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Timothy Howard v. D. L. Deazevedo

November 28, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge


Findings and Recommendations Recommending Motion to Dismiss be Denied

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff Timothy Howard, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on January 20, 2011. Pursuant to the Court's screening order, this action for damages is proceeding on Plaintiff's amended complaint on (1) Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claims against Defendants DeAzevedo, Paz, and Stephens arising out of the search of Plaintiff's cell and against Defendant DeAzevedo arising out of the issuance of the false RVR, and (2) Plaintiff's due process claim against Defendants James arising out of the adjudication of the false RVR. (Doc. 14.)

On July 13, 2012, Defendants DeAzevedo, Paz, Stephens, and James filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff filed an opposition on July 27, 2012, and Defendants filed a reply on August 3, 2012. The motion has been submitted upon the record without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(l).

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)) (quotation marks omitted); Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1762 (2012); Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The Court must accept the well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Daniels-Hall v. National Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010); Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 553 U.S. 1031 (2008); Huynh v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 465 F.3d 992, 996-97 (9th Cir. 2006); Morales v. City of Los Angeles, 214 F.3d 1151, 1153 (9th Cir. 2000). Further, although the pleading standard is now higher, the Ninth Circuit has continued to emphasize that 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. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012); Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); Silva v. Di Vittorio, 658 F.3d 1090, 1101 (9th Cir. 2011); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010).

B. Plaintiff's First Amendment Retaliation Claims

The Court previously screened Plaintiff's amended complaint and in doing so, it issued a detailed order explaining the bases for its findings that Plaintiff stated cognizable claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; Docs. 11, 14. The screening standard is the same standard which governs Rule 12(b)(6) motions, Watison, 668 F.3d at 1112, and therefore, in cases which have been screened, the Court generally views motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim with disfavor. Unless a motion sets forth new or different grounds not previously considered by the Court, it is disinclined to "'rethink what it has already thought.'" Sequoia Forestkeeper v. U.S. Forest Service, No. CV F 09-392 LJO JLT, 2011 WL 902120, at *6 (E.D.Cal. Mar. 15, 2011) (quoting United States v. Rezzonico, 32 F.Supp.2d 1112, 1116 (D.Ariz.1998)). For the reasons which follow, the instant motion presents no exception to the general disfavor with which such motions are viewed, and Court is not persuaded to depart from its prior screening order.

1. Legal Standard

"Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal." Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005); accord Watison, 668 F.3d at 1114-15; Silva, 658 F.3d at 1104; Brodheim v. Cry, 584 F.3d 1262, 1269 (9th Cir. 2009).

2. Protected Conduct

Defendants first argue that Plaintiff was not engaged in conduct protected by the First Amendment because holding the administrative segregation yard hostage threatened the safety and security of the institution and was not protected conduct. To the extent that the Court's screening order was unclear, holding the yard "hostage" was not the protected conduct at issue. (Amend. Comp., ¶12.) Rather, Plaintiff's retaliation claim is premised on the adverse actions taken against him because he, along with other prisoners, complained to superior officers about subordinate officers' misconduct. (Id., ¶¶13, 14.) Seeking redress from the government is protected by the ...

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