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Jon Christ v. James Hartley

April 3, 2012

JON CHRIST,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES HARTLEY,
DEFENDANT.



ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM UPON WHICH RELIEF MAY BE GRANTED THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE Doc. 1

Screening Order

I. Procedural History, Screening Requirement, and Standard

On February 10, 2011, Plaintiff Jon Christ ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action in Santa Clara Superior Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging denial of electrical appliances, including TVs, typewriters, fans, and battery rechargers. Doc. 1. On April 11, 2011, Defendants removed this action to Federal Court. Id.

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, 556 U.S. 662, __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), and courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences," Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

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). Under § 1983, plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendantpersonally 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). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; 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, 297 F.3d at 934. For eachdefendant named, plaintiff must show a causal link between the violation of his rights and an action or omission of the defendant. Iqbal,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 norespondeat superior liability under § 1983, and each defendant may only be held liable for misconduct directly attributed to him or her. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009).

II. Allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint

In Plaintiff's complaint, he names Defendant James Hartley, Warden of Avenal State Prison ("Avenal") and Does 1 through 100. Compl. at 8, 10, Doc. 1.*fn1

On September 22, 2010, Plaintiff was transferred from Solano State Prison to Avenal. Id. at 11. Avenal Staff informed Plaintiff that he cannot have any type of electrical appliance, including TVs, typewriters, fans, and battery rechargers, i.e., nothing that will plug in to an electrical outlet. Id. Plaintiff's filed an appeal, which was screened out due to time lapse. Id. at 12. Prohibiting electronic appliances does not serve any penological goal. Id. For relief, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to permit electrical appliances; general damages of $2,000; compensatory damages of $4,000; and punitive damages of $4,000. Id. at 19.

III. Legal Standard and Analysis for Plaintiff's Claims

A. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Deprivation of Property Plaintiff's claim under the Due Process Clause is not cognizable, and therefore should be dismissed.

Although "States may under certain circumstances create liberty interests which are protected by the Due Process Clause," those circumstances are generally limited to freedom from restraint that "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 (1995). Here, the restriction prohibiting Plaintiff from keeping appliances that require an electrical outlet in his cell does not impose an atypical or significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.

Prison restrictions on the size of personal property that an inmate may possess do not violate the Due Process Clause. See e.g., Cosco v. Uphoff, 195 F.3d 1221, 1224 (10th Cir. 1999) (dismissing due process challenge to new prison policy limiting amount of property a prisoner could keep in his cell); Parkhurst v. Uphoff, 46 F.3d 1151, *1 (10th Cir. Jan. 4, 1995) (prisoner must be given permission to have electric appliances and that permission may be revoked); Blackwell v. Pizzola, 2010 WL 4505813, *6 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 12, 2010) (dismissing due process challenge to confiscation of prisoner's JWIN radio as not imposing atypical or signification hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life); Vogelsang v. Tilton, 2008 WL 4891213, *4 (E.D. Cal. Nov.12, 2008) (dismissing due process claim because restrictions on number of appliances inmate is allowed to possess did not impose atypical or significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life); Martin v. Hurtado, 2008 WL 4145683, *13 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2008) (dismissing due process challenge because deprivation of inmates's television does not ...


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