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Masala James v. D. Sweeny

December 26, 2012


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



Plaintiff Masala James is a state prisoner proceeding in pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action filed October 17, 2012 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff has declined to extend Magistrate Judge jurisdiction for all purposes and proceedings. (Decline Magistrate, ECF No. 5.) 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).


Plaintiff is a self-styled jailhouse lawyer who at times relevant was incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") and employed as an prison ADA Care giver. He complains that PVSP corrections staff retaliated against him for the many grievances and complaints he filed on behalf of himself and others, attempted to incite inmate violence against him, and were indifferent to a resulting serious risk to his well-being.

He alleges that such actions and inaction violated rights guaranteed him under the First and Eighth Amendments.

More specifically, Plaintiff alleges as follows: Defendant correctional officers Sweeny and Harding, who supervised Plaintiff in his prison employment as ADA Care giver, harassed and incited him with "racist, disrespectful, and provocative" conduct in violation of Title 15 regulations requiring courtesy and professionalism,*fn1 and violated unspecified provisions of the California Labor Code relating to job discrimination, performance, evaluation and record keeping, (Compl. at 7-8 ¶¶ 17-19, 10 ¶ 24), whereupon Plaintiff filed various inmate grievances, and complaints to the Fresno Grand Jury. (Id.)

Defendant appeals coordinators Morgan, Foreman and Jimenez conspired with Sweeny and Hardin in a retaliatory "code of silence", improperly rejecting Plaintiff's grievances, "undermining reporting requirements" without any legitimate correctional goal (id. at 8-9 ¶ 20-22), impeding "access to the courts", and attempting to incite other inmates to pressure and threaten Plaintiff to get him to stop filing grievances for himself and others placing Plaintiff in imminent harm. (Id. at 11-12 ¶ 27.)

Defendants and other "agents/employees of the administration" named as Does 1-12 have a "pattern and practice of retaliation" against those who file prison grievances. (Id. at 11 ¶ 26.)

Defendants' conspiracy of retaliation is "with the overt intent, to sadistically and maliciously cause serious and/or fatal harm to [P]laintiff, in violation [of the] deliberate indifference /imminent danger standard of the Eighth Amendment . . . ." (Id. at 12-13 ¶ 31.)

Plaintiff names as Defendants (1) D. Sweeny, Correctional Officer, (2) J. Hardin, Correctional Officer, (3) J. Morgan, Appeals Coordinator, (4) D. Foreman, Appeals Coordinator, (5) J. Jimenez, Appeals Coordinator, (6) L. Harton, Appeals Coordinator, and (7) Does 1-12.*fn2 (Id. at 2-3 § III and 5 § IV.)

Plaintiff seeks (1) declaratory relief, (id. at 13 ¶ 33), (2) injunctive relief "ordering Defendants D. Sweeny, J. Hardin, J. Morgan, D. Foreman, J. Jimenez, L. Harton, and Does 1-12, their agents, employees, and all persons acting in concert with them from subjecting [P]laintiff to the unconstitutional and unlawful acts, omission, policies, and conditions described above; and to refrain from conspiring to deprive [P]laintiff of his First Amendment right . . . and his Eighth Amendment right . . . ." (id. at 13 ¶ 34), and (3) monetary compensation. (Id. at 13 ¶ 35.)


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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (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 1949--50.

Every pleading must be signed personally by an unrepresented party. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(a).

If Plaintiff chooses to amend, any amended pleading should be complete within itself, without reference to or attachment of another pleading. Local Rule 220. Any amended pleading must be signed personally by Plaintiff.

B. Unnamed Defendants and Doe Defendants

Plaintiff lists, but fails to name as defendants McDonald, CDCR Director, and P.D. ...

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