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Elvin John Cabrera v. Thomas M. Maddock

August 30, 2012


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



On April 8, 2010, Plaintiff Elvin John Cabrera, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff's Complaint is now before the Court for screening.


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).


The Complaint names the following individuals as Defendants: (1) Thomas M. Maddock, Director, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR); (2) Fernando Gonzalez, Warden, California Correctional Institution (CCI); (3) J. Gentry, Lieutenant, Institution Gang Investigation (IGI), CCI; (4) M. Carrasco, Associate Warden, CCI; (5) D. Zanchi, Facility Captain, CCI; (6) L. Schulteis, Chief Deputy Warden, CCI; (7) L. Gutierrez, Investigative Captain, CCI; (8) N. Grannis, Chief, Inmate Appeals; (9) E. Sanchez, IGI Correctional Sergeant, CCI; (10) L. Machado, IGI Correctional Sergeant, CCI; (11) M. Buechner, Special Service Agent (SSA), CDCR; (12) D. Jakanosky, SSA, CDCR; (13) B. Kingston, SSA, CDCR; (14) T. Casey, Appeals Coordinator, CCI; (15) T. Crouch, Assistant IGI Correctional Officer, CCI; and (16) ten John Does.

Plaintiff alleges the following:

On April 3, 2008, prison guards on the IV-A yard were assaulted. Plaintiff was in his cell during the attack and was not involved in the incident. In retaliation for the assault, prison officials conducted a large scale search targeting Hispanic inmates on the IV-A yard. The selected prisoners were removed from their cells, photographed, and their personal belongings searched. On April 11, 2008, Plaintiff, who is Hispanic, was placed in administrative segregation pending validation as a Mexican Mafia associate. (Compl. at 4.) Four drawings were found among Plaintiff's belongings. Defendant Sanchez reviewed the artwork and discovered multiple Mexican Mafia references. Sanchez concluded that two of the drawings were made by validated members of the gang. (Id. at 25, 29-30, 35-36.)

Sanchez conducted a pre-validation interview with Plaintiff on April 14, 2008. Plaintiff stated that the drawings were for artistic purposes only, and, because he had been enrolled in the art program for three years, were just some of the many art copies he had. Plaintiff told Sanchez that he was unaware of any gang references and did not know the artists. Plaintiff also told Sanchez that he was given no warning that the images were contraband or could be used as justification for gang validation. (Id. at 5.) Defendant Gentry submitted Plaintiff's validation package on April 18, 2008. (Id. at 7) On May 13, 2008, Defendants Buechner, Jakanosky, and Kingston signed the order validating Plaintiff as an associate of the Mexican Mafia. (Id. at 5, 37.) Plaintiff had no documented gang activity or affiliation prior to being validated. (Id. at 6.)

"On June 5, 2008, Plaintiff appeared before an institutional classification committee (ICC) for a program determination." (Id. at 5.) The committee consisted of Warden Carrasco, Cpt. Zanchi, Sgt. Machado, Sgt. Ortega, and others. Plaintiff presented an inmate appeal stating that there was no documented association between himself and the Mexican Mafia. Plaintiff explained to the committee that validation would have dangerous consequences: he would be forced to adopt gang lifestyle and be exposed to gang enemies. Plaintiff was placed in segregated custody because of his concerns. Defendant Machado interviewed Plaintiff in response to the appeal. (Id.) Machado instructed Plaintiff to submit an autobiography and re-housed Plaintiff. (Id. at 6.)

Plaintiff attended another ICC housing hearing on August 14, 2008 and reiterated his safety concerns and his belief that the validation was erroneous. The committee was not persuaded. Defendant Zanchi threatened to send Plaintiff to general population in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) if he did not reveal gang information. Plaintiff's request for a polygraph was denied. (Id.)

Plaintiff was interviewed by Defendant Couch in response to one of several inmate appeals contesting the validation. Plaintiff said that he received no warning that the drawings in question were considered gang related. He told Crouch he had no gang ties and nothing relied on for validation demonstrated otherwise. (Id. at 7.) Crouch stated that he believed Plaintiff was not actually a gang associate. He explained that in response to the April 3, 2008, assault on prison guards, gang investigators had been sent in to clear IV-A yard "of anybody who had even the least amount of evidence to" justify validation. He told Plaintiff that thirty-one inmates had been targeted. Crouch also explained that gang investigators do not specify what art is prohibited so they can catch individuals who choose to posses it. (Id. at 8.)

Plaintiff has appeared before classification committees to review his validation. The committee found Plaintiff's autobiography to be insufficient, but did not explain why. The committee has repeatedly denied Plaintiff's request for a polygraph. Plaintiff can not divulge information regarding the Mexican Mafia because he is not a member and thus has no knowledge. The review hearings "are conducted in a rote and perfunctory manner, as the committees do not make any individualized finding as to whether or not Plaintiff is truly a gang member/associate . . . ." (Id.) The Defendants refused to acknowledge evidence demonstrating that Plaintiff is not affiliated with the Mexican Mafia. (Id. at 10.)

Plaintiff asserts that he was validated as a gang member without justification and denied meaningful review in violation of his right to due process. He also claims that the decision to target him for investigation was based on his race in violation of his right to equal protection. The Complaint also includes an Eighth Amendment claim and an unspecified claim for the violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights.


A. Section 1983

To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements:

(1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United ...

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