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Desha M. Carter v. A Claim

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


February 9, 2011

DESHA M. CARTER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
A CLAIM N. GRANNIS, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.

ECF No. 1

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, FOR FAILURE TO STATE THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Desha M. Carter ("Plaintiff") is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently pending before the Court is the complaint, filed January 8, 2010. (Compl., ECF No. 1.)

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 "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard 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. 554, 555 (2007)).

Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). "[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.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (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. Iqbal, 129

S. Ct. at 1949. "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. Complaint Allegations

Plaintiff brings this action naming Defendants N. Grannis, K. Allison, K. Morgan, Garza, and Quinones alleging that he was placed in segregated housing without due process. (Compl. 3-4, ECF No. 1.) He is seeking unspecified declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages. (Id. at4.)

Plaintiff claims he was wrongfully placed in administrative segregation without due process or the opportunity to call witnesses. The complaint alleges that Defendant Allison failed to provide Plaintiff with a "1030 form," failed to instruct staff to provide Plaintiff with his Due Process rights, and approved his indefinite placement in administrative segregation. Defendant Morgan failed to interview Plaintiff so he could challenge the charges against him and falsified documents resulting in Plaintiff's wrongful placement. Defendant Quinones approved incomplete reports and processed them even though Plaintiff did not receive due process. Defendant Garza was aware of "the policy" yet refused to record Plaintiff's statement, accept his written objections, and failed to provide a copy so Plaintiff could correct any misinterpretation. (Id.)

While Plaintiff's complaint is considered under a liberal pleading standard, his vague allegations such as awareness of "the policy" and failure to provide "a copy" are insufficient to state a plausible claim that his constitutional rights were violated. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. Although named in the complaint, the factual allegations fail to include any mention of Defendant Grannis. Plaintiff shall be given the opportunity to file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies described by the Court in this order. In the paragraphs that follow, the Court will provide Plaintiff with the legal standards that appear to apply to his claims. Plaintiff should carefully review the standards and amend only those claims that he believes, in good faith, are cognizable.

III. Legal Standards

A. Linkage Requirement

Under section 1983, Plaintiff is required to show that (1) each defendant acted under color of state law and (2) each defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983, and therefore, each defendant is only liable for his or her own misconduct. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1948-49.

In this instance, Plaintiff has not linked the defendants named in his complaint to any acts or omissions that purportedly led to the violation of those rights. Plaintiff's conclusory assertions do not suffice to show that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated by these Defendants. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. It appears that for some of the defendants Plaintiff is attempting to impose liability not on Defendants' personal involvement but because they hold positions of authority and/or because of their involvement in reviewing appeals grieving misconduct, neither of which provides a basis for liability under section 1983. Id. at 1949 ("Absent vicarious liability, each Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct."); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934; George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation.").

Plaintiff's amended complaint need not and should not be lengthy, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), but it must specify what each defendant did or did not do that led to the violation of Plaintiff's rights. Conclusory assertions of personal involvement or liability will not suffice. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50.

B. Due Process

The Due Process Clause protects against the deprivation of liberty without due process of law. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005). In order to state a cause of action for a deprivation of due process, a plaintiff must first identify a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. Id. The Due Process Clause does not confer a liberty interest in freedom from state action taken within a prisoner's imposed sentence. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 480 (1995). However, a state may "create liberty interests which are protected by the Due Process Clause." Id. at 483-84. A prisoner has a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause only where the restraint "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1088 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484).

The Due Process Clause does not "create a liberty interest in freedom from administrative segregation." Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1091 (9th Cir. 1985), abrogated in part on other grounds by Sandin, 515 U.S. 472. Administrative segregation is the type of confinement that should be reasonably anticipated by inmates at some point in their incarceration. Toussaint, 801 F.2d at 1091 (quoting Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S.460, 468 (1983)). The Ninth Circuit has concluded that prisoners have no liberty interest in remaining free from administrative segregation or solitary confinement. See May v. Baldwin, 109 F.3d 557, 565 (9th Cir.1997).

Additionally, the decision to confine an inmate to administrative confinement only requires "some evidence" in support of the decision. Toussaint, 801 F.2d at 1105. When an inmate is confined to administrative segregation due process requires that he be informed of the charges against him or the reason for his segregation, an informal non-adversary hearing must be held within a reasonable time, and the inmate must be allowed to present his views. Toussaint, 801 F.2d at 1100.

"To the extent that the violation of a state law amounts to the deprivation of a state-created interest that reaches beyond that guaranteed by the federal Constitution, [s]section 1983 offers no redress." Sweaney v. Ada County, Idaho, 119 F.3d 1385, 1391 (9th Cir. 1997), quoting Lovell v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist., 90 F.3d 367, 370 (9th Cir. 1996). There is not a single reported case giving an independent cause of action for violation of Title 15 regulations. (See Davis v. Kissinger, No. CIV S-04-0878 GEB DAD P, 2009 WL 256574, *12 n.4 (E.D.Cal. Feb. 3, 2009). Nor is there any liability under § 1983 for violating prison policy. Cousins v. Lockyer, 568 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430 (8th Cir. 1997)).

C. Injunctive Relief

Plaintiff requests unspecified injunctive and declaratory relief. The Prison Litigation Reform Act places limitations on injunctive relief. Section 3626(a)(1)(A) provides in relevant part, "Prospective relief in any civil action with respect to prison conditions shall extend no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right of a particular plaintiff or plaintiffs. The court shall not grant or approve any prospective relief unless the court finds that such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1)(A).

When an inmate seeks injunctive or declaratory relief concerning the prison where he is incarcerated, his claims for such relief become moot when he is no longer subjected to those conditions. Nelson v. Heiss, 271 F.3d 891, 897 (9th Cir. 2001); Dilley v. Gunn, 64 F.3d 1365, 1368 (9th Cir. 1995); Johnson v. Moore, 948 F.2d 517, 519 (9th Cir. 1991).

IV. Conclusion and Order

For the reasons stated, Plaintiff's complaint does not state a cognizable claim for relief for a violation of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint within thirty days. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended complaint. George, 507 F.3d at 607 (no "buckshot" complaints).

Plaintiff's amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights, Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1948-49. "The inquiry into causation must be individualized and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation." Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988). Although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

Finally, an amended complaint supercedes the original complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the prior or superceded pleading," Local Rule 220. "All causes of action alleged in an original complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived." King, 814 F.2d at 567 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth, 114 F.3d at 1474.

Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. The Clerk's Office shall send Plaintiff a civil rights complaint form;

2. Plaintiff's complaint, filed January 8, 2010, is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under section 1983;

3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint; and

4. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint in compliance with this order, this action will be dismissed, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

20110209

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