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Throop v. Secretary of Corrections

August 27, 2010


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


Plaintiff Edward Anthony Throop, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed the instant action for alleged violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 1.) On November 30, 2009, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint ("FAC"). (Doc. No. 32.) On January 4, 2010, Defendants M. Bourland, M. Cate, E. Fischer, J. Gentry, R. Nelson, Jr., T. Ochoa, R. Parilla, M. Ruff, L. Scribner, K. Shomura, G. Stratton, M. Tamayo, and J. Tyree filed a motion to dismiss the FAC. (Doc. No. 34.) On March 19, 2010, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion (Doc. No. 39), and on August 4, 2010, Defendants filed a reply in support of their motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 47). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss.


Plaintiff's claims arise out of events between 2006 and 2008 that resulted in and are related to his placement and retention in the Security Housing Unit ("SHU") at Calipatria prison on the basis of his association with a prison gang, the Mexican Mafia ("EME"). In 2003, Plaintiff was transferred from Calipatria prison to the SHU at Tehachapi Prison after he received disciplinary charges for an altercation with prison officials at Calipatria. Plaintiff alleges that he was then transferred back to Calipatria prison as a pre-trial detainee so he could face felony charges for the in-custody offense of battery on a peace officer in Imperial County Superior Court. (FAC at ¶ 44.) Plaintiff alleges that while he was completing his disciplinary term in the Administrative Segregation Unit ("ASU") at Calipatria, Defendants began the process of validating Plaintiff as an associate of EME. (Id. at ¶ 45.) Plaintiff alleges that after the jury reached its verdict, prison officials promised to not pursue his indeterminate placement in SHU as a validated gang member. (Id. at ¶ 46.) Plaintiff alleges that at two October 2006 hearings, the Institutional Classification Committee panel elected to release Plaintiff to General Population ("GP") and transfer him to another prison facility. (Id. at ¶ 49.) Plaintiff alleges, however, that on November 16, 2006, Defendants cancelled Plaintiff's transfer to GP and ordered that he be placed into the SHU at Calipatria for an indeterminate amount of time based upon his alleged association with EME. (FAC at ¶ 60.) Plaintiff asserts that the decision to place him in SHU was based a dubious gang validation process in violation of the rights guaranteed to him under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (FAC at ¶¶ 125--127.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants acted in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaints of misconduct against Calipatria officials that he alleged in prison grievances filed in 2004 and a subsequent civil rights complaint filed in this Court in October 2006. (Id. at ¶¶ 50--53.)

Plaintiff also contends that he is unable to leave SHU until he agrees to debrief. (Id. at ¶ 64.) Debriefing is a process by which an inmate denounces his membership in a prison gang and provides information to prison officials about gang activity. (Id. at ¶¶ 62--68, 109.) Plaintiff asserts that some of the source items used to validate him as an associate of EME are directly related to the charges for which Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee, and for which he has since been convicted and is appealing. Plaintiff contends that in order to debrief, he will be required to discuss these particular source items, thereby forcing him to waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, as well as his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. (Id. at ¶¶ 64--67, 73, 108--109.) Plaintiff also alleges generally that the process of debriefing and his placement in SHU constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (FAC at ¶¶ 112--120.)


I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) -- Motion to Dismiss

A complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it contains "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The court reviews the contents of the complaint, accepting all factual allegations as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir. 2005). Notwithstanding this deference, the reviewing court need not accept "legal conclusions" as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. -- , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Moreover, it is improper for a court to assume "the [plaintiff] can prove facts that [he or she] has not alleged."Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Accordingly, a reviewing court may begin "by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft, supra, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

"When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. 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." Id. at 1949. "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." Id. "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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

II. Pro Se Litigants

Pro se litigants "must be ensured meaningful access to the courts." Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc). The Ninth Circuit has declined, however, to ensure that district courts advise pro se litigants of rule requirements. See Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364-67 (9th Cir. 1986) ("Pro se litigants in the ordinary civil case should not be treated more favorably than parties with attorneys of record . . . it is not for the trial court to inject itself into the adversary process on behalf of one class of litigant."); see also King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1986) ("Pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants."). When the plaintiff is appearing pro se, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and afford the plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2001); Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). In giving liberal interpretation to a pro se complaint, however, the court is not permitted to "supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).


I. Monetary Damages Against Defendants in Their Official Capacities

Defendants first move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims to the extent he seeks monetary damages from Defendants in their official capacities. It is well-established that the Eleventh Amendment bars a prisoner's Section 1983 claims for monetary damages against state actors sued in their official capacities. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70--71 (1989). In his opposition, Plaintiff concedes that he is only seeking damages against Defendants Tamayo, Tyree, Parilla, and Nelson in their individual capacities, and that he does not seek damages from any Defendants in their official capacities. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 18.) Based on Plaintiff's concession and the fact that claims for damages against individuals in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss and DISMISSES all claims for damages against all Defendants in their official capacities with prejudice and without leave to amend.

II. Retaliation

Plaintiff asserts that his SHU confinement was retaliation for a prior protected activity. (FAC at ΒΆΒΆ 50--53, 104--105.) The Constitution provides protections against "deliberate retaliation" by prison officials for an ...

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