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Archie A. Martinez v. G. Hoover

September 2, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 32). Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion (Doc. 44) and defendants filed a reply (Doc. 45). In addition, plaintiff requested permission and additional time to file a surreply (Docs. 46, 49), and defendants filed a motion to strike plaintiff's surreply (Doc. 48)


This action proceeds on plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 19). His complaint includes claims regarding denial of medical treatment, excessive force, and retaliation. Upon screening, the court found plaintiff stated a claim against seven defendants for the violation of his Eighth Amendment rights for the use of excessive force and denial of medical treatment, and for retaliation. The excessive force allegations stem from an in-cell incident with defendant Hoover. The retaliation claims are based on allegations of false disciplinary charges and confinement in administrative segregation. Finally, the denial of medical treatment claims relate to the defendants' alleged denial of treatment following the incident with defendant Hoover. Defendants are not challenging the excessive force or denial of medical treatment claims. The only claims at issue in the motion to dismiss are the claims of retaliation, which the defendants have characterized differently.


In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all allegations of material fact in the complaint as true. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). The court must also construe the alleged facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816 (9th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). All ambiguities or doubts must also be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. See Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, legally conclusory statements, not supported by actual factual allegations, need not be accepted. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009). In addition, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

Rule 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555-56. The complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. 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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "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." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility for entitlement to relief." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court generally may not consider materials outside the complaint and pleadings. See Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 1998); Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453 (9th Cir. 1994). The court may, however, consider: (1) documents whose contents are alleged in or attached to the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, see Branch, 14 F.3d at 454; (2) documents whose authenticity is not in question, and upon which the complaint necessarily relies, but which are not attached to the complaint, see Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001); and (3) documents and materials of which the court may take judicial notice, see Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994).


Plaintiff's complaint is not precise as to what his claims of constitutional violations are. As stated above, the court read plaintiff's complaint as raising claims for excessive force, retaliation, and denial of medical treatment. His claims arise from an incident wherein defendant Hoover entered plaintiff's cell while he and fellow prisoners were in the process of hanging a cardboard shelf in plaintiff's cell. Plaintiff alleges defendant Hoover then assaulted him, stating "This is for Gomez!" referring to plaintiff's legal action against another correctional officer. Plaintiff then alleges, reading the complaint broadly and in the best light of plaintiff, that he was wrongfully charged with a prison disciplinary for possessing a weapon, the cutter used for the cardboard shelf, wrongfully placed in administrative segregation, and retained there, again all in retaliation for his complaint against Gomez.

Defendants read plaintiff's complaint slightly different, and more narrowly. Defendants argue the complaint, apparently in addition to those claims stated above, also raises a bribery charge, a due process allegation relating his placement in administrative segregation, and a false imprisonment claim. They do not read these allegations as part of the retaliation claim. As such, they argue, plaintiff fails to state a claim and these claims, as well as two defendants, should be dismissed.

In response, plaintiff argues his complaint does state a claim for each claim raised by defendant's motion. He argues he was placed into administrative segregation to cover up his assault, without having been interviewed, while other prisoners were sent back to their cell. He claims being placed in administrative segregation violated his liberty interest as an atypical and significant hardship. He also argues he does state a claim against defendant Blim for retaliation due to Blim's actions similarly being motivated by his legal action against Gomez. Plaintiff further argues he does state a claim for bribery against defendant Olivas in that Olivas extended plaintiff's placement in administrative segregation when he did not accept the terms Olivas offered.

As stated above, the court read the complaint to include the claims of excessive force, retaliation and denial of medical treatment. The only claim at issue in the current motion relate to what the court read as a retaliation claim. The court read the allegations relating to the bribes, disciplinary hearing, and administrative segregation, as part of the retaliation claim. However, to the extent plaintiff is attempting to set forth ...

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