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Headspeth v. Page

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 10, 2014

D. PAGE, et al., Defendants.


DENNIS L. BECK, Magistrate Judge.

I. Background

Plaintiff Calvin Anthony Headspeth ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Plaintiff filed his original complaint on June 6, 2013, and is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 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. Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

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 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.

II. Summary of Complaint

Plaintiff is incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP") in Delano, California, where the events giving rise to this action occurred. Plaintiff names D. Page, R. Landeros, J. Hernandez, and L. Villa as defendants in this action.

Plaintiff alleges the following. On June 25, 2010, Defendant Landeros ordered Defendants Hernandez and Villa to conduct a search of Plaintiff's cell. Defendant Hernandez ordered Plaintiff out of the cell and Plaintiff complied. Regardless, Defendants Hernandez and Villa pepper sprayed Plaintiff, grabbed him by the neck, and slammed him to the ground repeatedly. As a result, Plaintiff's forehead was busted open and his left eye was black and swollen. Defendants Hernandez and Villa then cuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back and escorted him to the medical building. A MTA looked at Plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff requested to see a Defendant Landeros but Defendants Hernandez and Villa denied his request. Lieutenant Miranda videotaped Plaintiff's injuries and took his statement. Defendant Villa falsely claimed that Plaintiff swallowed contraband. As a result, Plaintiff was placed on contraband watch. Defendant Villa made this false accusation to cover up his reason for initiating unnecessary force.

Defendant Page allowed Plaintiff to be held in an unauthorized holding cell for sixty six hours and withheld medical treatment for Plaintiff's injuries. Defendant Page violated CDCR policy by placing Plaintiff on contraband watch without giving him an x-ray or examination. While on contraband watch, Plaintiff was chained in leg restraints and waist chains in a filthy holding cell. Plaintiff was unable to decontaminate after he was pepper-sprayed in his cell. As a result, Plaintiff suffered permanent burns on his hairline.

Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages as relief.

III. Analysis

A. Eighth Amendment - Excessive Force

"What is necessary to show sufficient harm for purposes of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause [of the Eighth Amendment] depends upon the claim at issue...." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8. "The objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim is... contextual and responsive to contemporary standards of decency." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The malicious and sadistic use of force to cause harm always violates contemporary standards of decency, regardless of whether or not significant injury is evident. Id. at 9; see also Oliver v. Keller, 289 F.3d 623, 628 (9th Cir. 2002) (Eighth Amendment excessive force standard examines de minimis uses of force, not de minimis injuries)). However, not "every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9. "The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments necessarily excludes from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the use of force is not of a sort repugnant to the conscience of mankind." Id. at 9-10 (internal quotations marks and citations omitted).

"[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the core judicial inquiry is... whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Id. at 7. "In determining whether the use of force was wanton and unnecessary, it may also be proper to evaluate the need for application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat reasonably perceived by the responsible officials, and any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful ...

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