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Lal v. McDonald

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 27, 2014

AZHAR LAL, Plaintiff,
v.
M.D. McDONALD et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

DALE A. DROZD, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's second amended complaint.

SCREENING REQUIREMENT

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy , 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke , 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona , 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin , 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic , 550 U.S. at 555. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees , 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen , 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows:

Every person who, under color of [state law]... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs. , 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode , 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy , 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley , 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld , 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

In the present case, plaintiff has identified as the defendants Warden McDonald and nearly two dozen other prison officials employed by High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"). In his second amended complaint, plaintiff asserts three claims against the defendants. First, plaintiff claims that the defendants denied him access to the courts when law librarian defendant Williams refused to make plaintiff free copies of legal documents to send to Fair Trials Abroad, a London-based charity that works to promote fair trials, and other defendants denied his administrative grievance in which plaintiff complained about defendant Williams' alleged conduct. (Sec. Am. Compl. at 4-7.)

Second, plaintiff claims that the defendants denied him access to the courts when they refused to provide him with his legal property after he was placed in administrative segregation. Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly requested access to his property and told defendants that he had legal deadlines pending, but they nonetheless refused to provide him with his property and claimed they did not know where his property was. According to plaintiff, only after he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Lassen County Superior Court did prison officials turn over some of his property. Plaintiff alleges that defendants' conduct forced him to withdraw a petition he had pending before the California Supreme Court. (Sec. Am. Compl. at 8-14.)

Finally, plaintiff claims that defendant Harper retaliated against him when he issued plaintiff a prison rules violation report for possession of an inmate-manufactured weapon. Plaintiff alleges that officers searched his cell and found two pieces of sharpened metal that were previously the tops of nail clippers. Plaintiff maintains that the defendant Harper abused his discretion when he determined that the two pieces of metal could inflict traumatic injury. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Harper's actions and other defendants' approval of his conduct during the ...


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