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Bryant v. Sells

November 10, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Kevin Darnell Bryant ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this action. Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and is incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California. Plaintiff names A. Sells (sergeant), Kelly Harrington (warden), and Matthew Cate (secretary of CDCR) as defendants ("Defendants"). Plaintiff claims Defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any cognizable claims. The Court will grant Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint which cures the deficiencies identified in this order.

I. Screening Requirement

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 fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used 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. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[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.'" Id. (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. Id. "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. Background

Plaintiff alleges that prison officials confiscated his legal property and tampered with his mail. On November 22, 2009, officers Yerena and Mendoza approached Plaintiff's cell and loaded Plaintiff's legal papers on a push cart and took them to the internal affairs office. The officers told Plaintiff that Defendant A. Sells ordered them to confiscate the documents but did not explain why. Plaintiff requested the return of his property and was interviewed by Sells on December 1, 2009. Sells told Plaintiff that she did not have Plaintiff's legal documents and did not explain why the documents were confiscated. Sells told Plaintiff that he would receive his documents back in the next one or two days. On December 7, 2009, Plaintiff received most of his property back. Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive his private legal log book that contained his medical history, his address book, and other documents. Plaintiff filed a citizen's complaint with Defendant Kelly Harrington but did not receive a response.

Plaintiff also alleges that Sells has "flagged" Plaintiff's incoming and outgoing mail. Plaintiff contends that his mail has been withheld for weeks at a time and "[Plaintiff has] reason to believe [the mail] was never sent out at all." (Compl. 4, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff claims that some of his "incoming legal mail" has been opened and had stickers attached to it stating that it was opened in error.

III. Discussion

A. RICO Claims

Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"). Under RICO's civil enforcement scheme, "[a]ny person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of section 1962 of this chapter may sue therefor in any appropriate United States district court." 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). Section 1962 sets forth various activities that are prohibited under RICO. Section 1962(c), the only subsection that appears to be relevant to this action*fn1, states that:

[i]t shall be unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.

18 U.S.C. § 1962(c).

Construing Plaintiff's claims liberally, Plaintiff is alleging that (1) Defendants are employed by CDCR, (2) CDCR is an enterprise engaged in, or its activities affect, interstate or foreign commerce, and (3) Defendants participated directly or indirectly in the conduct of CDCR's affairs through a pattern of ...

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