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Bruce Patrick Haney v. D. Castillo

August 30, 2012


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





Plaintiff Bruce Patrick Haney is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action filed on April 24, 2012 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The 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).


Plaintiff alleges his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison ("CSP"). His claims are summarized as follows:

In February 2009, Plaintiff filed an excessive force lawsuit against Defendant Castillo who exhibited a pattern and practice of using excessive force against inmates.*fn1 (Compl. at 4, 7-8.)

On March 30, 2011, Defendant Castillo took from Plaintiff legal documents relating to the 2009 lawsuit, cuffed him and, along with Defendant Taber, threw him to the ground causing an unspecified shoulder injury and minor scratches. (Id. at 3, 5-6.)

Defendant Nurse Ballesteros evaluated Plaintiff after this use of force and though Plaintiff told her of his injuries, she complied with custody staff requests by neither completely checking for injuries nor documenting all injuries in the medical chart. (Id. at 6.)

Defendant Castillo falsely charged Plaintiff with battery on an officer in the March 30th incident (Id. at 4-5) and conspired with Defendants Taber, Nadal, Munoz and Mathews to falsely find him guilty and place him in administrative segregation. (Id. at 5-8.) Castillo then conspired with Defendants Gonzales (Ad-Seg Legal Officer) and Law Librarian Guzman to deny and delay law library services, causing Plaintiff to miss a court deadline in the 2009 lawsuit and interfering with his appeal from dismissal of that lawsuit. (Id. at 8-9.)

Warden Gipson was aware of the 2009 lawsuit and Defendant Castillo's history of excessive force complaints and dangerous propensities against inmates and failed to discipline Castillo, thereby increasing the risk to inmates. (Id. at 7-8.)

In April of 2011, Plaintiff wrote Defendant Riches, counsel for Castillo in the 2009 lawsuit, advising him of the foregoing and requesting copies of the legal documents taken from him. (Id. at 6.) Riches conspired with Castillo to not respond and deny Plaintiff access to court. (Id.)

In October of 2011, Plaintiff filed in Kings County Superior Court a tort complaint against corrections staff at CSP. As part of a pattern of interfering with inmate legal documents the Superior Court has failed to provide Plaintiff a conformed copy of the complaint for service and thereby denied him access to court. (Id. at 9.)

Plaintiff names as Defendants (1) D. Castillo, CSP Correctional Officer, (2) A. Nadal, CSP Correctional Sergeant, (3) Munoz, CSP Correctional Lieutenant, (4) S.W. Taber, CSP Correctional Sergeant, (5) M. Ballesteros, CSP Nurse, (6) Gipson, CSP Warden, (7) D. Mathews, CSP Correctional Lieutenant, (8) J. Gonzales, CSP Correctional Officer, (9) J. Guzman, CSP Law Librarian, (10) John Riches, Deputy Attorney General, (11) J. Matteson, Deputy Court Administrator, Kings County Superior Court, (12) J. Lewis, Chief Deputy Clerk, Kings County Superior Court, (13) T. Barton, Clerk Hanford Superior Court. (Id. at 2-3.)

He seeks monetary compensation. (Id. at 3.)


A. Pleading Requirements Generally

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987).

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 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Id. Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 667-68.

B. Personal Participation

To state a claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each individually named defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). The Supreme Court has emphasized that the term "supervisory liability," loosely and commonly used by both courts and litigants alike, is a misnomer. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant, through his or her own individual actions, violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Id. at 675-78.

Defendants can not be held liable under § 1983 solely because of their supervisory capacity. There is no respondeat superior liability under [§] 1983." Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). "Liability under [§] 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant. A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations of . . . subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them. See Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446-47 (9th Cir. 1991) (concluding that knowledge of a policy and practice of overcrowding that allegedly resulted in inmate's rape could be sufficient to establish liability). "A showing that a supervisor acted, or failed to act, in a manner that was deliberately indifferent to an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights is sufficient to demonstrate the involvement-and the liability-of that supervisor." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.2d 1202, 1206-07 (9th Cir. 2011). "[A] plaintiff may state a claim against a supervisor for deliberate indifference based upon the supervisor's knowledge of and acquiescence in unconstitutional conduct by his or her subordinates. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Warden Gipson failed to properly supervise. However, nothing before the Court suggests Defendant Gipson participated in or directed the alleged violations, knew of an excessive risk of such violations and then failed to act to prevent them, or was aware of a policy or practice that resulted in these violations. General allegations that Defendant Castillo had numerous excessive force complaints against him, without more, are not sufficient to show a knowing failure to act.

Plaintiff also fails to allege facts personally linking Defendants Matteson, Lewis, and Barton to the alleged rights violations. Although these Defendants may have held supervisory state court positions, that alone is ...

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