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Cato v. Yale

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 24, 2013

JAMES CATO, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
J. YALE, Defendant.

ORDER DISMISSING ACTION FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 18)

BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.

I. Screening Requirement and Standard

Plaintiff James Cato, Jr., a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on September 13, 2011. On April 3, 2013, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's first amended complaint for failure to state a claim and granted Plaintiff leave to a second amended complaint. (ECF No. 17.) Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed on April 29, 2013, is currently before the Court for screening.

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 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, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, 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 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, the pleading standard is now higher, Hebbe v. Pliler , 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted), and to survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, 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, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (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, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss , 572 F.3d at 969.

II. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

A. Summary of Allegations

As with his first amended complaint, Plaintiff's second amended complaint names J. Yale, a correctional officer at Corcoran State Prison, as the sole defendant in this action.

Plaintiff alleges as follows: On April 30, 2010, Plaintiff obtained approximately 50 catalogs/50 photographs from the law library officer to use as exhibits in a legal complaint. The catalogs and photographs were mailed to the United States District Court, Eastern District of California as exhibits to a complaint he filed on May 5, 2010.

On March 2, 2011, the district court directed the court clerk to send Plaintiff's 50 catalogs/50 photographs to the litigation coordinator at Corcoran State Prison.

On April 12, 2011, Defendant J. Yale came into control of Plaintiff's mail (50 catalogs/50 photographs), which were previously lodged as exhibits with the district court. On that date, Defendant J. Yale willfully destroyed Plaintiff's 50 catalogs/50 photographs. As Plaintiff received the catalogs and photographs in the mail and they did not violate any department rule, Defendant J. Yale's action was in retaliation for Plaintiff filing an excessive force complaint against correctional officers who work with Defendant J. Yale at Corcoran State Prison.

Defendant J. Yale then generated a false departmental document in an attempt to cover up his destruction of Plaintiff's mail. In this document, Defendant J. Yale alleged that Plaintiff's mail (50 catalogs/50 photographs) was in violation of the department's contraband regulation for obscene/explicit material. Plaintiff asserts that this allegation was false because Plaintiff received the 50 catalogs/50 photographs in the mail and was issued said items by the law library officer to send to the Court as an exhibit attached to Plaintiff's complaint. Defendant J. Yale also alleged that he previously confiscated Plaintiff's 50 catalogs/50 photographs and mailed them out on January 29, 2011. Plaintiff asserts that this lie was brought to light by the Court's own order of March 2, 2011, stating that Plaintiff's materials had been lodged as an exhibit since May 5, 2010. (Exhibit B to Second Amended Complaint.) Defendant J. Yale also alleged that Plaintiff's family sent the 50 catalogs/50 photographs to the Court attached to an excessive force claim. Plaintiff asserts that this lie was brought to light by the Court's own admission to Plaintiff's filing his complaint on May 5, 2010.

Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant J. Yale destroyed Plaintiff's mail before any appeal and destroyed the documents on the same day that he came into control of them. Plaintiff asserts that the destruction of the 50 catalogs/50 photographs (1) violated his First Amendment right to receive mail; (2) destroyed mail that is irreplaceable in retaliation for Plaintiff pursuing an excessive force claim against fellow officers; (3) denied Plaintiff's due process right to ...


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