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Paul C. Hamilton v. J.A. Yates

June 29, 2012


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



Plaintiff Paul C. Hamilton ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Plaintiff initiated this action on July 14, 2008 in Fresno County Superior Court. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Defendants Yates, Mattingly, Trimble, and Spearman were served on February 26, 2009. (Id. at 2.) On March 30, 2009, Defendants removed the action to this Court which in turn remanded back to state court. (Id.) In state court, Defendants filed a demurrer to which Plaintiff filed opposition stating that he was bringing a claim under the United States Constitution. (Id.) The state court found that Plaintiff was judicially estopped from asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Plaintiff sought review at the Fifth District Court of Appeal. (Id.) The Fifth District Court of Appeal determined that Plaintiff's statements during the removal proceedings were ambiguous and that he was essentially asserting a claim under section 1983. (Id.) Defendants then removed this action again to this Court. (Id.) Plaintiff filed another motion to remand that was denied. (ECF Nos. 6, 7, 11, & 15.)

Plaintiff's Complaint is now before the Court for screening. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at Ex. A.) The Court finds that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim. Plaintiff 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, malicious," or 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).

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).


Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"), where the events alleged in his Complaint occurred. Plaintiff alleges that the following individuals violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments: 1) J.A. Yates, warden, 2) J. Mattingly, assistant warden, 3) R. H. Trimble, assistant warden, and 4) M.E. Spearman, assistant warden.

Plaintiff seeks $15,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. (Compl. at 14.) He also asks that Defendants stop engaging in their harmful conduct and for a jury trial. (Id. at 15.)

Plaintiff allegations are as follows:

A riot between Hispanic and Black inmates occurred at PVSP's C Facility in May 2007. (Compl. at 7.) On June 2, 2007, Defendant Mattingly ordered that all black inmates and a portion of Hispanic inmates be placed on lock-down. (Id.) Defendants used race to determine who to punish instead of identifying rioters from surveillance tapes. (Id. at 8.) On June 3, 2007, Plaintiff filed a grievance about only a portion of the Hispanic inmates being placed on lock-down. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff's grievance was denied on the first level by Defendant Spearman and at the second level by Defendant Trimble. (Id. at 9.) Plaintiff notified Defendant Yates about the situation but he did not respond. (Id. at 8.)

Plaintiff was also denied the ability to exercise outdoors for over five months. (Compl. at 8, 14.)

Plaintiff was also subject to inhumane conditions at PVSP. (Compl. at 10.) On June 30, 2007, he submitted a grievance about feces and urine odors in his cell and asked that he be assigned to a different cell. (Id.) Defendants Mattingly and Spearman reviewed the grievance and it was denied at all levels. (Id. at 10, 13.)

In July 2007, Plaintiff was placed on lock-down with other black inmates even though he was classified as an "other" for programming purposes. (Compl. at 11.) Plaintiff was classified as black even though he is African Bahamian. (Id. at 9.) Plaintiff filed a grievance. (Id. at 12.) Defendant Spearman and Lieutenant Dickenson denied the grievance because it was duplicative, and it did not reach the third level of review. (Id.) All of the Defendants denied Plaintiff's request with a "culpable state of mind," even though the requested relief was warranted. (Id.)


A. Section 1983 Claims

To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege two ...

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