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Joseph v. Parciasepe

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 20, 2014

ALONZO JAMES JOSEPH, Plaintiff,
v.
T. PARCIASEPE, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was originally initiated by a civil complaint filed in the Amador County Superior Court on October 18, 2013. See ECF No. 2 at 1. Defendants Parciasepe and Knipp were served with a copy of the summons and complaint on January 14, 2014. Id . Defendants removed this action to federal court on February 6, 2014. See ECF No. 1. Plaintiff consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned for all further proceedings on February 14, 2014. ECF No. 4.

I. Screening Requirement

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. 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.

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 Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-35 (3d ed. 2004). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 566 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

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).

II. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff alleges three separate causes of action, all of which arise from events that occurred while he was confined at Mule Creek State Prison. ECF No. 2-1. He first alleges that on April 15, 2013 Officer T. Parciasepe threatened him by stating that plaintiff was going to be his next victim. ECF No. 201 at 9. This caused plaintiff to suffer substantial emotional distress. Id.

Next, plaintiff alleges a retaliation claim based on Officer Parciasepe's conduct of having his co-workers constantly harass plaintiff by searching his cell without any just cause. ECF No. 2-1 at 10. These cell searches were conducted, according to plaintiff, because he had filed a prior staff complaint against Officer Parciasepe. Id . As a result, plaintiff suffered emotional distress and other unspecified damages in the future. Id.

Lastly, plaintiff alleges that Warden Knipp failed to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment because he knew that Officer Parciasepe had violated plaintiff's rights, but he failed to take any corrective action. ECF No. 2-1 at 12. This caused plaintiff to suffer emotional distress as well as additional unspecified damage in the future. Id.

III. Legal Standards

A prison official's deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to an inmate, including a risk of violence from other inmates, violates the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 828, 833 (1994). "[A] prison official violates the Eighth Amendment when two requirements are met. First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, sufficiently serious.'... For a claim (like the one here) based on a failure to prevent harm, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm." Id. at 834. Second, "[t]o violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, a prison official must have a sufficiently culpable state of mind'... [T]hat state of mind is one of deliberate indifference' to inmate health or safety." Id . The prison official will be liable only if "the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837.

"Prisoners have a First Amendment right to file grievances against prison officials and to be free from retaliation for doing so." Watison v. Carter , 668 F.3d 1108, 1114 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Brodheim v. Cry , 584 F.3d 1262, 1269 (9th Cir.2009)). A viable retaliation claim in the prison context has five elements: "(1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, ...


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