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Edward v. McDonald

November 9, 2010

MEL TYRONE EDWARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
M.D. MCDONALD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER

Plaintiff, a 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).

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 names the following as defendants: M.D. McDonald (prison warden); D. Swingle (chief medical officer); D. Medina (nurse); P. Statti (correctional officer); R. Dreith (correctional officer); R. Ingwerson (correctional officer); J. Petersen (correctional officer); D. Hogan (correctional officer); M. Darst (correctional officer); T. Hays (correctional officer); A. Arnold (correctional officer); Martin (correctional officer); J. Crowhurst (correctional officer); J. Quiring (correctional officer); and K. Richter (prison ombudsman).

Plaintiff claims that in January 2008, after returning to High Desert State Prison from an out-to-court transfer, he was harassed in retaliation. Specifically, he states that defendants Petersen, Hogan, Darst, Hays, Crowhurst, and Arnold charged plaintiff with "excessive" rules violations reports ("RVRs"). He states that the "RVRs would be written against the Plaintiff for various Minor Rule violations in a Manipulative manner, for the sole purpose of making Plaintiff suffer Loss Of Prison Privileges, and Manipulation of Plaintiff's Credit Earning Status." Plaintiff adds: "Defendants Ingwerson, Quiring, and Hogan would then go on to conduct Hearings on the Merits and Evidence of all above mentioned RVRs in an Illegal and Manipulative manner, ignoring all Evidence and Witness Statements, including proper procedure all for the purpose of finding Plaintiff Guilty of said RVRs, and Imposing a Disposition upon Plaintiff of Loss Of Prison Privileges, and Credit Earning Status."

Plaintiff also contends that defendants denied him access to adequate medical care. He claims that defendants Petersen, Hogan, Martin, and Arnold harassed him "by Canceling Orthopedic Medical Access Plaintiff needs to maintain Good Health, and be free of Pain and Suffering, such as Treatments for Pain Management such as Daily Showers and Trigger Point Injections. . . ." Plaintiff states that defendant Medina "rewrote" his medical authorizations and cancelled treatments that had been approved earlier. He adds that such conduct was also approved by defendant Swingle by way of a "CDCR-128 Comprehensive Chrono." Plaintiff adds:

. . . The same thing was done when Defendant Arnold wanted Plaintiff's Orthopedic access to wear Tennis Shoes changed, All for the purpose of legitimizing a RVR Defendant Arnold wrote against Plaintiff. Also, when Defendant Martin wanted Plaintiff taken off regular Diabetic Treatments, as a result of a CDCR-602 Appeal Grievance Plaintiff Authored against him, and also how He didn't want to Escort Plaintiff to the Facility Clinic Daily for Diabetic Treatments during Lock Downs.

Plaintiff states that defendants Swingle and Medina "went on to Cancel other Medically Necessary Authorizations Plaintiff had prior to Transferring to HDSP, such as Special Diets needed to maintain Diabetic and hypertension Conditions, including a severe Allergy to Peanuts."

Finally, plaintiff claims that various inmate grievances filed regarding the foregoing were not fully processed. He claims that defendants Dreith and Statti "violated Plaintiff's Due Process Rights by way of Manipulating the HDSP CDCR-602 Appeals Process." Plaintiff alleges that these defendants deliberately thwarted his access to the grievance process for the purpose of preventing him from exhausting his claims. Plaintiff states that he wrote the prison ombudsman -- defendant Richter -- concerning the situation with his grievances, but that Richter failed to "ever show up for [a] promised interview." He adds that, on a separate occasion, defendant McDonald later refused to allow plaintiff to meet with Richter.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges that defendants' conduct violated his rights under the First Amendment to be free from retaliation and under the Eighth Amendment to adequate medical care. He also appears to allege constitutional violations relating to the prison grievance process. Additionally, the complaint seems to allege that proper procedures were not followed in the course of disciplinary proceedings. Plaintiff names supervisory personnel as well as various correctional staff as defendants. The court finds that the complaint suffers from a number of defects, outlined below.

A. Supervisory Liability

Plaintiff names two defendants who hold supervisory roles -- McDonald, the prison warden, and Swingle, the prison chief medical officer. 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 ...


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