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Woods v. Carey

April 26, 2010



Earnest C. Woods, a prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and proceeds in forma pauperis. On June 3, 2008, the court dismissed this action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 on the basis that the complaint was prolix and obscure and that plaintiff had therefore failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Dckt. Nos. 26, 35. Judgment was duly entered. Dckt. No. 38.

Plaintiff appealed the judgment to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Dckt. No. 40. The Ninth Circuit determined that the complaint should not have been dismissed on this basis, finding that the complaint "delineated a number of claims with sufficient specificity and detail,"and remanded the action to this court "for additional proceedings consistent with [its] disposition." Dckt. No. 43 at 2. Accordingly, the court has re-screened the January 31, 2007 amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

For the reasons set forth below and in the Ninth Circuit's remand, the court finds that plaintiff states a cognizable claim against defendants Cervantes for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. The court finds that plaintiff's remaining claims are either not cognizable or not properly joined in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court recommends that those claims be dismissed without leave to amend and this action proceed on plaintiff's retaliation claim against defendant Cervantes.

I. Screening Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court shall review "a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). "On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

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.

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)

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff names 42 individuals as defendants: Warden Tom L. Carey; Acting Warden D.K. Sisto; Assistant Warden D.R. Johns; Captain N. Fry; Appeals Coordinator Cervantes; Appeals Coordinator Corioso; CCI Baker; CCI Jakura; Sgt. Stubbs; Sgt. Justin; Sgt. Fowler; Sgt. Gomez; Sgt. Ferduson; Librarian Kosher; Librarian Supervisor De Lap; civilian William Wright; Batchelor; Hill; York; Cook; Schroeder; Slagubang; Clay; Smith; Freitas; Boyden; Sable; Stufflebeam; Elam; Fregosa; Velesques; Robinson; Lt. Samms; Lt. Young; Lt. Chirilia; Lt. Fetch; Dr. Chen; Dr. Thor; RN De Chant; L. Martin (NP); MTA Sinchobich; and Ponce. Dckt. No. 24 at 23. In the body of his complaint, plaintiff also includes allegations naming Broyles, Bardon, "psych techs" Smith and Pearson, Quevas and Noriega. Id. at 8, 13-14, 23.

Plaintiff alleges that Warden Carey "has trained his staff to automatically white-wash inmate grievances which allow[s] prison officials to have no concern for ever having to be repremanded [sic]." Id. at 2. Specifically, plaintiff claims that Carey has failed to properly train and supervise appeals coordinator Cervantes. Plaintiff provides a history of grievances he has filed against numerous prison officials. His grievances cover a wide range of issues and span a period exceeding two years. They consist of the following: 1) an exhausted appeal against correctional officer Broyles for writing a false disciplinary report; 2) an exhausted appeal based on the accounting/trust staff refusing to allow plaintiff to attend the canteen even though money was in his account; 3) an exhausted appeal against York for refusing to allow plaintiff to attend Jewish services; 4) an exhausted appeal against Batchelor and Hill for accosting and threatening plaintiff; 5) an exhausted appeal against Broyles and librarian Kosher for violating his access to the library and the courts; 6) an appeal against Batchelor and Hill for filing a fraudulent disciplinary report that resulted in placement in administrative segregation; 7) an appeal against Batchelor and Hill for reading plaintiff's mail; 8) an appeal screened out as untimely, and against appeals coordinator Cervantes for admonishing plaintiff for excessive filings; 9) an appeal against Sgt. Fowler for telling plaintiff to go to administrative segregation and informing plaintiff that he had officers Hill and Sable roll up plaintiff's property; 10) an appeal against Bardon for filing a fraudulent disciplinary report and against Fowler who said he would put plaintiff in administrative segregation; 11) an exhausted appeal against Warden Carey for allowing a civilian to search and steal plaintiff's property, including, including a Kosher meal and prescription medication; 12) an appeal that was "illegally screened out" by the appeals coordinator, and against Stufflebeam and librarian Kosher for violating his right to access the library and denying him preferred legal user status when he had a court deadline; 13) an exhausted appeal against Freitas, Sgt. Stubbs and Lt. Chirilia for feeding plaintiff cold Kosher meals; 14) an appeal screened out as untimely against Smith and Clay for excessive force; 15) an appeal against appeals coordinator Cervantes for retaliating against plaintiff by delaying his appeals for technical errors; 16) an exhausted appeal against Clay for dropping plaintiff's Kosher meal on the ground and stealing his food; 17) an appeal screened out by Cervantes, and against Batchelor, Jackera, and Carey for placing plaintiff in administrative segregation without any substantial evidence; 18) an appeal that was screened out, and against Captain N. Fry for violating plaintiff's due process rights; 19) an appeal against appeals coordinator Cervantes for charging plaintiff for a blank form; 20) an appeal against Schroeder regarding a religious and racial epithet; 21) an appeal against Baker for refusing to allow him the opportunity to review his central file and trying to suppress evidence of plaintiff's innocence before the Board of Prison Terms; 22) an appeal regarding being unable to attend the canteen even though he had money in his account because of an erroneous disciplinary report; 23) an appeal against Smith for excessive force and denying plaintiff a shower; 24) an appeal against Cook regarding desecration of plaintiff's Kosher meal and denial of a shower on Yom Kippur; and 25) an appeal regarding a conversation with Lt. Fletch and how Smith, Fanning and Schroeder forced plaintiff to eat cold food. Id. at 6-12.

Plaintiff's complaint also includes allegations relating to appeals he filed regarding his medical needs. These include: 1) an exhausted appeal regarding whether plaintiff should stop taking Naproxen and Vioxx; 2) an appeal regarding staff dispensing the wrong prescription of Tagament, which was responded to by L. Martin (NP), to which plaintiff alleges, conflicted with his doctor's orders; and 3) an appeal against "psych techs" Smith and Pearson, who failed to dispense the proper amount of prescribed tablets to plaintiff, and against other staff who refused plaintiff medical treatment/medication for six days, which forced plaintiff to call for emergency attention. Plaintiff alleges further that De Chant knew about these six days and refused to talk to Dr. Noriega about it, which exacerbated the problem. Additionally, plaintiff claims correctional officer Quevas retaliated against him for filing an appeal, by searching plaintiff's cell and confiscating ...

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