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Monte L. Haney v. M. P. Hernandez

February 9, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge


I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Monte L. Haney is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is the complaint, filed May 20, 2010.

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 "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under 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)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007)).

Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of 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). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II. Complaint Allegations

Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is currently incarcerated at California State Prison, Sacramento. This action is brought against Defendants M. P. Hernandez, D. J. Ruiz, R. Bottello, M. Rickman, F. Oliver, G. Torres, T. Camp, J. Jones, and L. Cano for violations of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and emotional distress under state law.

Plaintiff alleges that, while housed at Corcoran State Prison, he was falsely accused of calling a library staff member a derogatory name. Defendant Hernandez was assigned as Plaintiff's investigative employee. Plaintiff informed Defendant Hernandez that he wanted the individual he was talking to at the time the alleged conduct occurred present at the hearing. Defendant Hernandez stated that Plaintiff would not get any witnesses at the hearing. Plaintiff states that the witness had relevant information and Defendant Hernandez failed to interview the witness and falsified a report because she wrote that Plaintiff did not request any witnesses. As a result, Plaintiff was found guilty of the rule violation.

On February 21, 2007, Plaintiff informed Defendant Ruiz that Defendant M. P. Hernandez refused to question his witness or document that he had requested a witness. Plaintiff requested that the hearing be postponed so the witness could be present, but Defendant Ruiz denied his request and conducted the hearing. Defendant Ruiz found Plaintiff guilty without any witnesses being questioned.

On February 12, 2007, Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal after the hearing which was destroyed by Defendants Hernandez and Ruiz to obstruct Plaintiff's access to the courts. After filing the grievance, Plaintiff was interviewed regarding the grievance by Defendant Ruiz. The grievance was never returned to Plaintiff after the interview. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ruiz and Hernandez destroyed the grievance in retaliation for his filing it. Defendants Jones and L. Cano are appeals coordinators and "concerted" with Defendants Ruiz and Hernandez to destroy Plaintiff's grievance.

On December 14, 2006, Plaintiff was assaulted by two correctional officers and was moved to the Security Housing Unit ("SHU"). After the move, Plaintiff was confined to his cell and denied all outdoor exercise for three months. Defendants Botello, Rickman, Oliver, Torres, and T. Cano were regular staff where Plaintiff was housed and are personally responsible for depriving Plaintiff of exercise from December 15, 2006 to March 15, 2007. White inmates were allowed outside for exercise, but all black inmates, including Plaintiff, were denied outdoor exercise in violation of equal protection. The denial of exercise was due to a policy and custom of punishing inmates who receive disciplinary write-ups. When black inmates filed grievances regarding the denial of exercise, the grievances were destroyed.

Plaintiff filed grievances on January 22, 2007 and February 20, 2007 that were not responded to. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Botello, Rickman, Oliver, Torres, T. Cano, L. Cano, and Jones destroyed the grievances. Plaintiff is seeking a declaratory judgment, and compensatory, exemplary, and punitive damages.

III. Discussion

A. Due Process

Plaintiff alleges that he was denied witnesses at the rule violation hearing in violation of due process. The Due Process Clause protects against the deprivation of liberty without due process of law. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221, 125 S. Ct. 2384, 2393 (2005). In order to state a cause of action for a deprivation of due process, a plaintiff must first identify a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. Id. A prisoner has a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause only where the restraint "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in ...

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