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Azhar Lal v. M.D. Mcdonald

July 19, 2012

AZHAR LAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
M.D. MCDONALD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Pending before the court is plaintiff's amended complaint.

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

SCREENING REQUIREMENT

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT

In his amended complaint, plaintiff has identified as the defendants Warden McDonald and nearly two dozen other prison officials employed by High Desert State Prison (HDSP) or the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint that the defendants have denied him access to courts and retaliated against him. Specifically, in his first claim, plaintiff alleges that went to the law library and showed defendant Williams two letters from "Fair Trials Abroad" in which they requested a copy of his petition for writ of habeas corpus and petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. According to plaintiff, defendant Williams refused to make him copies of those documents because plaintiff could not afford to pay for the copies from his trust account. Plaintiff filed an inmate appeal regarding defendant Williams' refusal to provide him copies, and in response to that grievance defendants Runnels and McDonald found that defendant Williams had acted appropriately because correspondence between prisoners and attorneys or public officials is not considered legal material under departmental regulations. Plaintiff appealed from that decision to the director's level of review, but defendant Grannis insisted that plaintiff's appeal was not timely filed. Ultimately, plaintiff alleges, the Supreme Court denied his pending petitions. In his amended complaint, plaintiff blames defendants for his lack of success before the Supreme Court because, plaintiff claims, "Fair Trials Abroad" could have assisted him had he been able to provide them with the necessary copies of his documents. (Am. Compl. at 5-8.)

In his second claim, plaintiff alleges that he received a court order in a civil case from this court allowing him to either serve nine defendants or amend his complaint to state a cognizable claim against six additional defendants. Shortly thereafter, an unnamed prison guard came to plaintiff's cell and threatened him with regard to that civil litigation. Plaintiff alleges that a prison lock-down then took place during which time prison officials searched his cell and found two weapons. As a result, a rules violation report was issued against him and he was placed in administrative segregation. While in administrative segregation, plaintiff alleges that he asked for his legal property but did not receive it even though prison officials had fully granted his inmate appeal for the return of his property. According to plaintiff, he withdrew a petition for discovery in his habeas corpus case pending in the California Supreme Court because prison officials refused to give him his legal property. Only after petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with Lassen County complaining that he had not received his legal property, did prison officials turn over some ...


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