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Stuart J. Sandrock v. Shoe

December 9, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court


On November 5, 2010, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"). (Doc. No. 58.) On November 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed his response in opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 62.) On December 6, 2010, Defendants filed their reply. (Doc. No. 64.) For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.


On July 22, 2010, Stuart Sandrock ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner incarcerated at Ironwood State Prison ("Ironwood") and proceeding pro se,*fn1 filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") against Defendants Choo (erroneously sued as Shoe), Ding, Lind, Lee, Guenther, Rivera, in their personal and official capacities, the California Department of Corrections, and the state of California ("Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 29.) Plaintiff alleges claims for deliberate indifference to medical needs under the Eighth Amendment and retaliation under the First Amendment, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory relief. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that over 10 years ago, his family physician at Kaiser Permanente prescribed Plaintiff 360 mg of Morphine Sulphate Extended Release ("MSER") per day to relieve chronic lower back pain. (Doc. No. 29 at 3--4.) Plaintiff alleges that Plaintiff's treatment continued while his was incarcerated awaiting trial. (Id. at 5-6.) Plaintiff alleges that in 2007, he was convicted of a firearms offense. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges that on November 30, 2009, he was transferred to Donovan state prison, where he was examined by Defendant Ding, who ordered Plaintiff's medication dosage cut in half. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that on January 5, 2010, Defendant Choo instituted additional reductions of Plaintiff's medication dosage. (Id. at 7-8.) Plaintiff states that on January 19, 2010, Plaintiff met with Defendant Guenther, who acknowledged that Plaintiff was in pain, but would not permit Plaintiff to meet with a doctor to have his medication dosage increased. (Id. at 9-10.) Plaintiff states that on January 28, 2010, his medication was completely eliminated and he did not receive any medication for three days. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff alleges that on February 2, 2010, he was transferred to Ironwood State Prison ("ISP"). (Id. at 19.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Lee created a standing order to take Plaintiff back to his cell whenever Plaintiff had an increase in pain, even though Plaintiff and Lee never met. (Id. at 26--32.)

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff for his past grievance fillings by lying about the absence of his previous Kaiser medical file in order to change his medication. (Id. at 43.) Plaintiff also alleges that he was transferred to ISP by Defendants and temporarily housed in a level III yard in retaliation for his inmate appeals regarding his medication. (Id. at 46--49.) Plaintiff claims that staff at Donovan are known for retaliation, and it is commonly known amongst prisoners that "troublemakers" are sent to ISP. (Id.)


I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." (Doc. No. 58.) Additionally, Defendants move for dismissal under the non-enumerated provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Id.)

A motion to dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Navarro v. Black, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint does not "suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Failure to exhaust non-judicial remedies is treated as a matter of abatement and is properly raised as a non-enumerated motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b). See Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 2003); Ritza v. Int'l Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, 837 F.2d 365, 368-69 (9th Cir. 1988). "In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust non-judicial remedies, the court may look beyond the pleadings and decide disputed issues of fact." Wyatt, 315 F.3d at 1119--20. Defendants have the burden of proving that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. Id. To show failure to exhaust, Defendants may submit affidavits or declarations outside the pleadings. Id.

II. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

Plaintiff names the State of California and the California Department of Corrections as Defendants in this case. However, the Eleventh Amendment prohibits suits against unconsenting states in federal court. Brooks v. Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Coop., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th Cir. 1991). "[T]he Eleventh Amendment has long been construed to extend to suits brought against a state by its own citizens, as well as by citizens of other states." Id.; see also Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 517 (2004). The Eleventh Amendment also bars suits against state agencies. Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993). Therefore, Plaintiff may not maintain a cause of action against the State of California or the California Department of Corrections. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's SAC as against Defendants the State of California and the California Department of Corrections

Plaintiff also seeks compensatory and punitive damages against individual Defendants. (Doc. No. 29 at 47--51.) However, the Eleventh Amendment provides immunity for Defendants acting in their official capacities in suits for damages. Suits for damages against state officials in their official capacity are also barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Flint v. Dennison, 488 F.3d 816, 824--25 (9th. Cir. 2007). Therefore, inmate claims against prison officials, in their official capacities, are barred. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 631--662 (9th Cir. 1988). However, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits for prospective declaratory judgment or injunctive relief against state officials in their official capacity. See Idaho v. Coeur'd Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 269 (1997). It also does not bar suits seeking damages against state officials in their personal ...

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