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Keith Zavala v. Chris Chrones

June 11, 2012

KEITH ZAVALA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHRIS CHRONES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS BE DENIED (DOC. 76) OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE WITHIN FOURTEEN (14) DAYS

I. Findings And Recommendations

Plaintiff Keith Zavala ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action is proceeding on Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed May 24, 2010, against Defendants Chris Chrones, S. Kays, D. Smith, S. Chandler,*fn1 C. Martin, and Soto for deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss, filed November 2, 2011. Doc. 76. On November 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed his opposition. Doc. 77. The matter is submitted pursuant to Local Rule 230(l).

II. Motion To Dismiss

Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)*fn2 , contending that Plaintiff's action is frivolous or malicious, citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989). Defendants contend: 1) the actions taken by Defendants Chrones, Smith, Kays, and Thomas-Chandler did not place Plaintiff in danger, 2) it contains no facts regarding the liability of Defendant Soto, and 3) the complaint is malicious because it containing claims which Plaintiff knew at the time of filing were untrue and without basis. Defs.' Mem. P. & A. 3:16-4:24.

A. Frivolous Complaints

A complaint is "frivolous" within the meaning of § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) only if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. "To this end, the statute accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." Id. at 328. "Examples of the latter class are claims describing fantastic or delusional scenarios, claims with which federal district judges are all too familiar." Id. As later explained by the United States Supreme Court,

[A] court may dismiss a claim as factually frivolous only if the facts alleged are "clearly baseless," 490 U.S., at 327, 109 S.Ct., at 1833, a category encompassing allegations that are "fanciful," id., at 325, 109 S.Ct., at 1831, "fantastic," id., at 328, 109 S.Ct., at 1833, and "delusional," ibid. As those words suggest, a finding of factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them. An in forma pauperis complaint may not be dismissed, however, simply because the court finds the plaintiff's allegations unlikely. Some improbable allegations might properly be disposed of on summary judgment, but to dismiss them as frivolous without any factual development is to disregard the age-old insight that many allegations might be "strange, but true; for truth is always strange, Stranger than fiction." Lord Byron, Don Juan, canto XIV, stanza 101 (T. Steffan, E. Steffan & W. Pratt eds. 1977). Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33(1992).

Factually frivolous claims are defined as "clearly baseless," which includes "fanciful," "fantastic," and "delusional." Id. A finding of frivolousness thus requires the Court to conclude that Plaintiff's allegations were irrational or wholly incredible.

Defendants submit documentation in support: Exhibit A, a classification chrono issued June 19, 2007, and Exhibit B, a confidential supplement to appeal, also known as an appeal inquiry, regarding Plaintiff's assault on September 15, 2007. Defendant contends that these documents show that Plaintiff placed himself in danger, and that Defendant Soto was not involved in the classification committee's actions.

Plaintiff contends that 1) Defendants attempt to introduce evidence beyond the pleadings, thus converting this action to a motion for summary judgment and 2) Defendants' documents do not disprove Plaintiff's claims. Pl.'s Opp'n, Mem. P. & A. 1-7.*fn3

Based on the controlling case law, the Court cannot find that Plaintiff's complaint was frivolous. Plaintiff's claims were not fanciful, fantastic, or delusional. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant C. Martin had told several inmates of the southern Mexicans that Plaintiff was an informant and insane, creating a high and unreasonable risk that Plaintiff would be murdered or assaulted by the Mexican Mafia. Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ("SAC") ¶ 54, Doc. 18. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants Chrones, Smith, Kay, and Chandler knew or should have known of the high risk of Plaintiff being murdered or assaulted if he was released to the general population based on the evidence before them, namely a confiscated letter targeting Plaintiff for assault. Id.

¶ 35. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Soto knew or should have known of the high and unreasonable risk to Plaintiff if he was released to general population, based on the evidence before him, namely the CDC 128G classification chrono noting the contents of the letter. Id. ¶

44. The Court finds none of these claims to be wholly incredible or irrational. Based on the allegations, Plaintiff stated a cognizable claim for deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment as to all Defendants. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994). What Defendants contend are that Plaintiff's claims are false. That, however, is a different legal question, more properly resolved by a motion for summary judgment. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (the "purpose of summary judgment is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof ...


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