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Charles T. Davis v. D.L. Runnels

June 7, 2011



Charles T. Davis, an inmate confined at Pleasant Valley State Prison, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's complaint concerns events alleged to have occurred while he was housed at High Desert State Prison*fn1 . On July 28, 2006, the court granted plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend. On August 14, 2006, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint and then filed a second amended complaint on February 20, 2007. Nothing has been filed since that date and it recently has come to the court's attention that the amended complaint was not previously screened under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Accordingly, it is now screened in this order.

I. Request for Counsel

Plaintiff has requested that the court appoint counsel. District courts lack authority to require counsel to represent indigent prisoners in § 1983 cases. Mallard v. United States Dist. Court, 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989). In exceptional circumstances, the court may request counsel voluntarily to represent such a plaintiff. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th Cir. 1991); Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1335-36 (9th Cir. 1990). The court finds that there are no exceptional circumstances in this case.

II. Screening Order

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 Runnels, Meiers, Barns, Miranda, Wagner, Von Rader, Hougland, Amero, Simmorson, and Coe.

For the reasons stated below, the complaint does not state a cognizable claim against defendants Wilson and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Further, plaintiff has failed to state cognizable claims under numerous specific legal provisions to which he cites in the complaint. These claims will therefore be dismissed as provided below.

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 claims that defendant Wilson confiscated his walkman and other property and falsely reported that the walkman was altered and the other property was used. Based on these allegations, plaintiff claims that defendant Wilson committed California state-law fraudulent deceit, citing to California Civil Code § 1710(3). That statute defines deceit, as used in Civil Code § 1709, as "the suppression of a fact by one who is bound to disclose it, or who gives information of other facts which are likely to mislead for want of communication of that fact." Section 1709 itself provides, "One who willfully deceives another with intent to induce him to alter his position to his injury or risk, is liable for any damage which he thereby suffers." To state a claim under this section, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant (1) made a misrepresentation (2) knowing it was false (3) with the intent to defraud, and that the plaintiff (4) justifiably relied on the misrepresentation (5) to his resulting damage. Small v. Fritz Cos., 30 Cal.4th 167, 173 (2003). Plaintiff's allegations regarding defendant Wilson do not state that Wilson intended to defraud plaintiff, that plaintiff in any way relied on defendant Wilson's alleged misrepresentations regarding his property, or that plaintiff was damaged because he relied on defendant Wilson's alleged misrepresentations.*fn2 Accordingly, plaintiff's claim against defendant Wilson will be dismissed with leave to amend.

Plaintiff names the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") as a defendant, presumably in connection with his third cause of action, in which he asks the court to declare California Code of Regulations, title 15, §§ 3190(k) and 3191(c)-(d) unconstitutional. Specifically, plaintiff argues that § 3190(k), which requires that staff seal inmate appliances "by covering exterior pieces of the appliance that may be used to access the interior of the appliance with hotglue," is irrational and overbroad because it makes no allowance for seals or screws that come loose on their own or are altered by staff. Plaintiff argues that §§ 3191(c)-(d), which require that inmates dispose of non-allowable personal property and not mail such property to any state agency, are irrational and overbroad because it forces inmates to send property elsewhere when prison is their home. Plaintiff has failed to allege that these regulations are not reasonably related to a legitimate penological purpose. See Mauro v. Arpaio, 188 F.3d 1054, 1058-59 (9th Cir. 1999). Further, CDCR is an arm of the state and is therefore not a proper defendant in this ยง 1983 action. Will v. ...

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