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Dominguez v. Adams

November 15, 2010


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


Plaintiff Tury Dominguez ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and is currently incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran, California ("CSP-Corcoran"). Plaintiff is suing under Section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff names Darrel G. Adams, S. Rocha, R. Davis, I. Bueno, L. Billion, A. Gomez, Maurice Junious, M. Ruff, Everett, W. Fischer, P.R. Jones, M. Hodges Wilkins, N. Grannis, and S. Hubbart as defendants ("Defendants"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any cognizable claims. The Court will grant Plaintiff thirty (30) days to file an amended complaint which cures the deficiencies described 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 claims that his rights were violated because he was retained in the SHU*fn1 and placed on single cell status. On May 8, 2008, Plaintiff appeared before a committee. The committee decided to place Plaintiff on single cell status. Plaintiff complains that prison officials did not support that decision with any reliable evidence that suggested Plaintiff's life was in danger. The committee also decided to retain Plaintiff in the SHU for a "determinate term." Plaintiff confusingly alleges that the decision was "based on 'S's active merds[sic], 'S's presence in the general population may be a threat to the safety and security of the institutional if pelease[sic] at this time." (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff does not explain who or what "S" is. Plaintiff claims that there is no evidence that Plaintiff would pose a threat if placed in the general population.

III. Discussion

A. Equal Protection Claims

Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his equal protection rights by retaining him in the SHU and placing him on single cell status. The Equal Protection Clause requires that persons who are similarly situated be treated alike. City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). A plaintiff may establish an equal protection claim by showing that the plaintiff was intentionally discriminated against on the basis of the plaintiff's membership in a protected class. See, e.g., Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 686 (9th Cir.2001). Under this theory of equal protection, the plaintiff must show that the defendants' actions were a result of the plaintiff's membership in a suspect class, such as race. Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1167 (9th Cir.2005). If the action in question does not involve a suspect classification, a plaintiff may establish an equal protection claim by showing that similarly situated individuals were intentionally treated differently without a rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose. Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000); San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1972); Squaw Valley Development Co. v. Goldberg, 375 F.3d 936, 944 (9th Cir.2004); SeaRiver Mar. Fin. Holdings, Inc. v. Mineta, 309 F.3d 662, 679 (9th Cir.2002). To state an equal protection claim under this theory, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) the plaintiff is a member of an identifiable class; (2) the plaintiff was intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated; and (3) there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment. Village of Willowbrook, 528 U.S. at 564.

Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that support a discrimination claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff has not alleged that he is a member of any identifiable class and Plaintiff has not alleged that he was intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated because of his membership in an identifiable class. There are no allegations in Plaintiff's complaint that suggest Defendants discriminated against Plaintiff. Plaintiff fails to state a claim under the Equal Protection Clause.

B. Due Process Claims

Plaintiff's claims are more appropriately addressed under the Due Process Clause. The Due Process Clause protects prisoners from being deprived of liberty without due process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). To state a cause of action for deprivation of due process, a plaintiff must first establish the existence of a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. Liberty interests may arise from the Due Process Clause itself or from state law. Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466-68 (1983). Liberty interests created by state law are generally limited to freedom from restraint which "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). In determining whether a hardship is sufficiently significant enough to warrant due process protection, the Court looks to: (1) whether the challenged condition mirrored those conditions imposed upon inmates in administrative segregation and protective custody and is thus within the prison's discretionary authority to impose, (2) the duration of the condition and the degree of restraint imposed, and (3) whether the state's action will invariably affect the duration of the prisoner's sentence. Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 861 (9th Cir. 2003).

When prison officials need to determine whether a prison is to be segregated for administrative reasons (as opposed to disciplinary reasons), due process only requires (1) an informal, non-adversary hearing within a reasonable time after the prisoner is segregated; (2) notice of the reasons for considering segregation; and (3) an opportunity for the prisoner to present his/her views. Toussant v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1100 (9th Cir. 1986). Due process does not require a detailed written notice of any charges, representation of counsel or counsel-substitute, an opportunity to present witnesses, or a written decision describing the reasons for placing the prisoner in ...

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