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Malik Jones v. T. Felker

February 8, 2011

MALIK JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
T. FELKER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, a prisoner without counsel and in forma pauperis, has filed a complaint alleging civil rights violations. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

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).

The court has reviewed plaintiff's complaint and, for the limited purposes of § 1915A screening, finds that it states cognizable claims against defendants Felker, McBrie, Pattion, Amero, Pinneo, Hougland, Farley, Tuter, French, Crane, Baker, Harrison, Ingwerson, Robbertson, Abamonga, Wright, and Gunter.

For the reasons stated below, the complaint does not state a cognizable claim against defendants Vanderville, Peely, Brook, Lawrence, McCulley, Guillen, Carter, and Sanchez. Claims against these defendants will therefore be dismissed with leave to amend.

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.

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements:

(1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 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).

Plaintiff names defendants Peely and Sanchez, but his complaint is devoid of any factual allegations regarding these defendants. Thus, plaintiff has stated no cause of action against defendants Peely and Sanchez.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant Vanderville violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (as well as committed state-law assault, battery, and negligence) because plaintiff was not transferred out of High Desert State Prison ("HDSP") to resolve a staff complaint he had filed alleging that he faced a risk of harm at the hands of HDSP staff, after defendant Vanderville told him he would be transferred once he appeared before the Institutional Classification Committee first to inform them where he wanted to be transferred to.

A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment's proscription of cruel and unusual punishment where he or she deprives a prisoner of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities with a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Prison officials have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse. Norwood v. Vance, 591 F.3d 1062, 1069 (9th Cir. 2010); Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833; Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th Cir. 2005). The failure of prison officials to protect an inmate from attack may rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation where prison officials know of and disregard a substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff. E.g., Farmer, 511 U.S.at 847; Hearns, 413 F.3d at 1040. To state such an Eighth Amendment claim, a prisoner must allege facts showing that (1) the defendant prison official's conduct deprived him or her of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities and (2) that the defendant acted with deliberate indifference to the prisoner's health or safety. Id. at 834. To show deliberate indifference, the prisoner must allege that the defendant knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837. A prison official may thus be free from liability if he or she did not know of the risk or took reasonable action in response to the risk. Id. at 844.

Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to make out an Eighth Amendment Claim with respect to defendant Vanderville. Plaintiff does not allege that defendant Vanderville had any authority to control the outcome of plaintiff's staff complaint or transfer request but unreasonably failed to exercise that power to transfer plaintiff.

To state a claim under the Equal Protection Clause, plaintiff must allege facts showing that he is a member of a protected class. See Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 323 (1980) (indigents); see also City of Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 440-41 (listing suspect classes). Plaintiff must also plead facts to demonstrate that defendants acted with an intent or purpose to discriminate against him based upon his membership in a protected class. See Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). Alternatively, plaintiff may allege facts showing that he has been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated without a rational basis ...


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