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Harris v. Valero

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 23, 2013

DONTE ROLANDO HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JESUS A. VALERO, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING ACTION FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.

I. Screening Requirement and Standard

Plaintiff Donte Rolando Harris ("Plaintiff") is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics , 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999 (1971). Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed on June 24, 2013, is currently before the Court for screening.[1]

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).

Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler , 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). 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. United States 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.

Bivens actions and actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "are identical save for the replacement of a state actor under § 1983 by a federal actor under Bivens. " Van Strum v. Lawn , 940 F.2d 406, 409 (9th Cir.1991). Under Bivens, a plaintiff may sue a federal officer in his or her individual capacity for damages for violating the plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Bivens , 403 U.S. at 397. To state a claim a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a federal actor.

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff currently is housed at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana. The events alleged in his second amended complaint occurred while Plaintiff was housed at United States Penitentiary-Atwater ("USP-Atwater") in Atwater, California. Plaintiff names Special Investigative Services Officer Jesus A. Valero as the sole defendant.

Plaintiff alleges as follows: On or about November 7, 2007, a Special Investigation Services ("SIS") official seized Plaintiff's incoming mail without the submission of a required confiscation form. On or about June 5, 2008, Plaintiff requested the status of his outgoing mail and was informed that his mail was in possession of the SIS department. In May 2009, Plaintiff and other prisoners were called into the Lieutenant's office. When his name was called, Plaintiff witnessed a large box full of his incoming and outgoing mail that had been seized over time by the SIS department. Plaintiff asked Defendant Valero for return of the items, but Defendant stated, "I'm not giving you anything, I don't understand any of it, ask Valerie Stewart, she'll decide what to do with it."

On or about February 23, 2009, Plaintiff tried to mail a potential legal document addressed to his family for filing with the Uniform Commercial Code office. Defendant intercepted this outgoing mail item. Despite submitting the required confiscation form, Defendant executed an incident report against Plaintiff. Defendant reportedly rewrote the same incident report twice in an effort to sanction Plaintiff.

On or about December 28, 2009, Plaintiff was placed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at USP-Atwater for investigation reasons. Plaintiff contacted 2A unit manager, J. Ciufo, concerning his placement in the SHU. J. Cuifo specifically stated, "You know why you're down here, for your UCC antics. Talk to Zaragoza and Valero, they know more than I do."

On or about August 5, 2010, Plaintiff submitted a staff request to SIS Lt. Zaragoza about the continuous seizure of Plaintiff's mail without providing a confiscation form. Defendant elected not to respond to Plaintiff's request.

On or about July 26, 2010, while in the SHU, Plaintiff's family sent a certified mail package containing legal papers and other leisure information. Without providing the necessary confiscation form, Defendant seized this mail item. Plaintiff was unaware of this seizure until July 29, 2010, when J. Cuifo informed Plaintiff of this item's existence. After repeated requests to the SHU Lieutenant, Defendant came to the SHU ...


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