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Victor Hugo Martinez v. C. Lawless

March 12, 2013


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


First Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement and Standard

Plaintiff Victor Hugo Martinez, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on August 9, 2012. The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an 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, 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)), and courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences," Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Pro se litigants are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121-23 (9th Cir. 2012); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010), but Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible to survive screening, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

II. Discussion

A. Allegations

Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), brings this action against Chief Deputy Warden C. Lawless; Associate Warden M. Biter; Facility Captain John Doe; Lieutenant R. Harden; Sergeant R. Molina; Special Agents M. Moses, S. Herrera, C. E. Chamberlin, and Montecino; Correctional Officer Trullinger; and Registered Nurses Davis and Guitron for violation of his rights under the United States Constitution.

Plaintiff's claims arise from events which commenced on January 1, 2011, at KVSP. Plaintiff jammed the door to his cell due to increased violence and racial tension on the yard, which prevented it from being opened by prison officials. Defendant Trullinger was able to open the door a crack and Defendant Herrera then attempted to force it open. Plaintiff approached the cell door to remove the jamming device and, through the crack in the door, Defendant Morse sprayed Plaintiff in the eyes and face with pepper spray, which immediately temporarily blinded Plaintiff. Plaintiff was then pulled out and thrown on the floor, face down, at which time he was punched, kicked, kneed, pounced on, and called names for approximately ten minutes. During the incident, Plaintiff felt a sharp pain in the back of his head.

Plaintiff was subsequently taken to be decontaminated, and he learned his clothes were soaked with blood and he had a gash in the back of his head. Plaintiff tried to explain to Defendant Guitron, a registered nurse, how his injuries occurred, but Guitron just walked away and failed to properly take notes or document Plaintiff's injuries. Defendants Molina and Herrera were present, and they claimed that Plaintiff's injuries were caused by his resistance and they instructed Defendant Guitron on how to fill out the report.

Plaintiff was taken to the CTC (Central Treatment Center), where he was seen by a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). That LVN walked out when Plaintiff explained what happened and another LVN came in. Plaintiff alleges that neither LVN documented the shortness of breath and chest pains of which he complained.

During an interview with Defendant Molina and Sergeant Sell, Plaintiff complained about the use of force, but the interview was cut short when Plaintiff demanded to know who had used the force on him and why. Plaintiff raised the same issues during his 114 hearing (administrative segregation lock-up ...

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