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Durrell Anthony Puckett v. Corcoran Prison - Cdcr

April 13, 2012




Findings and Recommendations

I. Procedural History, Screening Requirement, and Standard

On June 14, 2011, Plaintiff Durrell Anthony Puckett ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action in California Superior Court, County of Kings, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 1. On September 13, 2011, Defendants removed this action to Federal Court. Id. On March 8, 2012, this Court issued an order requiring Plaintiff to either file an amended complaint or notify the Court of willingness to proceed on his a cognizable claims against Defendants Johnson, Manquero, Gonzalez, and Guajardo ("Defendants") for Eighth Amendment excessive force. Doc. 11. On March 16, 2012, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint. Doc. 13. On April 5, 2012, Defendants filed an answer to the first amended complaint. Doc. 14.

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) (emphasis added).

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.

II. Allegations in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

In Plaintiff's complaint, he names California State Prison, Corcoran, Traci Lewis, Humberto Gonzalez, Sergeant Andrew V. Johnson, Damien Manquero, Jimmy A. Keener, Gerardo Guajardo, and Raelene Eckmann, who were employed at Corcoran. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that on August 18, 2010, Lieutenant Keener directed Officer Guajardo to destroy Plaintiff's legal and personal property. Id. at 3. Plaintiff states Keener prevented him from having access to his criminal appeal documents, which caused him to lose his life sentence case. Id. Plaintiff states that he was emotionally stressed out and had suicidal / homicidal thoughts from August 2010 to November 16, 2010. Id. Plaintiff is still paranoid, having suicidal thoughts and flashbacks by Kenner's behavior. Id. Keener sent Plaintiff to suicide watch out of anger and reprisal and to cover up brutality. Id. On August 18, 2010, Keener intentionally told Eckmann to falsify his 115 hearing so Keener could confiscate and destroy his property. Id. Plaintiff was deprived of writing motions and his family. Id. Keener directed officers to attack Plaintiff to discourage him from filing more complaints. Id.

On August 24, 2010, Plaintiff was falsely placed on suicide watch. Id. The brutal attack Keener directed caused Plaintiff to suffer excessive paranoia / flashbacks / suicidal, and he is still suffering emotionally from August 2010 to the present. Id.

Eckmann knew that by falsifying Plaintiff's refusal to attend the hearing it wrongfully gave Keener grounds to hold Plaintiff's property for ninety days, although Eckmann already knew Keener directed it to be illegally destroyed. Id. at 4. Manquero, Johnson, Gonzalez, and Guajardo wrote a false 115 (rules violation report or RVR), knew they were violating my rights to cover up brutality, and knew Plaintiff was going to be further punished. Id.

On August 24, 2010, Manquero, Johnson, Gonzalez, and Guajardo attacked Plaintiff. Id. One of the officers knocked Plaintiff down, punching, choking, and kicking, and then Johnson pepper sprayed Plaintiff in the face while he was handcuffed. Id. The false 115 (rules violation report or RVR) will cause Plaintiff to do an additional eighteen month SHU term. Id. at 3-4. Lewis falsified the 7219 report, saying Plaintiff had no injuries when Plaintiff had blood, bruises, and cuts. Id. at 4. Lewis knew that by lying Plaintiff's complaint would be groundless. Id. Lewis denied Plaintiff adequate medical care by not treating Plaintiff. Id. Eckmann and Lewis knew their false report was wrongful and a violation of Plaintiff's rights. Id.

For relief, Plaintiff wants cameras placed in the areas frequented by inmates; to dismiss his August 24, 2010 SHU term; and money damages. Id. at 3.

III. Legal Standard and Analysis for Plaintiff's Claims

A. Supervisory Liability and Linkage

Under § 1983, Plaintiff must link the named defendants to the participation in the violation at issue. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1948-49; Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2010); Ewing, 588 F.3d at 1235; Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d at 934. Liability may not be imposed on supervisory personnel under the theory of respondeat superior, Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1948-49; Ewing, 588 F.3d at 1235, and administrators may only be held liable if they "participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them," Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); accord Starr, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-08 (9th Cir. 2011); Corales, 567 F.3d at 570; Preschooler II v. Clark County School Board of Trustees, 479 F.3d 1175, 1182 (9th Cir. 2007); Harris v. Roderick, 126 F.3d 1189, 1204 (9th Cir. 1997). Some culpable action or inaction must be attributable to defendants and while the creation or enforcement of, or acquiescence in, an unconstitutional policy may support a claim, the policy must have been the moving force behind the violation. Starr, 652 F.3d at 1205; Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 914-15 (9th Cir. 2001); Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446-47 (9th Cir. 1991); Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989).

Plaintiff may not seek to impose liability on Defendants merely upon position of authority, based on vague or other conclusory allegations.

B. Conspiracy

A conspiracy claim brought under § 1983 requires proof of "'an agreement or meeting of the minds to violate constitutional rights,'" Franklin v. Fox, 312 F.3d 423, 441 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting United Steel Workers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 865 F.2d 1539, 1540-41 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted)), and an actual deprivation of constitutional rights, Hart v. Parks, 450 F.3d 1059, 1071 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Woodrum v. Woodward County, Oklahoma, 866 F.2d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 1989)). "'To be liable, each participant in the conspiracy need not know the exact details of the plan, but each participant must at least share the common objective of the conspiracy.'" Franklin, 312 F.3d at 441 (quoting United Steel Workers, 865 F.2d at 1541).

The federal system is one of notice pleading, and the court may not apply a heightened pleading standard to plaintiff's allegations of conspiracy. Empress LLC v. City and County of San Francisco, 419 F.3d 1052, 1056 (9th Cir. 2005); Galbraith v. County of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119, 1126 (2002). However, although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A plaintiff must set forth "the grounds of his ...

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