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Stephen C. Reed v. C/O James

December 12, 2011


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



Stephen C. Reed ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on January 14, 2010. (Doc. 1.)

Plaintiff's original Complaint contained a claim for violation of his rights to due process, based on a prison disciplinary conviction for which he was assessed a loss of three hundred sixty days of credit. Id. The Court screened the original Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and entered an Order to Show Cause on March 23, 2011, directing Plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be dismissed pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), on the ground that Plaintiff had not alleged any facts indicating that his disciplinary conviction had been reversed, expunged or otherwise invalidated. (Doc. 9.) On November 7, 2011, Plaintiff filed a response to the Order to Show Cause and a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 12.) Along with his motion, Plaintiff lodged a proposed first amended complaint. (Doc. 13.) The Court found that Plaintiff alleged facts indicating that his disciplinary conviction has been invalidated on due process grounds. Accordingly, the Order to Show Cause was discharged, and Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend was granted. (Doc. 14.) On November 9, 2011, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint was filed. (Docs. 15.) The First Amended Complaint is now before the Court for screening.


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 is only required to 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). "[P]laintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . ," Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), and while a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, 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). To state a viable claim for relief, Plaintiff must set forth sufficient 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. Id.


Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California, where the events at issue allegedly occurred. Plaintiff names as defendants Correctional Officer ("C/O") C. James, Sergeant T. Gonzales III, Lieutenant F Munoz, Lieutenant J. Kavanaugh, Captain M. Jennings, Correctional Counselor D. DeAcevedo, Captain M. T. Cisneros, and Associate Warden

K. Comaites.

Plaintiff alleges as follows in the First Amended Complaint. On or about August 24, 2008, while on his way to outdoor recreation, Plaintiff was stopped by defendant C/O James and submitted to a mandatory and routine body pat-down. Defendant James discovered a standard ball point pen, which Plaintiff is permitted to possess, in Plaintiff's pants pocket. Defendant James ordered Plaintiff to be handcuffed behind his back, while Plaintiff asked, "Why do I have to cuff up?" Amended Complaint ("ACP"), Doc. 15 at 4 ¶D3. Plaintiff was escorted to the Facility Program Office, where defendants Sgt. Munoz and Sgt. Gonzales decided to place him in administrative segregation ("Ad-Seg"). Plaintiff asked defendants Gonzales and Munoz why he was being placed in Ad-Seg, and was told, "For a weapon." Id. Plaintiff implored defendants Gonzales and Munoz to examine the alleged weapon to see that it was an ordinary unaltered ball point pen, but they each declined, relying on defendant James' word alone. Within seventy-two hours, Plaintiff was placed in Ad-Seg and attended a Captain's Review conducted by defendant Captain Jennings.

During the Captain's Review, defendant Captain Jennings was required to examine the alleged weapon to determine sufficient cause for Plaintiff's Ad-Seg placement, but he did not inspect the weapon. Captain Jennings had the authority to release Plaintiff from Ad-Seg based on his review, but he relied upon defendant James' report instead of examining the weapon himself.

Plaintiff remained in Ad-Seg for approximately five months until January 27, 2009, when Plaintiff attended a hearing on defendant James' rules violation report ("RVR") against Plaintiff, conducted by defendant Lt. Kavanaugh, Senior Hearing Officer. Defendant Kavanaugh failed to examine the evidence to determine whether the item was a weapon or a standard pen and found Plaintiff guilty of possession of a deadly weapon. As a result, Plaintiff lost three hundred sixty days of credit and was referred to the Inmate Classification Committee ("ICC").

The ICC, which included, among others, defendants Correctional Counselor DeAcevedo, Captain Cisneros, and Associate Warden Comaites, held a hearing wherein Plaintiff vehemently objected to the Security Housing Unit ("SHU") assessment, imploring defendants to "please look at the pen, it is not a weapon," but they declined to do so and imposed a ten-month SHU term on Plaintiff. ACP at 6:1-3. In the SHU, Plaintiff was subjected to conditions unlike in the general population, with regard to his liberty, ...

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