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Michael Lynn Waters v. D. Fischer

August 29, 2011

MICHAEL LYNN WATERS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
D. FISCHER,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

(ECF No. 1)

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.

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 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).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to 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). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at CSP Sacramento, brings this civil rights action against Defendant D. Fischer Ph.D., an employee of the CDCR at Corcoran State Prison, where the events at issue occurred. Plaintiff's sole claim is that Defendant Fischer denied him single cell status. Plaintiff specifically alleges that prior to his transfer from Pelican Bay State Prison to Corcoran State Prison, he was classified as single cell status based on "mental health issues." Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Fischer, despite knowing of Plaintiff's documentation authorizing single cell status, directed that Plaintiff be double celled at Corcoran.

A. Classification

The Due Process Clause protects prisoners from being deprived of liberty without due process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). In order to state a cause of action for deprivation of procedural due process, a plaintiff must first establish the existence of a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. Liberty interests may arise from the Due Process Clause itself or from state law. Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 466-68 (1983).

The Due Process Clause itself does not confer on inmates a liberty interest in a particular classification status. See Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 88, n. 9 (1976). The existence of a liberty interest created by state law is determined by focusing on the nature of the deprivation. Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 481-84 (1995). Liberty interests created by state law are generally limited to freedom from restraint which "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484.

Under certain circumstances, labeling a prisoner with a particular classification may implicate a liberty interest subject to the protections of due process. Neal v. Shimoda, 131 F.3d 818, 827 (9th Cir. 1997)("[T]he stigmatizing consequences of the attachment of the 'sex offender' label coupled with the subjection of the targeted inmate to a mandatory treatment program whose successful completion is precondition for parole eligibility create the kind of deprivations of liberty that require procedural protections,"). However, the assignment of an "R" suffix and the resulting increase in custody status and inability to work outside the prison simply do not "impose atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484; Neal at 830; Cooper v. Garcia, 55 F.Supp.2d 1090, 1101 (S.D. Cal. 1999); Johnson v. Gomez, No. C95-20717 RMW, 1996 WL 107275, at 2-5 (N.D. Cal. 1996); Brooks v. McGrath, No. C95-3390 SI, 1995 WL 733675, at 1-2 (N.D. Cal. 1995).

To the extent that Plaintiff's claim is based solely on his classification status, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief. Plaintiff does not have a constitutionally protected interest in single cell status. Plaintiff cannot, therefore, state a claim for violation of the Due Process clause based on his classification status. Plaintiff's reclassification to double ...


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