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Flowers v. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, N.D. California, Eureka Division

May 23, 2014

JOSEPH J. FLOWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

NANDOR J. VADAS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 6.)

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

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, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (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, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. The United States Supreme Court has recently explained the "plausible on its face" standard of Twombly: "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

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).

B. Legal Claims

Plaintiff alleges that his personal property was lost and certain legal documents were taken while he was incarcerated.

Neither the negligent nor intentional deprivation of property states a due process claim under § 1983 if the deprivation was random and unauthorized. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535-44 (1981) (state employee negligently lost prisoner's hobby kit), overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986); Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984) (intentional destruction of inmate's property). The availability of an adequate state post-deprivation remedy, e.g. a state tort action, precludes relief because it provides adequate procedural due process. King v. Massarweh, 782 F.2d 825, 826 (9th Cir. 1986). California law provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy for any property deprivations. Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816-17 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Cal. Gov't Code §§ 810-895). Nor is a prisoner protected by the Fourth Amendment against the seizure, destruction or conversion of his property. Taylor v. Knapp, 871 F.2d 803, 806 (9th Cir. 1989). Accordingly, Plaintiff cannot state a constitutional claim for deprivation of personal property.

Prisoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350 (1996); Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977). To establish a claim for any violation of the right of access to the courts, the prisoner must prove that there was an inadequacy in the prison's legal access program that caused him an actual injury. See Lewis, 518 U.S. at 350-55. To prove an actual injury, the prisoner must show that the inadequacy in the prison's program hindered his efforts to pursue a non-frivolous claim concerning his conviction or conditions of confinement. See id. at 354-55.

Plaintiff states that he was transferred out of Salinas Valley State Prison and should have received five boxes of his personal property that included legal documents when he arrived at the new facility. Plaintiff states that he eventually received the boxes but certain legal documents were missing including several witness declarations for his habeas petition, case No. C 14-0589 CW (PR). Case No. C 14-0589 CW (PR) was stayed so petitioner could exhaust his claims as he indicated that he had recovered the lost evidence which appeared to be included in the petition. See Docket No. 9 in Case No. C 14-0589 CW (PR).

In this case, plaintiff has failed to provide sufficient allegations that he has suffered an actual injury to show a denial of access to the courts. His habeas case was stayed at his request and he only recently sought to lift the stay and it appears the missing declarations were recovered. Plaintiff has not described the substance of the declarations which were at least temporarily missing and a review of his habeas petition indicates that several declarations have been attached. Finally, plaintiff has not identified any specific defendants and described their role in the case. The complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend to provide more information regarding his denial of ...


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