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Joseph S. Terrill v. N. Grannis

February 20, 2012

JOSEPH S. TERRILL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
N. GRANNIS, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

FIRST SCREENING ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (Doc. 1) THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE

First Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement and Standard

Plaintiff Joseph S. Terrill, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on January 24, 2011. The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 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, 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, 1964-65 (2007)). 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).

While prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are still entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, the pleading standard is now higher, Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted), and to survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at __, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at __, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of constitutional or other federal rights by those acting under color of state law. E.g., Patel v. Kent School Dist., 648 F.3d 965, 971 (9th Cir. 2011); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). For each defendant named, Plaintiff must show a causal link between the violation of his rights and an action or omission of the defendant. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at __, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-06 (9th Cir. 2011); Corales v. Bennett, 567 F.3d 554, 570 (9th Cir. 2009). There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983, and each defendant may only be held liable for misconduct directly attributed to him or her. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at __, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at California State Prison-Solano in Vacaville, brings this suit against N. Grannis, Chief of the Inmate Appeals Branch; Warden Ken Clark; Correctional Counselor A. Rivera; Correctional Lieutenants D. Snell and F. A. Rodriguez; Appeals Coordinator R. Hall; L. Zinani; and Correctional Officers P. Ward and Marquez. Plaintiff alleges that while he was at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF) in Corcoran, Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

A. General Issues

1. Joinder Requirements

In this action, Plaintiff is bringing unrelated claims against an unrelated parties, which is not permitted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a), 20(a)(2); Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 2011); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). As an initial matter, Plaintiff may bring a claim against multiple defendants so long as (1) the claim arises out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions and occurrences, and (2) there are commons questions of law or fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1351 (9th Cir. 1997); Desert Empire Bank v. Insurance Co. of North America, 623 F.3d 1371, 1375 (9th Cir. 1980). Only if the defendants are properly joined under Rule 20(a) will the Court review the other claims to determine if they may be joined under Rule 18(a), which permits the joinder of multiple claims against the same party.

Although Plaintiff asserts that his claims are related because they all involve the inmate appeals process, this argument is foreclosed by the facts that (1) the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims are separate and unrelated, and (2) claims may not be made against appeals coordinators based on their administrative review of inmates' appeals, the latter of which eliminates the asserted commonality between the otherwise unrelated claims. (Comp., court record p. 7 ¶14.) Plaintiff's complaint will, by this order, be dismissed with leave to amend, and the Court will permit Plaintiff to select the claim he wishes to pursue in this action. If Plaintiff alleges multiple claims in his amended complaint which violate the applicable joinder rules, the Court will choose the operative claim and dismiss the unrelated claims. Thus, it behooves Plaintiff to make a good faith determination regarding which claim he seeks to pursue in this action and which other claims should be omitted because they violate the joinder rules.

2. Claims Arising from Inmate Appeals Decisions

Many of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants arise from their involvement in the inmate appeals process. Plaintiff cannot pursue any claims against staff for violation of the Due Process Clause relating to their involvement in the administrative review of his inmate appeals. The existence of an inmate appeals process does not create a protected liberty interest upon which Plaintiff may base a claim that he was denied a particular result or that the appeals process was deficient. Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003); Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988). To state a claim under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate personal involvement in the underlying violation of his rights, Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Jones, 297 F.3d at 934, and liability may not be based merely on Plaintiff's dissatisfaction with a decision on a subsequent administrative review of a grievance of that underlying violation, Ramirez, 334 F.3d at 860; Mann, 855 F.2d at 640.

3. Violation of State Prison Rules and Regulations

Throughout his complaint, Plaintiff alleges various violations of state prison rules and regulations. Those violations, without more, do not support any claims under section 1983. Ove v. Gwinn, 264 F.3d 817, 824 (9th Cir. 2001); Sweaney v. Ada County, Idaho, 119 F.3d 1385, 1391 (9th Cir. 1997). Only if the events complained of rise to the level of a federal statutory or constitutional violation may Plaintiff pursue them under section 1983. Patel, 648 F.3d at 971; Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. Thus, complaints that prison officials violated state regulations regarding the inmate appeals process or prison disciplinary proceedings, for example, will not support a claim for denial of due process under federal law.

B. Enumerated Claims*fn1

1. Claim 1 - Gang Member/Affiliate ...


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