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Wilson v. Jordan

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 9, 2014



VINCE CHHABRIA, District Judge.

On March 5, 2014, Kelly H. Wilson and Earnest D. Cox, state prisoners at the Correctional Training Facility-Soledad ("CTF-Soledad"), filed the present pro se prisoner complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 together with incomplete applications to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). On May 13, 2014, the Court dismissed the action without prejudice due to the failure of Wilson and Cox to file completed in forma pauperis applications. On May 29, 2014, Wilson filed a motion for reconsideration, which the Court granted on June 11, 2014. See Doc. no. 20.

In the June 11, 2014 Order, the Court first noted that, on two occasions, the Court's mail sent to Cox was returned as undeliverable. The Court cited Northern District Civil Local Rule 3-11, which provides that a party proceeding pro se must promptly file a notice of change of address when an action is pending and authorizes the Court to dismiss a complaint when mail has been returned as undeliverable and the Court fails to receive within sixty days of this return a written communication from the pro se party indicating a current address. See Civil L.R. 3-11(b). On June 27, 2014, sixty days passed since the first date mail sent to Cox was returned as undeliverable and he has not informed the Court of his current address or communicated with the Court in any manner. Therefore, Cox is dismissed as a plaintiff from this action.

In the June 11, 2014 Order, the Court found that the allegations in Wilson's complaint, that Cynthia Zubiate withheld Wilson's veteran's benefits, appeared to state a cognizable claim against her for violating 38 U.S.C. § 5301(a), the statute that protects veterans' benefits against their creditors so that the veterans themselves can spend those funds as they determine when they receive them. However, the Court found that the complaint failed to allege any facts showing that William Jordan violated this statute and it failed to name a proper defendant for the requested injunctive relief of eliminating the system-wide practice of withholding incarcerated veterans' benefits. The Court granted Wilson leave to amend to remedy these deficiencies.

On June 30, 2014, Wilson filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") naming as defendants Zubiate, Jordan, M. Spearman, Warden of CTF-Soledad, and Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Court now reviews the FAC under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).


II. Standard of Review

A federal court must screen any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or officer or employee of a governmental entity, to dismiss any claims that: (1) are frivolous or malicious; (2) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (3) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). 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 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 Dep't of Corrections & Rehabilitation, 726 F.3d 1062, 1074 (9th Cir. 2013); Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). A person deprives another of a constitutional right within the meaning of section 1983 if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act or fails 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.

There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983. Lemire, 726 F.3d at 1074. That is, a supervisor is not liable merely because the supervisor is responsible, in general terms, for the actions 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 only on a showing of (1) personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation . Henry A. v. Willden, 678 F.3d 991, 1003-04 (9th Cir. 2012).

III. Wilson's Allegations

Wilson's FAC contains the following new allegations.

Jordan is the Acting Associate Warden of Business at CTF-Soledad and is responsible for the policy used by Zubiate to withhold Wilson's veterans' benefits checks. Jordan knew of and approved of Zubiate's allegedly illegal acts of withholding Wilson's veterans' benefits checks. See FAC, Ex. E (Jordan's April 28, 2014 memorandum to Wilson acknowledging he appointed Zubiate to "assist outside agencies in determining an inmate's eligibility" for veterans' benefits and approving Zubiate's actions). These allegations, if true, would show that Jordan knew of Zubiate's actions and did nothing to remedy them. Therefore, they appear sufficient to state a cognizable claim against Jordan for ...

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