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Cotton v. Cate

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 24, 2013



WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge.


Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner, filed this civil rights case under 42 U.S.C. 1983. He has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order. After a review of the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915A(a), the claims against defendants Matthew Cate and Randy Grounds are dismissed, and the complaint is ordered served upon defendants J. Young and A. Landou.



Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek 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 which 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. at 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the.... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974.

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 deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).


Plaintiff alleges that he is a member of an African religion called Shetaut Neter. He alleges that he filed a request form with defendant J. Young, the prison chaplain, for services for his religion. He alleges that he does not have access to other inmates to determine who else might be a member of his religion. According to plaintiff, he never received a response to his request, so he filed an administrative grievance in which he also requested a chaplain of his religion and a variety of items for his worship. When he received no response to his grievance, he wrote a letter to the Warden, defendant Grounds, complaining that he did not receive a response to his administrative grievance.

Plaintiff claims that the failure to respond to his administrative grievances violates his constitutional rights. Failure to respond to or properly process administrative appeals is not a constitutional violation because there is no constitutional right to a prison administrative appeal or grievance system. See Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003). Consequently, such a claim will be dismissed against all defendants.

Plaintiff's allegations, when liberally construed, do state cognizable claims for the violation of his right to the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment, and his rights under the Religious and Land Use of Institutionalized Persons Act against defendant J. Young.

Plaintiff has alleged no conduct by defendant Landou. "A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights." Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). Liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under Section 1983, moreover, only if the plaintiff can show that the defendant proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). Plaintiff has not alleged how Landou was personally involved in the deprivation of his constitutional rights, let alone how he might have proximately caused such a violation. He has not, therefore, stated a cognizable claim against Landou.

Plaintiff has also not stated a cognizable claims against the two supervisor defendants, Grounds (the Warden) and Cate (the C.D.C.R. Director). A supervisor may be liable under Section 1983 upon a showing of (1) personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Henry A. v. Willden, 678 F.3d 991, 1003-04 (9th Cir. 2012). Under no circumstances is there liability under Section 1983 solely because one is responsible for the actions or omissions of another. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Plaintiff alleges that Cate is generally responsible for supervision, monitoring, and creating policies, but there is no allegation as to which policies prevented him from properly observing his faith or how they did so. Plaintiff alleges that Grounds did not respond to the letter in which plaintiff complained about the lack of a response to his administrative grievance, but there is not how Grounds caused plaintiff not to receive the religious services he requested. Plaintiff ...

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