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Norwood v. Tilton

October 22, 2010



I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Gregory Norwood ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint, filed January 14, 2008, was screened and dismissed with leave to amend for failure to state a claim on June 4, 2009. (Docs. 1, 17.) The first amended complaint, filed June 23, 2009, is currently before the Court. (Doc. 18.)

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 "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), 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). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007)).

Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II. Complaint Allegations

Plaintiff, an African American, is currently incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison. The incidents in the complaint occurred while he was housed at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison ("CSATF") in Corcoran, California.

Plaintiff was confined to his cell after a stabbing incident involving an African American inmate and a correctional officer. Initially, all inmates were placed in lock down status. (Doc. 1, Comp., § IV.) After searches and interviews were conducted inmates from all races, except African Americans, were allowed to participate in outdoor exercise opportunities. (Id., § IV, p. 4.) Plaintiff was only allowed out of his cell for approximately 10 minutes every other day to shower from October 7, 2006 to February 3, 2007, causing him to have headaches, muscle cramps, anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue. (Id., § IV.)

During the lock down period prison officials passed out program status reports ("PSR") which were approved by the correctional lieutenants, facility captain, warden, regional director, and director. Plaintiff alleges that the deprivation of outdoor exercise from October 7, 2006 to February 3, 2007, was "not for reasons of safety and security," "was continued in bad faith," and was an exaggerated response to the October 7, 2006 staff assault. (Id., p 11.)

Plaintiff alleges that Director James Tilton and an unknown Regional Director gave daily approval to continue the lock down. Warden W. J. Sullivan was responsible for care and custody of inmates and signed the PSR approving the lock down. Acting Wardens S. Curtis and F. Gonzalez approved and signed the PSR recommending that the lock down continue. Associate Warden M. Carrasco, Correctional Lieutenants J. Peterson, K. Prior, and P. Matzen recommended that the lock down continue and signed the PSR. Facility Captain D. Zanchi, Correctional Lieutenants G.A. Magallanes, and J. Jones recommended that the lock down continue. Correctional Lieutenant Slankard and Doctor Pennington interviewed Plaintiff in response to his filing a grievance.

Plaintiff brings suit claiming cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. He is seeking an injunction requiring a mini concrete yard program be made available to lock down inmates and a psychiatric technician be assigned to the general population during a lock down at CSATF and compensatory and punitive damages. (Id., § V.)

III. Discussion

Liability under section 1983 exists where a defendant "acting under the color of law" has deprived the plaintiff "of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Jensen v. Lane County, 222 F.3d 570, 574 (9th Cir. 2000). To prove a violation of the Eighth Amendment the plaintiff must "objectively show that he was deprived of something 'sufficiently serious,' and make a subjective showing that the deprivation occurred with deliberate indifference to the inmate's health or safety." Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010)(citations omitted); see also Richardson v. Runnels, 594 F.3d 666, 672 (9th Cir. 2010).

Deliberate indifference requires a showing that "prison officials were aware of a "substantial risk of serious harm" to an inmates health or safety and that there was no "reasonable justification for the deprivation, in spite of that risk.". Id.(quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837, 844 (1994). The circumstances, nature, and duration of the deprivations are critical in determining whether the conditions complained of are grave ...

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