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Chester Ray Wiseman v. Matthew Cate

March 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge


Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement and Standard

Plaintiff Chester Ray Wiseman, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on January 6, 2010. Plaintiff's claims arise from events which occurred when he was incarcerated at Kern Vally State Prison. Plaintiff alleges that his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution were violated by Defendants A. Romero, a correctional officer; California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate; and Kern Valley State Prison Warden K. Harrington.

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an 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 fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

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). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice," Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)), and courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences," Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendantpersonally 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). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

III. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Claims

A. Allegations

On June 20, 2009, Plaintiff was descending from the top bunk bed when he twisted his left knee, injuring the knee and his lower back. Building staff were made aware of the situation immediately, but the morning meal was being served to inmates so Defendant Romero refused to provide Plaintiff with emergency medical treatment. Defendant Romero told Plaintiff to fill out a form requesting medical care. Plaintiff claims that as a result, he endured severe pain and swelling for up to nine days before receiving medical care. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Romero refused to honor Plaintiff's medical chrono for a lower bunk, which was issued as a result the injuries Plaintiff sustained.

On June 29, 2009, Plaintiff sent letters to Defendants Cate and Harrington stating that bunk ladders were needed in order for prisoners to safety access the top bunk beds. Plaintiff also notified them that he was denied emergency medical care on June 20, 2009. Neither Defendant took steps to have bunk ladders installed or to train staff on responding to medical emergencies.

B. Lack of Bunk Ladders

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). "[R]outine discomfort inherent in the prison setting" does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 731 (9th Cir. 2006). Rather, extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and only those deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994); Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9, 112 S.Ct. 995 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). In order to state a claim, the plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that prison officials knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff. E.g., Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847; Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1151-52 (9th Cir. 2010); Richardson v. Runnels, 594 F.3d 666, 672 (9th Cir. 2010).

The failure to provide bunk ladders is simply not a condition so grave that it deprives Plaintiff of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, and there are no extenuating circumstances alleged which might present an exception to this common sense conclusion. See e.g., Lemelle v. Walker, No., CIV-S-10-0870 WBS GGH P, 2011 WL 221442, at *2 (E.D.Cal. Jan. 24, 2011) (absence of bunk ladder not an Eighth Amendment violation); Hucker v. California Dep't of Corr., No. 1:09-cv-01262-MJS (PC), 2010 WL 204904747, at *3-4 (E.D.Cal. Nov. 24, 2010) (failure to provide step or bunk ladder "may not reasonably be characterized as a deliberate deprivation of a human need or as a condition that placed Plaintiff's health or welfare in imminent danger"); Robinett v. Corr. Training Facility, No. C 09-3845 SI (pr), 2010 WL 2867696, at *2-3 (N.D.Cal. Jul. 20, 2010) (laddlerless bunk beds do not satisfy objective element of Eighth Amendment claim); Chisman v. Arpaio, CV 06-1647-PHX-JAT (MEA), No. 2008 WL 2116906, at *1 n.2 (D.Ariz. May 20, 2008) ...

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