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Rojo v. R.J. Donovan State Prison

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 23, 2014

JAMES E. ROJO, CDCR #J-53355, Plaintiff,
v.
R.J. DONOVAN STATE PRISON; SMITH, Correctional Officer; JONES, Correctional Officer; D. PARAMO, Warden; A. HERNANDEZ, Deputy Warden; DIRECTOR/SECRETARY, California Department of Corrections, Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) AND 1915A(B)

LARRY ALAN BURNS, District Judge.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 8, 2013, James E. Rojo ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility ("RJD") located in San Diego, California and proceeding pro se, initiated this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Northern District of California.

On September 17, 2013, United States District Judge William H. Orrick determined that because Plaintiff's claims arose at RJD, venue was proper in the Southern District of California and transferred the matter here pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 84(d), 1391(b) and 1406(a) (ECF Doc. No. 8). Judge Orrick did not rule on Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF Doc. No. 6), nor did he screen Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) or § 1915A prior to transfer.

This Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP and simultaneously dismissed his Complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b). (ECF Doc. No. 11 at 8-9.) Plaintiff was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint in order to correct the deficiencies identified in the Court's Order. ( Id. ) Plaintiff has now filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (ECF Doc. No. 13.)

II. INITIAL SCREENING PER 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii) AND 1915A(b)(1)

As the Court stated in the previous Order, notwithstanding IFP status or the payment of any partial filing fees, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program, " "as soon as practicable after docketing." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these provisions of the PLRA, the Court must sua sponte dismiss complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or which seek damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).

"[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). However, 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). Thus, while the court "ha[s] an obligation where the petitioner is pro se, particularly in civil rights cases, to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt, " Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985)), it may not, in so doing, "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations" are simply not "sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id.

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

"Section 1983 creates a private right of action against individuals who, acting under color of state law, violate federal constitutional or statutory rights." Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1074 (9th Cir. 2001). Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "To establish § 1983 liability, a plaintiff must show both (1) deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128, 1138 (9th Cir. 2012).

B. Defendant RJ Donovan State Prison

Once again, the Court finds that to the extent Plaintiff names R.J. Donovan State Prison as a Defendant, his claims must be dismissed sua sponte pursuant to both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b) for both failing to state a claim and for seeking damages against a defendant who is immune. R.J. Donovan, a state prison within the jurisdiction of the State of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), is not a "person" subject to suit under § 1983. Hale v. State of Arizona, 993 F.2d 1387, 1398-99 (9th Cir. 1993) (holding that a state department of corrections is an arm of the state, and thus, not a "person" within the meaning of § 1983). And if by naming R.J. Donovan, Plaintiff really seeks to sue either the CDCR or the State of California itself, his claims are clearly barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (per curiam) ("There can be no doubt... that [a] suit against the State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit.").

Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against R.J. Donovan State Prison, his Complaint is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § ...


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