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Burgos v. Cate

September 27, 2010

RICHARD MANUEL BURGOS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW L. CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1) and two motions for temporary restraining orders (Docs. 2, 7). Plaintiff has consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and no other party has been served or appeared in the action.

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.

I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff's claims are not clear. He names 47 individuals as defendants to this action, including various correctional officers, librarians, nurses, doctors, and wardens. He sets forth several inmate grievance appeals he has filed regarding access to the law library, disciplinary actions, job assignments, medical care, and personal property. Several of the individuals named as defendants to this action were involved at some level with these inmate grievances. His claims appear to raise issues relating to access to the law library, violation of medical orders, false disciplinary actions, destruction of medical and personal property, and retaliation.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's complaint suffers from several defects. First and foremost, Plaintiff fails to set forth a short and plain statement of his claim as required by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. To satisfy the requirements of Rule 8(a) claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. Here, Plaintiff's complaint consists of 78 pages of "facts" discussing several incidents wherein he believes he was mistreated, including being denied access to the law library, being assigned to a job inconsistent with his disabilities, begin subjected to various cell moves, having his medical orders ignored, and having his medical and other property confiscated and/or destroyed. As discussed further below, none of these incidents set forth a specific claim but rather allude to possible claims such as denial of access to the court, due process, denial of medical care, and retaliation. However, Plaintiff does not plead with sufficient clarity any of these possible claims.

In addition, if the court's reading the complaint is accurate, Plaintiff is attempting to bring this action against several unrelated individuals on separate and unrelated claims. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a party to assert "as many claims as it has against an opposing party," but does not provide for unrelated claims against several different defendants to be raised on the same action. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 18(a). "Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). As far as the court can determine, Plaintiff's claims against various defendants are unrelated. Thus, those unrelated claims (such as library access and medical care) against several different defendants, should be separated into different actions.

Plaintiff also fails to provide any connection or link for several of the defendants. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege an actual connection or link between the actions of the named defendants and the alleged deprivations. See Monell v. Dep't 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). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Rather, the plaintiff must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's causal role in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988).

Furthermore, Plaintiff names several supervisory personnel as defendants, apparently based on their position alone and not on any personal conduct. Supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983). A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations of subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations. See id. The Supreme Court has rejected the notion that a supervisory defendant can be liable based on knowledge and acquiescence in a subordinate's unconstitutional conduct because government officials, regardless of their title, can only be held liable under § 1983 for his or her own conduct and not the conduct of others. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). When a defendant holds a supervisory position, the causal link between such defendant and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of supervisory personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the constitution." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1948.

As to the specific claims the court can decipher from the complaint, the standards for each one will be outlined for Plaintiff's benefit. As discussed below, if Plaintiff chooses to file an amended complaint, he will be required to set forth with more particularity what his claims are.

1. INMATE GRIEVANCES

Prisoners have no stand-alone due process rights related to the administrative grievance process. See Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003) (holding that there is no liberty interest entitling inmates to a specific grievance process). Because there is no right to any particular grievance process, it is impossible for due process to have been violated by ignoring or failing to properly process grievances. Numerous district courts in this circuit have reached the same conclusion. See Smith v. Calderon, 1999 WL 1051947 (N.D. Cal 1999) (finding that failure to properly process grievances did not violate any constitutional right); Cage v. Cambra, 1996 WL 506863 (N.D. Cal. 1996) (concluding that prison officials' failure to properly process and address grievances does not support constitutional claim); James v. U.S. Marshal's Service, 1995 WL 29580 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (dismissing complaint without leave to amend because failure to process a grievance did not implicate a protected liberty interest); Murray v. Marshall, 1994 WL 245967 (N.D. Cal. 1994) (concluding that prisoner's claim that grievance process failed to function properly failed to state a claim under § 1983). Prisoners do, however, retain a First Amendment right to petition the government through the prison grievance process. See Bradley v. Hall, 64 F.3d 1276, 1279 (9th Cir. 1995). Therefore, interference with the grievance process may, in certain circumstances, implicate the First Amendment.

Plaintiff references several inmate grievances he has filed and is dissatisfied with the results. To the extent he is attempting to raise a claim related to the grievance process itself, he is unable to state a cognizable claim. To the same extent, several of the defendants named in the complaint are mentioned only in relation to their decision in denying Plaintiff's grievances. Such stand alone claims are insufficient. If the only alleged wrongdoing of an individual relates to a decision made in denying a grievance, Plaintiff's claim against that individual cannot survive.

2. PERSONAL PROPERTY

Where a prisoner alleges the deprivation of a liberty or property interest caused by the unauthorized action of a prison official, there is no claim cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the state provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 129-32 (1990); Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984). A state's post-deprivation remedy may be adequate even though it does not provide relief identical to that available under ยง 1983. See Hudson, 468 U.S. at 531 n.11. An ...


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