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Greggory Sleeth v. John N. Katavich

May 22, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff Greggory Sleeth ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiff initiated this action on November 28, 2011. (ECF No. 1.) No other parties have appeared. Plaintiff's Complaint is now before the Court for screening.

For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim. He will be given leave to amend.


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, ____ U.S. ____, ____, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 1949-50.


Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison. He was previously incarcerated at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility ("CSATF") in Corcoran, California and at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility ("RJD") in San Diego, California. It appears that the events at issue occurred at CSATF and RJD. Plaintiff alleges that he was retaliated against in violation of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Plaintiff names the following individuals as Defendants: 1) M. Dean, correctional officer ("C/O"), 2) Lopez, C/O, 3) Jimenez, C/O, 4) Amoro, C/O, 5) Saleas, C/O, 6) J. Villegas, C/O, 7) J. Mendez, C/O, 8) F. Alcantra, C/O, 9) Hopkins, C/O, 10) Ayon, C/O, 11) Kathleen Allison, CSATF warden, 12) J. Cronjaver, associate warden of medical management at CSATF, 13) R. Hall, appeals coordinator, 14) D. James, lieutenant , 15) D. Plunkett, Sergeant, 16) Journagan, Psy. Technician, 17) Byers, Physician's Assistant, 18) Hunt, nurse, 19) Matthew Cates, CDCR secretary, 20) George J. Guirbino, director adult institutions, 21) D. Foston, chief appeals, and 22) John Does #1-3, appeals examiners.

Plaintiff asks that he be transferred to another facility to be closer to his family, his television be replaced or he be given $250, Plaintiff's legal materials be returned to him, and he be released on his original release date. He also asks for $200,000 in compensatory damages, $200,000 in punitive damages, declaratory relief, and attorney's fees.

Plaintiff allegations are as follows:

Plaintiff begins his Complaint with a page of stream-of-consciousness complaints regarding the treatment he has received while incarcerated. (Compl. at 5.) Plaintiff mentions retaliation, assaults, denial of food, denial of medical treatment, manufactured disciplinary reports, and broken televisions. (Id.)

Defendants Cates, Gurbino, Foston, Does #1-3, Allison, Cronjaver, Hall, James, and Plunkett, were responsible for promulgating, supervising, and implementing policies regarding the use of force, medical treatment, retaliation, food, clothing, and inmate appeals. (Compl. at 6.)

On May 21, 2010, after Plaintiff verbally requested that C/Os stop denying him food, Defendant Dean verbally assaulted Plaintiff while escorting him. (Compl. at 7.) By doing so, Defendant violated California Code of Corrections ("CCR") regulations. (Id.) Plaintiff's complaint*fn1 led to retaliation by Defendant Dean, other C/Os, Defendant Hall, and Defendant Allison, leading to "Eighth Amendment assaults" and denial of Plaintiff's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id.) The complaint was partially granted by Doe #1, an appeals coordinator, and D. Foston, the chief of appeals. (Id.) Both these Defendants failed in their duties by participating in another's affirmative acts. (Id.) Defendants Gurbino and Cates failed to protect Plaintiff. (Id. at 7-8.)

On May 30, 2010, Plaintiff received a falsified 114-D and a 115, which were filed in retaliation against Plaintiff, regarding a battery. (Compl. at 8.) Defendant Dean alleged Plaintiff had removed his handcuffs. (Id.) On May 31, 2010, Plaintiff filed another complaint against Defendant Dean for her false battery claim. (Id.) This complaint was reviewed by Defendant Cronjaver, and he allowed violations under the First and Eighth Amendments to continue. (Id.) He also denied Plaintiff's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id.) The complaint was partially granted, and someone else signed it for Defendant Allison. (Id.) The person who responded to the complaint in Defendant Allison's name supported the retaliation and participated in Defendant Dean's acts. (Id. at 9.)

On June 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint*fn2 due to a C/O verbally threatening him with harm in retaliation for filing complaints against Defendant Dean. (Compl. at 9.) On June 8, 2010, Plaintiff discovered staff had assigned him a specific cell-mate, with the hope that the cell-mate would harm Plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff tried to prevent being housed with this individual and refused to go into the cell with this individual. (Id.) Defendants Hopkins and Ayon forced Plaintiff into the cell; Defendant Hopkins twisted Plaintiff's left arm as Defendant Ayon forced him into the back of the cage. (Id.) Defendant Hopkins said that the actions were for Plaintiff's "battery on C/O Dean." (Id.) Afterwards, Defendant Journagan refused to assess the injuries to Plaintiff's hands and head, and threatened Plaintiff with the loss of his property if he did not go into the cell with his new cell-mate. (Id.) These actions violated Plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment, Eighth Amendment, CCR 3268(a)(3), CCR 3354(a), and the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. (Id.) The second level of the appeal was partially granted, but Defendant Hall never discussed this issue with Plaintiff, thereby participating in Defendants Ayon, Hopkins, and Journagan's violations. (Id.) The third level reviewer, Defendants Doe # 2 and Foston also failed in their job duties by participating in others' acts. (Id. at 9-10.) Defendants Gurbino and Defendant Cates were also aware of these violations and are liable for failure to protect. (Id. at 10.)

On July 19, 2010, Defendant Villegas filed a 115 disciplinary report in retaliation against Plaintiff for his complaints filed against Defendant Dean. (Compl. at 10.)

Defendant Villegas accused Plaintiff for having his cell windows covered. (Id.) For ten days, Plaintiff was on "Hodol", a psychological medication, that caused Plaintiff's neck and jaw to lock up. (Id.) Plaintiff was denied medical treatment and was eventually taken to the medical crisis unit because he was suicidal. (Id.) Defendant Mendez was the investigative employee for the 115 and Defendant Alcantra was the staff assistant, and both denied Plaintiff any assistance. (Id.) Plaintiff is Caucasian, and most of the C/Os are Hispanic and participate in the "Green Wall". (Id.) All of these Defendants violated Plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment. (Id.)

On September 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed a third staff complaint against Defendant Dean. (Compl. at 10.) Defendant Dean would kick Plaintiff's cell door if he was resting or asleep. (Id.) Plaintiff would refuse to accept laundry from her through the tray slot. (Id. at 10-11.) Defendant James came to Plaintiff's door and accused Plaintiff of using profanity on his staff. (Id. at 11) Plaintiff's complaint was partially granted. (Id.) Defendant Hall, the individual signing on behalf of Defendant Allison, Defendant Doe # 3, Defendant Foston, Defendant Gurbino, and Defendant Cates all affirmed Defendant Dean's acts and are liable for failure to protect. (Id.)

On November 7, 2010, Plaintiff wrote "letters of assault" by Defendant Lopez, in which he alleged he was not allowed to have any meat substitute on his vegetarian tray. (Compl. at 11.) Defendant Amoro verbally assaulted Plaintiff when he asked for a meat substitute and to see the sergeant on duty. (Id.) Defendant Lopez, the sergeant on duty, entered Plaintiff's cell, grabbed Plaintiff's hands, and pulled Plaintiff to the floor. (Id. at 11-12.) Plaintiff's head hit the floor and Defendant Lopez started choking Plaintiff. (Id. at 12.) Defendant Lopez continued to assault Plaintiff and pepper sprayed him. (Id.)

On November 16, 2010, Plaintiff filed a staff complaint regarding Defendant Lopez's assault. (Compl. at 12.) Defendant Hall and the unknown individual signing for Defendant Allison partially granted the complaint. (Id.) Defendant Hall made false claims that he investigated the incident. (Id.) Plaintiff's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment was violated. (Id.)

From July 2010 to January 2011, Plaintiff turned in many "sick-call" forms, which were lost. (Compl. at 12.) Defendants Byers and Hunt were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's requests for treatment for his pain. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff discovered he had hepatitis and spleen damage when he was taken to the hospital. (Id.) Plaintiff's rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and to adequate medical care were violated. (Id.) He was also retaliated against in violation of the First Amendment.

On January 23, 2011, Plaintiff was placed in the Central Treatment Center. (Compl. at 13.) C/O Salinas told Plaintiff to go to a cell with toilet water and feces. (Id.) Plaintiff refused to be housed in this cell, and C/O Salinas wrote up Plaintiff for a 115. (Id.) C/O Salinas' actions were a result of his participation in the "Green Wall". (Id.) Plaintiff's rights under the Eighth and First Amendment were violated.

On March 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed a staff complaint against Defendant Jimenez. (Compl. at 13.) This complaint related to a February 10, 2011, incident, when Defendant Jimenez placed waist chains on Plaintiff with a tri-bar in front, instead of the back. (Id.) This led to Plaintiff having trouble breathing, and when he asked that the chains be loosened, Defendants Jimenez and Lopez laughed at him and taunted him. (Id.) Defendant Jimenez did this in response to Plaintiff's complaints. (Id.) Defendant Jimenez also tripped Plaintiff, threw him on the floor, and slammed his face. (Id. at 13-14.) These actions were taken in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaints. (Id. at 14.) Plaintiff's rights under the First and Eighth Amendments were violated.

At some point in March 2011, Plaintiff was transferred to RJD, and he filed a 602 appeal for a television that was broken in retaliation. (Compl. at 14-15.) Plaintiff submitted various documents regarding this television. (Id. at 15.) Defendant Hall made false claims in an interview to perpetuate the "Green Wall" conspiracy. (Id.) These actions violated Plaintiff's rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id.)

When Plaintiff was transferred to RJD, he asked for his 602 complaints and legal papers from the Ad-Seg property officer four times. (Compl. at 15.) Plaintiff filed an appeal regarding these documents. (Id.) Sergeant Alvarez and Ad-Seg Property Officer Solis perpetuated the "Green Wall" by only bringing Plaintiff his address book. (Id.) Plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment were violated.

Plaintiff has medical conditions that are serious and need ongoing treatment. (Compl. at 16.) If left untreated, these conditions could cause serious injury. (Id.) They include hepatitis, spleen and facial bone pain, among many others. (Id.) Defendants have subjected Plaintiff to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at 17.)


A. Section 1983 Claims

Section 1983 "provides a cause of action for the 'deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States." Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir.1987).

B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a)

Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a) states that "[a] party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party." "Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

The fact that claims are premised on the same type of constitutional violation(s) (i.e. deliberate indifference) against multiple defendants does not make them factually related. Claims are related where they are based on the same precipitating event, or a series of related events caused by the same precipitating event.

Plaintiff's Complaint contains a number of unrelated claims in violation of rule 18. The Court identifies multiple distinct groupings of unrelated claims in Plaintiff's allegations: (1) retaliation claims resulting from complaints filed against Defendant Dean, and other constitutional violations arising from these acts of retaliation while Plaintiff was at CSATF, (2) claims related to Defendant Lopez's assault on Plaintiff when Plaintiff asked for a meat substitute, (3) Defendants Byers and Hunt's denial of medical care, and (4) claims arising out of Plaintiff's time at RJD.*fn3

The Court will review and discuss all of Plaintiff's claims and the law applicable to them so that Plaintiff might evaluate which, if any, he feels may be and should be pursued here and which, if any, may be and should be pursued in different actions.*fn4

Plaintiff must initiate a separate action, i.e., file a separate civil complaint, on each unrelated claim against different defendants at different facilities. If he does not, all unrelated claims will be subject to dismissal.

B. Linkage Requirement

As an initial issue, Plaintiff has not stated a claim against Defendants Saleas, Plunkett, and Journagan because he has not linked them to any direct violation of his rights. Plaintiff has also not stated a claim against Defendants Cates, Gurbino, and Foston because ...

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