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Byrd v. Lynn

August 25, 2010



Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. By order filed April 29, 2010, the court dismissed plaintiff's complaint and granted him leave to file an amended complaint. Now pending before the court is plaintiff's amended complaint.*fn1


The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: 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. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).


In his amended complaint, plaintiff names defendants Lynn, Martinez, Kelly, Hale, Kahn, and McDonald and alleges the following. Plaintiff was transferred to High Desert State Prison (HDSP) on July 23, 2009. (Am. Compl., Ex. A at 4.) On August 2, 2009, plaintiff filed an inmate grievance alleging that his transfer to HDSP was retaliatory. (Id. at 8.) Two days later, defendant Statti screened-out plaintiff's grievance because plaintiff had failed to attach the appropriate documents to his grievance. (Id. at 9; Ex. B at 1.) Plaintiff attempted to re-file his grievance with the proper documentation several times thereafter, however defendant Statti continued to screen-out plaintiff's administrative appeals. (See id. at 9-10.)

Plaintiff eventually sent a letter directly to the Warden's office complaining about his grievances being screened-out. (See Ex. G.) Defendant Warden McDonald replied in a letter addressed to plaintiff stating that inmate complaints must not be sent directly to his office. (Id.) Rather, plaintiff was required to address his grievances through the appropriate chain of command in the inmate appeal process. (Id.)

On August 5, 2009, plaintiff appeared before defendants Lynn, Kelly, Hale, and Kahn for a classification hearing. (Id. at 4.) At the hearing, the defendants assigned plaintiff to work privilege group C, despite the fact that plaintiff had not been charged with a serious rules violation in over four months. (Id.) Accordingly, on October 25, 2009, plaintiff filed an inmate grievance against defendant Lynn for improperly classifying him in work privilege group C. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff also filed a writ of mandamus against defendant Lynn. (Id.; Ex. C.) In retaliation, and in an attempt to justify her decision to classify plaintiff in work privilege group C, defendant Lynn altered documents in plaintiff's central file to make it appear as if he had a history of receiving security housing unit terms. (Id. at 7.)


I. Due Process

Plaintiff alleges that defendants Lynn, Kelly, Hale, and Kahn violated his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the classification committee on which they served arbitrarily assigned him to work privilege group C. (Am. Compl. at 4-5.) Plaintiff contends in this regard that pursuant to California Code of Regulations, title 15, section 3315(f), an inmate may be assigned to work privilege group C for no more than 90-days, starting from the date the serious rule violation report was adjudicated. (See id. at 6.) However, ...

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