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Douglas L. Hopper v. A Claim S. Wright

February 14, 2011




I. Screening Requirement

Douglas L. Hopper ("Plaintiff") is a 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 11, 2010.

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 is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is currently incarcerated at High Desert State Prison. Plaintiff brings this suit alleging Defendants

S. Wright, Fernando Gonzalez (Warden), B. Sanders, J. G. Lopez, Singleton, R. Cruz, and E. Noyce violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to be free of cruel and unusual punishment by denying him his legal and personal property in violation of the California Penal Code and California Code of Regulations Title 15. He is seeking $5,000 and costs. (Compl. 8-9, ECF No. 1.)

On May 1, 2007, while housed at Pleasant Valley State Prison, Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation. (Id., ¶ 12.) In June 2007, Defendant Singleton noticed discrepancies on the property inventory sheet, as it was missing the signature, date, and Plaintiff's prison identification number. (Id., ¶ 13.) Plaintiff was advised by Defendant Singleton that some food items he had received prior to being placed in administrative segregation were missing. (Id., ¶ 14.) Due to these issues, Plaintiff was not given any of his property and was informed he needed to file an inmate appeal. (Id., ¶ 15.)

Plaintiff submitted an inmate appeal on June 19, 2007. (Id., ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was contacted by Defendant J. G. Lopez on July 25, 2007, and informed that the investigation into his missing property was completed and he would be receiving compensation for his lost property, as well as for damage to his television screen that occurred during the storage and inventory process. (Id., ¶ 19.) On September 17, 2007, prior to receiving compensation for the property, Plaintiff was transferred to the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California. (Id., ¶ 20.)

On October 26, 2007, Plaintiff was contacted by Defendant Lopez and informed that the replacement items had been received and his memo and the granted appeal would be sent to Plaintiff. (Id., ¶ 21.) In November 2007, Plaintiff attempted to file an inmate grievance regarding the delay in receiving his property, which Defendant R. Cruz refused to accept. (Id., ¶ 22.) Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant Fernando Gonzales and complained to Defendant B. Sanders regarding the delay in receiving his property. (Id., ¶¶ 23, 24.) On December 7, 2007, Plaintiff received some of his property, but was told by Defendant Cruz that some of his property was missing. Plaintiff was also provided with a list of non-allowable property and told that he could send the property home, donate it to the institution, or request it be destroyed. (Id., ¶ 25.) Plaintiff was told that his property violated the allowable property limits and Plaintiff complained that the non-allowable property included "vital legal documents." (Id., ¶¶ 25, 26.) Plaintiff was told that he would be given fifty days to acquire the funds to send the property home. (Id., ¶ 27.) Five days later, on December 24, 2007, Plaintiff received notice from Defendant Cruz that his fifty days had expired. (Id., ¶ 29.)

Plaintiff filed an appeal and was informed that his property was destroyed on December 18, 2007, because he did not have funds available to mail the property home. (Id., ¶ 31.) Plaintiff's appeal was denied and he was denied access to his legal materials. (Id., ¶ 40.) Plaintiff states that the institution did not follow the procedures outlined in Title 15, Defendant Lopez defrauded him by replacing items that were in violation of property limits, and by being denied access to his legal documents he was denied access to the courts and had three active court cases dismissed. (Id., ¶¶ 41-46.) Additionally, Plaintiff was denied his personal property for an extraordinary amount of time in violation of California Penal Code, Section 2601(a). (Id., ¶ 48.)

For the reasons set forth below Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim for relief. 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 ...

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