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to allege a liberty interest in remaining free of ad-seg. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 486.

Even if Plaintiff is able to establish a liberty interest, his allegations fail to state a claim for denial of procedural due process regarding the disciplinary proceedings because they do not satisfy the standards set forth in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-70 (1974). Under Wolff, a prisoner facing a disciplinary hearing are entitled to: (1) written notice of the charges at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing; (2) a written statement indicating upon what evidence the fact finders relied and the reasons for the disciplinary action; (3) the opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence when doing so will not be unduly hazardous to institutional ...


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