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Warner v. Cate

November 16, 2010

EARL WARNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW L. CATE, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Earl Warner, an inmate confined at Salinas Valley State Prison ("SVSP"), filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's amended complaint concerns events alleged to have occurred while he was housed at Mule Creek State Prison ("MCSP"). This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and is before the undersigned pursuant to plaintiff's consent. See E.D. Cal. Local Rules, Appx. A, at (k)(4).

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court shall review "a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). "On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

A district court must construe a pro se pleading "liberally" to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000). While detailed factual allegations are not required, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "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 claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). Although legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations, and are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 1950.

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides: Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. An individual defendant is not liable on a civil rights claim unless the facts establish the defendant's personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a causal connection between the defendant's wrongful conduct and the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978).

The court has reviewed plaintiff's amended complaint and, for the limited purposes of § 1915A screening, finds that it states cognizable claims against defendants Machado, Knipp, Martel, Lucas, Vanderlip, DeBoard, and Bueno.

For the reasons stated below, the complaint does not state a cognizable claim against defendants Cate and Reyes. Claims against defendants Cate and Reyes will therefore be dismissed with leave to amend.

Plaintiff alleges that he sent various staff complaints to defendant Cate but that defendant Cate "declined to give assistance." Dckt. No. 16, Am. Compl. at 7, ¶ 30 & 12, ¶ 49. Based on those factual allegations, plaintiff contends that defendant Cate retaliated against him for filing the complaints by causing him to lose his job and property, receive a reduced custody score, be transferred to another prison, and be prevented from obtaining evidence to support a complaint filed with the United States Department of Justice. He further claims that defendant Cate deprived him of equal protection and his right of access to the courts by not processing the complaints.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant Reyes rejected and refused to consider his staff complaint against another defendant. Am. Compl. at 6-7, ¶¶ 27-28. Based on those factual allegations, plaintiff claims that defendant Reyes deprived him of equal protection and his right of access to the courts.

There are five elements to a First Amendment retaliation claim: (1) a state actor took some adverse action against a prisoner (2) because (3) the prisoner engaged in protected conduct; (4) resulting in the chilling of plaintiff's First Amendment rights or other more-than-minimal harm; and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate penological goal. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 & n.11 (9th Cir. 2003); see also Brodheim v. Cry, 584 F.3d 1262, 1269 (9th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff's amended complaint includes no facts that indicate that defendant Cate did not assist him with his staff complaints because plaintiff had engaged in protected conduct.

To state a § 1983 claim for violation of the Equal Protection Clause, a plaintiff must show that he was treated in a manner inconsistent with others similarly situated, and the defendants acted with an intent or purpose to discriminate against the plaintiff based upon membership in a protected class. Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1166-67 (9th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff's amended complaint includes no facts that indicate that defendant Cate's failure to assist plaintiff with his staff complaints or defendant Reyes's refusal to consider plaintiff's staff complaint were inconsistent with those defendants' responses to similarly-situated individuals or was done with discriminatory intent based on plaintiff's membership in a protected class. To state a claim he was denied access to the courts, plaintiff must allege that the deprivation actually injured his litigation efforts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350-55 (1996). The amended complaint includes no facts that indicate that defendant Cate's failure to assist plaintiff with his staff complaints or defendant Reyes's rejection of plaintiff's staff complaint injured plaintiff's litigation efforts.

Plaintiff may proceed forthwith to serve defendants Machado, Knipp, Martel, Lucas, Vanderlip, DeBoard, and Bueno and pursue his claims against only those defendants or he may delay serving any defendant and attempt again to ...


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