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Emiliano Lopez v. R. L. Athey

January 30, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Emiliano Lopez ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed this action on December 16, 2011. He names Sergeant R. L. Athey, Captian Adrian Pineda, Warden James Yates, Vice Principal Cheryl Lopez, Law Library Technician Isaac Ramirez, and CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate as Defendants.


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 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).

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, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. 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. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff's allegations must link the actions or omissions of each named defendant to a violation of his rights; there is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-77; Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2010); Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. Plaintiff must present factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.


Plaintiff is incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"), where the events giving rise to this action occurred.

Plaintiff alleges that on February 23, 2010, the Hispanic population at PVSP was placed on lockdown. While on lockdown, Plaintiff submitted two inmate request forms seeking access to the law library. The requests were not answered and access was not granted.

On April 5, 2010, Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal. Defendant Ramirez responded the same day and told Plaintiff that he was informed by Defendant Athey that he could only make copies. Plaintiff filed an appeal for the First Level review.

During the lockdown, the law library made copies and brought legal cases to Plaintiff's cell (known as "paging") because he was approved for priority legal user status.

On April 20, 2010, the lockdown was lifted and Plaintiff was able to work on his petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed in the Kern County Superior Court and Los Angeles County Superior Court.

On June 9, 2010, Plaintiff was placed on lockdown again. He requested access to the law library, but was ignored.

Plaintiff filed for priority legal user status after the Fifth District Court of Appeals denied a habeas petition on June 23, 2010. Plaintiff wanted to submit the petition to the California Supreme Court. However, he was unable to physically access the law library and could not locate the rules relating to filing petitions in the California Supreme Court. Out of desperation, Plaintiff sent the California Supreme Court a request for an extension to file his writ. The request was denied on July 26, 2010.

On June 30, 2010, Defendant Lopez, Vice Principal in charge of law library operations, interviewed Plaintiff. She partially granted his appeal, but Plaintiff was still not let into the law library to perform research on the computer.

On July 23, 2010, Plaintiff was scheduled to access the law library. Prison officials escorted him to the program office, however, where he was "locked into a cage smaller than a phone booth," with no place to sit or write. Complaint, at 3.3. Defendant Ramirez gave Plaintiff a California Criminal Law Practice and Procedure book and left. Plaintiff spent two hours in the cage, expected to do research in these conditions. Afterwards, Plaintiff felt significant pain all over his body, which persisted for a couple of weeks.

Plaintiff continued to receive legal cases from the library, but complained that it was a very slow way to do research and continued to request access to the law library. On July 29, 2010, Defendant Yates partially granted his appeal but allowed only paging.

On July 29, 2010, Plaintiff's habeas petition in the Los Angeles County Superior Court was denied. Plaintiff submitted his habeas petition to the Second Appellate District and was advised to file his petition in the appellate district of the superior court. Plaintiff submitted the petition back to the same superior court a number of times.

On August 13, 2010, Plaintiff was scheduled for library access but was instead placed in the cage in the program office for two hours. He was allowed to use the California Criminal Law Practice and Procedure book, but not the computer.

Plaintiff filed another administrative appeal challenging the oppressive nature of accessing the law library in the cage after being granted physical access to the law library. Defendant Lopez answered the appeal on September 9, 2012, indicating that it was up to custody to escort him to the ...

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