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Williams v. Hense

October 28, 2010



I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Leon Williams, a former prisoner, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint in this action was filed on July 1, 2009, at which time Plaintiff was out of custody. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a cognizable claim.

"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). 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)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). 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

After he was released from custody, Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he suffered cruel and unusual punishment when his parole date was miscalculated causing him to remain in custody for an additional 101 days. According to his complaint, Plaintiff was sentenced to four years and arrived at the California Rehabilitation Center on December 19, 1999. Without giving an explanation of why he was still in custody, Plaintiff states he was given 796 days credit on September 10, 2007.

Plaintiff was transferred to North Kern State Prison on November 20, 2007. Plaintiff alleges he was informed his parole date would be February 26, 2008. When Plaintiff did not parole on February 26, 2008, he filed an appeal. In response, Plaintiff was informed his parole date would be October 15, 2008. Plaintiff alleges that he was paroled on October 3, 2008, and his paperwork showed his parole date to be June 24, 2008. (Doc. 1., Comp., § IV.) Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants North Kern State Prison, Horn, Laswell, and Hense seeking monetary damages for the 101 days he alleges he was unlawfully detained.

III. Discussion

A. Eighth Amendment Claim

To constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, punishment "must be incompatible with 'the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,' or must involve unnecessary or wanton pain disproportionate to the severity of the crime." Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985) (internal citations omitted); Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Detention of a prisoner beyond the termination of his sentence "could constitute cruel and unusual punishment if it is the result of 'deliberate indifference' to the prisoner's liberty interest." Haygood, 769 F.2d at 1344. Otherwise, the detention can only be held unconstitutional if it violates due process. Id.

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). Plaintiff has failed to allege facts in his complaint that any individual defendant knew of any error in the computation of Plaintiff's parole date, Haygood, 769 F.2d at 1354, or acted or failed to act to prevent a constitutional violation, Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006).

B. Due Process Clause

The Due Process Clause protects against the deprivation of liberty without due process of law. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005). In a case where a prisoner has been unlawfully detained, the court must determine if the detention was the result of a "random act" or "an official practice and procedure." Haygood, 769 F.2d at 1359. Where the wrongful detention is the result of "affirmatively enacted or de facto policies, practices or customs, the court must determine when the responsible state officials received notice of a claim that a wrong was being done." Id. However, if the detention was a result of a negligent act by an official then the Due Process Clause is not implicated. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986). If the act of a defendant is merely negligent, it would not rise to a constitutional violation and any potential remedy would lie in state law. Id. at 333. Plaintiff has failed to allege facts that would state a claim based upon an "official practice or procedure" that caused the deprivation of his liberty interest.

C. Agency Immunity

In this action Plaintiff has named Defendant North Kern State Prison. "The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages in federal court against a state [and] its agencies..." Aholelei v. Dept. of Public Safety, 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007), "regardless of the relief sought, unless the state unequivocally consents to a waiver of its immunity," Yakama Indian Nation v. State of Washington, 176 F.3d 1241, 1245 (9th Cir. 1999); see also Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1122 (1996). The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") is a state agency entitled to Eleventh Amendment Immunity. ...

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