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Thomas v. Grounds

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 11, 2014

RANDY GROUNDS, Warden, et al., Defendants.


CLAUDIA WILKEN, District Judge.


Plaintiff Edward Thomas, a state prisoner incarcerated at California State Prison-Corcoran, filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the violation of his constitutional rights by prison officials at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) where he was formerly incarcerated. On December 6, 2013, the Court found that Plaintiff's complaint alleged two cognizable claims and dismissed the remaining noncognizable claims with leave to amend. On December 27, 2012, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (1AC), which the Court now reviews.


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

Liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the plaintiff can show that the defendant's actions both actually and proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. Lemire v. California Dept. Corrections & Rehabilitation , 726 F.3d 1062, 1074 (9th Cir. 2013); Leer v. Murphy , 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988); Harris v. City of Roseburg , 664 F.2d 1121, 1125 (9th Cir. 1981). A person deprives another of a constitutional right within the meaning of § 1983 if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do, that causes the deprivation of which the plaintiff complains. Leer , 844 F.2d at 633. Under no circumstances is there respondeat superior liability under § 1983. Lemire , 726 F.3d at 1074. Or, in layman's terms, under no circumstances is there liability under § 1983 solely because one is responsible for the actions or omissions of another. Taylor v. List , 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Village , 723 F.2d 675, 680-81 (9th Cir. 1984).

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 , 880 F.2d at 1045. This includes allegations 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; Jeffers v. Gomez , 267 F.3d 895, 917 (9th Cir. 2001).

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

In the Court's Order of Dismissal, it found that Plaintiff had stated two cognizable claims: (1) excessive force against Defendants Gasgonia, Martinez and Hopark, and (2) retaliation against Defendants Lopez, Hedrick and Berlinger. In regard to the noncognizable claims, the Court noted the following: (1) Plaintiff's claims for reviewing and denying administrative appeals were not cognizable, unless Plaintiff could allege that the individuals who denied them had the authority and opportunity to prevent a constitutional violation; (2) Plaintiff's due process claims for the denial of his right to present evidence and witnesses at his administrative hearings were not cognizable because he did not indicate which Defendant or Defendants were responsible; (3) Plaintiff's dangerous conditions claim based on being forced to accept a cell-mate from a rival gang was not cognizable because he did not indicate which Defendants caused this violation; (4) Plaintiff's allegation that unidentified Defendants refused to remove gang status references from his central file, violating his rights to equal protection and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, were not cognizable because he did not allege what any Defendant did to violate these rights.

In his 1AC, Plaintiff names the individuals responsible for each claim. However, Plaintiff's due process claim based on reviewing, denying and delaying his administrative appeals is still not cognizable. See Ramirez v. Galaza , 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003) (denying claim of loss of a liberty interest in processing of inmate appeal because inmates lack a constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance procedure). Therefore this claim is dismissed without leave to amend against Brinklele, R. Mojica (#1), Mojica (#2), E. Medina, C. Martella, W.L. Muniz, V.J. Solis, B. Hedrick, and T. Berlingeri.

Plaintiff's 1AC alleges cognizable claims for due process violations at his rules violations hearings against: Sgt. J. Stevens and Lt. M. Kircher for the March 22, 2012 hearing; R.L. Martinez for the September 24, 2012 hearing; Lt. J. Stevenson for the February 27, 2013 hearing; and Lt. J. Mensing for the April 22, 2013 hearing.

Plaintiff's 1AC states a dangerous conditions claim for allegedly forcing Plaintiff to accept a rival gang member as a cellmate against Defendants J. Aboytes, B. Hopark, Warden R. Grounds, Captain D. Asuncion, B. Hedrick and T. Berlingeri. The Equal Protection claim against these Defendants is dismissed in light of ...

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