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Pruitt v. Clark

August 3, 2010


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


Findings and Recommendations Following Screening of Amended Complaint

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff William B. Pruitt, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 26, 2007. On December 6, 2009, the Court issued an order finding that Plaintiff's complaint stated a cognizable Fourth Amendment claim against Defendants Swimford, Watking,*fn1 Curtiss, and Wan, but failed to state cognizable Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and conspiracy claims. Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's amended complaint, filed January 15, 2010.

II. Screening Requirement

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).

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)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct, Iqbal at 1950, and while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not, id. at 1949.

III. Plaintiff's Claims

A. Summary of Factual Allegations

In this action, Plaintiff seeks damages, a declaration, and injunctive relief for the violation of his rights under the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff names Warden Ken Clark; Administrative Assistant/Public Information Officer Michael Fisher; Lieutenant Watking; Sergeant K. Curtiss; Associate Warden T. Wan; Correctional Officers Swimford, Bonilla, and Laura; Appeals Coordinator R. Hall; and Appeals Examiner J. Burleson as defendants.

Plaintiff's claims arise from two cross-gender visual body cavity searches conducted on February 27 and 28, 2007, at the "work change" area of B Facility at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran. (Doc. 8, Amend. Comp., ¶3.) Present for the searches were three female correctional officers and one male correctional officer. The searches occurred when Plaintiff returned to his housing unit on B Facility from the Correctional Treatment Center (CTC), which is on the prison grounds but outside of the housing unit.

Inmates leaving B Facility for the CTC must go through work change. When Plaintiff left B Facility for his medical appointment at the CTC, he went through a metal detector but was not strip searched. Upon his return, Defendants Swimford, Laura, and Bonilla, who were female correctional officers, and John Doe, a male correctional officer, were conducting strip searches of inmates. Defendant Swimford told Plaintiff to "go through the motions," which required Plaintiff to remove all of his clothing, lift up his arms, open his mouth, lift up his testicles, turn around, lift his feet, and bend over, spread his buttocks, and cough. (Amend. Comp. ¶¶13, 14.) Plaintiff voiced his discomfort to the male officer but complied with the directive because he did not want to get written up.

Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant Warden Clark on February 27, 2007, complaining about the Fourth Amendment and prison regulations being violated by female officers conducting strip searches. On March 2, 2007, Plaintiff submitted an inmate appeal regarding the strip search by Defendants Swimford, Bonilla, and Laura.

On March 5, 2007, Defendant Fisher responded to Plaintiff's letter on behalf of Warden Clark, and informed Plaintiff that he should file an inmate appeal or ...

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