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Sabrina Lester v. State A Claim Miller

July 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge


I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Sabrina Lester, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, filed this action on June 27, 2011. 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 "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

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, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)).

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, but the pleading standard is now higher, Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted), and to survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" is not sufficient, and "facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

II. Discussion

A. Linkage Requirement

Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is currently incarcerated at the California Institute for Women, Corona. At the time of the incidents alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff was housed at Valley State Prison for Women ("VSPW"). Plaintiff brings this action against numerous prison officials and "all inmates who involved themselves and were paid drugs by inmate Rocha" to lie about this case and "inmates who helped Tillman use the green scrubbing pad to set [her] up. (Compl. 2,*fn1 ECF No. 1.)

Under section 1983, Plaintiff is required to show that (1) each defendant acted under color of state law and (2) each defendant deprived her of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of her rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983, and therefore, each defendant is only liable for his or her own misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675-76, 129 S. Ct. at 1948-49.

In this instance, Plaintiff has not sufficiently linked the defendants named in her complaint to any acts or omissions that purportedly led to the violation of those rights. For example, Plaintiff alleges that because she refused to use crystal meth and engage in sexual orgies with other inmates, and they were jealous of her, the inmates made false statements and manipulated Defendant Castellon to falsely report an injury. (ECF No. 1 at 3, 5, 7.) Plaintiff claims that her cellmates have two cell phones, a large amount of tobacco and crystal meth, and were housed with her by Defendants Castellon, Lopez, Moore, McGraw, and Van Hoff to set her up. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff states that because she filed inmate appeals and staff complaints, there was retaliation by Defendants Castellon, Lopez, Moore, McGraw, and Van Hoff,and if an inmate files an inmate appeal prison officials house that inmate with sexual predators. (Id. at 4, 7). Defendant Wells keeps giving Plaintiff a story about mail and inmate requests not being delivered to him. Plaintiff saw Defendant Wells talking to Defendant McGraw and it seemed to Plaintiff as if Defendant McGraw was telling Defendant Wells not to bother with investigating her false imprisonment claim. (Id. at 7.)

These assertions do not suffice to show that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated by these Defendants. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. The vague and conclusory allegations contained in the complaint do not link the named defendants to any act or failure to act that violated her constitutional rights. Iqbal at 1949 ("Absent vicarious liability, each Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct."); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934; George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation.").

Additionally, the bases for Plaintiff's legal claims are not clear from the complaint. The Court will not guess as to which facts Plaintiff believes show any given constitutional violation(s). It is Plaintiff's duty to correlate her claims for relief with their alleged factual basis. If Plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, Plaintiff must demonstrate how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of her constitutional rights.

Plaintiff will be permitted the opportunity to file an amended complaint clarifying the factual bases for her claims against each defendant. Plaintiff's amended complaint need not and should not be lengthy, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), but it must specify what each defendant did or did not do that led to the violation of Plaintiff's rights. Conclusory assertions of personal involvement or liability will not suffice. Iqbal at 1949-50. In the paragraphs that follow, the Court will provide Plaintiff with the legal standards that appear to apply to her claims. Plaintiff should carefully review the standards and amend only those claims that she believes, in good faith, are cognizable.

1. Habeas Corpus

Plaintiff claims that the case against her was made up because other inmates are jealous of her. She wants the 360 days credit restored and the referral of charges to the District Attorney dropped. (ECF No. 1 at 5.) Additionally, ...

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