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Andy Smith v. T. Gonzales

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


September 19, 2011

ANDY SMITH,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
T. GONZALES, III, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (DOC. 1) RESPONSE DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

Screening Order

I. Background

Plaintiff Andy Smith ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff initiated this action by filing his complaint on March 3, 2011. Doc. 1.

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).

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, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.

II. Summary Of Complaint

Plaintiff was previously incarcerated at California State Prison at Corcoran ("CSP-Cor"), where the events giving rise to this action occurred. Plaintiff names as Defendants T. Gonzales III, correctional sergeant, and A. Baer, correctional lieutenant.

Plaintiff alleges the following. On September 15, 2009, Defendant T. Gonzales incited, harassed, and disrespected Plaintiff in order to handcuff Plaintiff and place him in administrative segregation. Defendant Gonzales authored a Rules Violation Report in support. On October 15, 2009, Defendant A. Baer conducted a hearing as the senior hearing officer.

Plaintiff contends that there was no credible evidence in support of the charges made by Defendant Gonzales. However, Defendant Baer affirmed the charge against Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that he was denied the ability to call witnesses in his defense, nor took notice of Plaintiff's own factual assertions. Plaintiff contends that the investigative officer failed to conduct proper witness interviews.

Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff requests as relief: injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, costs of suit, and other proper relief.

III. Analysis

A. Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). 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. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). In order to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that officials knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to him. E.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). Mere negligence on the part of the official is not sufficient to establish liability, but rather, the official's conduct must have been wanton. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1128.

Here, Plaintiff fails to allege any cognizable Eighth Amendment claims. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Gonzales intentionally provoked Plaintiff and trumped up charges against him. Plaintiff also alleges that he was handcuffed tightly and placed in administrative segregation. This does not demonstrate deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff contends that Defendant Baer affirmed his fellow officer against a prisoner, and did not provide Plaintiff with his due process rights during a disciplinary hearing. Allegedly being deprived one's due process during a disciplinary hearing does not demonstrate a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

B. Due Process

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 due process, a plaintiff must first establish the existence of a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. "States may under certain circumstances create liberty interests which are protected by the Due Process Clause." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 (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.

"Prison disciplinary proceedings are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not apply." Wolff, 418 U.S. at 556. With respect to prison disciplinary proceedings, the minimum procedural requirements that must be met are: (1) written notice of the charges; (2) at least 24 hours between the time the prisoner receives written notice and the time of the hearing, so that the prisoner may prepare his defense; (3) a written statement by the fact finders of the evidence they rely on and reasons for taking disciplinary action; (4) the right of the prisoner to call witnesses and present documentary evidence in his defense, when permitting him to do so would not be unduly hazardous to institutional safety or correctional goals; and (5) legal assistance to the prisoner where the prisoner is illiterate or the issues presented are legally complex. Id. at 563-71. Due process requires some evidence supporting the decision. Bruce v. Ylst, 351 F.3d 1283, 1287 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 455 (1985)).

Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate that he received an atypical and significant hardship because of the disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff has not demonstrated, for example, what discipline he received because he was found guilty, and how that discipline imposed an atypical and significant hardship on Plaintiff in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.

Even if Plaintiff had demonstrated an atypical and significant hardship, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he was not afforded due process. Plaintiff complains that the investigative officer did not do a good job interviewing potential witnesses, and that Defendant Baer did not account for Plaintiff's factual assertions. However, if Defendant Baer did hear Plaintiff's arguments in defense, and some evidence supported Defendant Baer's ruling, then Plaintiff's due process rights were satisfied.

IV. Conclusion And Order

Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable claims against any Defendants. The Court will provide Plaintiff with an opportunity to file a first amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no "buckshot" complaints).

If Plaintiff decides to amend, Plaintiff's amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. Although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

Finally, Plaintiff is advised that an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the prior or superseded pleading," L. R. 220. Plaintiff is warned that "[a]ll causes of action alleged in an original complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived." King, 814 F.2d at 567 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth, 114 F.3d at 1474.

Accordingly, based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. The Clerk's Office shall send Plaintiff a complaint form;

2. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim, with leave to file a first amended complaint within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order;

3. Plaintiff may not add any new, unrelated claims to this action via the first amended complaint and any attempt to do so may result in an order striking the first amended complaint; and

4. If Plaintiff fails to comply with this order, the Court will dismiss this action for failure to obey a court order and failure to state a claim.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20110919

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