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Austin v. Cermeno

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 4, 2013

J. CERMENO, et al., Defendants.




Plaintiff filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which will be granted in a separate Order.

The Court now conducts its initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.


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. See 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. See id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See 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 color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

A supervisor may be liable under § 1983 upon a showing of personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (citation omitted). A supervisor therefore generally "is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them." Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). This includes evidence that a supervisor implemented "a policy so deficient that the policy itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights and is the moving force of the constitutional violation." Redman, 942 F.2d at 1446; see Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 917 (9th Cir. 2001).

II. Exhaustion

A question which must be answered before Plaintiff can proceed with his claims is whether he has exhausted available administrative remedies with respect to each claim.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), amended 42 U.S.C. § 1997e to provide that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Under this section, an action must be dismissed unless the prisoner exhausted his available administrative remedies before he filed suit, even if the prisoner fully exhausts while the suit is pending. See McKinney v. Carey, 311 F.3d 1198, 1199 (9th Cir. 2002). "[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). Exhaustion of all "available" remedies is mandatory; those remedies need not meet federal standards, nor must they be "plain, speedy and effective." Id. at 524; Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739-40 & n.5 (2001). Even when the prisoner seeks relief not available in grievance proceedings, notably money damages, exhaustion is a prerequisite to suit. Id. at 741. The purposes of the exhaustion requirement include allowing the prison to take responsive action, filtering out frivolous cases and creating an administrative record. See Porter, 534 U.S. at 525.

A prisoner's concession to nonexhaustion is a valid ground for dismissal, so long as no exception to exhaustion applies. Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1120 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 810 (2003). Accordingly, a claim may be dismissed without prejudice if it is clear from the record that the prisoner has conceded that he did not exhaust administrative remedies. Id.

The State of California provides its inmates and parolees the right to appeal administratively "any departmental decision, action, condition or policy perceived by those individuals as adversely affecting their welfare." See Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3084.1(a). It also provides its inmates the right to file administrative appeals alleging misconduct by correctional officers. See id. § 3084.1(e). In order to exhaust available administrative remedies within this system, a prisoner must proceed through several levels of appeal: (1) informal resolution, (2) formal written appeal on a CDC 602 inmate appeal form, (3) second level appeal to the institution head or designee, and (4) third level appeal to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. See id. § 3084.5; Barry v. Ratelle, 985 F.Supp. 1235, 1237 (S.D. Cal. 1997). This satisfies the administrative remedies exhaustion requirement under § 1997e(a). See id. at 1237-38.

Here, the record is unclear whether Plaintiff exhausted his claims to the Director's level before filing his federal complaint. Plaintiff contends that his "appeals [were] never returned back to him." (Compl. at 2.) He adds that he filed "several appeals that [were] intentional[ly] and unjustifiabl[y] interfered with... hindering [his] rights to exhaust [his] remedies fully." ( Id. ) However, Plaintiff's allegations are conclusory because he does not support them with additional information relating to these appeals, i.e., the dates they were submitted or the claims that he attempted to exhaust. It thus appears Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

Accordingly, it appears that Plaintiff's claims are unexhausted and subject to dismissal. Therefore, Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend his complaint to prove that he exhausted all of his claims against each Defendant before he filed this action. If Plaintiff did exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to any or all of those claims before filing this action, he may amend his complaint to so allege, as set forth below.


For the foregoing reasons, the Court orders as follows:

1. Within twenty-eight (28) days from the date of this Order, Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint as set forth above. Plaintiff must use the attached civil rights form, write the case number for this action - Case No. C 12-05187 YGR (PR) - on the form, clearly label the complaint "Amended Complaint, " and complete all sections of the form. Because an amended complaint completely replaces the original complaint, Plaintiff must include in it all the claims he wishes to present. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 915 (1992); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987); London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981). He may not incorporate material from the original complaint by reference. He must also specify whether he exhausted or was prevented from exhausting his administrative remedies with respect to any or all of those claims before filing this action. Plaintiff's failure to file an amended complaint by the deadline will result in the dismissal of this action without prejudice.

2. It is Plaintiff's responsibility to prosecute this case. Plaintiff must keep the Court informed of any change of address and must comply with the Court's orders in a timely fashion. Pursuant to Northern District Local Rule 3-11 a party proceeding pro se whose address changes while an action is pending must promptly file a notice of change of address specifying the new address. See L.R. 3-11(a). The Court may dismiss without prejudice a complaint when: (1) mail directed to the pro se party by the Court has been returned to the Court as not deliverable, and (2) the Court fails to receive within sixty days of this return a written communication from the pro se party indicating a current address. See L.R. 3-11(b).

3. Extensions of time are not favored, though reasonable extensions will be granted. Any motion for an extension of time must be filed no later than fourteen (14) days prior to the deadline sought to be extended.

4. The Clerk of the Court shall send Plaintiff a blank civil rights form along with a copy of this Order.


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