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Chacon v. Cerrini

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 30, 2013

EDIN A. CHACON, Plaintiff,
v.
J. CERRINI, et al., Defendants.

ORDER OF SERVICE AND DIRECTING PARTIES TO FILE CONSENT OR DECLINATION TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE JURISDICTION

CLAUDIA WILKEN, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, a state prisoner incarcerated at the California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi (CCI), has filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the violation of his constitutional rights by prison officials at San Quentin State Prison (SQSP). His motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis has been granted.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id . § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 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).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on December 11, 2008, he was transferred from CCI to SQSP to attend the trial of his civil rights action against medical personnel at Pelican Bay State Prison.[1] He remained at SQSP until February 18, 2009, when he was transferred back to CCI.

Plaintiff claims that during the approximately three months he spent at SQSP, Correctional Officer J. Cerrini retaliated against him for his lawsuit by refusing to allow him access to legal materials he required for his trial, verbally harassing him and calling him a "stool pigeon" in front of other inmates, falsely accusing him of misconduct in order to keep him in administrative segregation, and intentionally throwing a food tray at him.

Further, Plaintiff maintains that after he returned to CCI in February 2009, CCI institutional gang investigators T. Crouch and J. Tyree, and CCI appeals coordinator K. Sampson, retaliated against him for his lawsuit by revalidating him as a gang member based on false evidence allegedly found by Cerrini in his cell at SQSP. Additionally, Plaintiff complains that after he was revalidated based on such evidence, he filed an administrative appeal at SQSP asking for the evidence to be removed from his file, but SQSP institutional gang investigator E. Patao and SQSP correctional lieutenant T. Amrhein-Conama retaliated against him by refusing to do so. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and equitable relief.

"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) (footnote omitted). To prove retaliation, a plaintiff must show that the defendants took adverse action against him or her that "would chill or silence a person of ordinary firmness from future First Amendment activities." White v. Lee , 227 F.3d 1214, 1228 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Mendocino Envtl. Ctr. v. Mendocino County , 192 F.3d 1283, 1300 (9th Cir. 1999)). Prisoners may not be retaliated against for exercising their right of access to the courts. See Schroeder v. McDonald , 55 F.3d 454, 461 (9th Cir. 1995).

When Plaintiff's allegations are construed liberally, they state a cognizable claim for retaliation ...


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