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Najar v. Felker

May 6, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 20).

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a ". . . short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague and conclusory.


Plaintiff names the following as defendants: Felker, Bryant, Guillon, Hitchcock, and Amero.*fn1 Plaintiff states that he has a life-long history of mental disorders which cause "psychological symptoms that can disrupt and diminish his capacity to control behavior. . . ." He also states that he is illiterate. Plaintiff claims that these facts are well-documented in his prison central and medical files. More specifically, plaintiff asserts that upon arrival at High Desert State Prison in 2008 he informed defendant Bryant that he was "hearing voices and having flashbacks." According to plaintiff, defendant Bryant said that there was nothing she could do because she did not have access at the time to plaintiff's medical file. Plaintiff states that he was placed in his housing unit but not provided any of his prescribed medications. Plaintiff adds:

It is believed "C. Bryant" failed to inform other medical staff of plaintiff's urgent need for his medications, and failed to inform custody staff of plaintiff's psychotic condition, and also failed to house plaintiff in the appropriate location for his own safety and the safety of others.

Plaintiff alleges that when he arrived at his housing unit, he informed defendants Guillon and Hitchcock "that he was hearing voices and having flashbacks and asked help." Plaintiff states that "they did not take plaintiff serious and they did nothing." Plaintiff states that, apparently shortly after arriving at his housing unit (perhaps a few days or weeks), he "suddenly stopped at the food cart in front of him, lifted it up and tossed it toward the stairs as it crashed to the ground." Plaintiff was then restrained by defendants Guillon and Hitchcock. Plaintiff again told the officers that he was hearing voices. According to plaintiff, defendants Guillon and Hitchcock told him not to blame voices. Plaintiff was charged with a disciplinary violation and placed in administrative segregation. During the disciplinary process, plaintiff again informed defendant Bryant that he was hearing voices and that he needed his medications. Plaintiff states that he never received any medications until three months later.

Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing was conducted by defendant Amero. Plaintiff claims:

Lt. Amero simply refused to consider plaintiff's psychotic mental condition that contributed to his behavior and failed to consider Doctor Bortez' report and findings, where he documented in his mental health assessment that plaintiff's mental disorder had contributed to plaintiff's behavior that lead to the [rules violation report]."

Plaintiff adds:

On or about August 16, 2008, plaintiff appeared before the Warden T. Felker and other members of the institutional classification committee (ICC) who continued further punishment upon plaintiff by placing him in a (super max) SHU-unit for a period of 14 months without considering Doctor Bortez' report. . . .


Plaintiff states the facts alleged in his complaint give rise to: (1) a claim based on deliberate indifference to his serious mental health needs; and (2) a claim based on a "policy and/or custom to administer punishment upon the mentally ill." Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment ". . . embodies broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). Conditions of confinement may, however, be harsh and restrictive. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Nonetheless, prison officials must provide prisoners with "food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety." Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the official's act or omission must be so serious such that it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities; and (2) subjectively, the prison official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the purpose of inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison official must have a "sufficiently culpable mind." See id.

Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury, or risks of serious injury or illness, gives rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105; see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This applies to physical as well as dental and mental health needs. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). An injury or illness is sufficiently serious if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the ". . . unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition is worthy of comment; (2) whether the ...

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