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Ransom v. Herrera

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 12, 2014

LEONARD RANSOM JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DANNY HERRERA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT OR NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIMS FOUND TO BE COGNIZABLE RESPONSE DUE IN THIRTY DAYS

GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).[1]

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). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal... fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, " none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A. , 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz , 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin. , 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) and Rehabilitation at CSP Lancaster, brings this civil rights action against defendant correctional officials employed by the CDCR at Kern Valley State Prison. The events at issue occurred while Plaintiff as housed at Kern Valley. Plaintiff names the following individual defendants: Correctional Officer (C/O) D. Herrera; Sergeant R. Brannum; Lieutenant L. Castro; Registered Nurse A. Davis. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have violated his Due Process rights, violated the Equal Protection Clause and conspired to violate his civil rights.

A. Summary of Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that on March 4, 2009, C/O Herrera and Sgt. Brannum approached Plaintiff's cell in order to transport Plaintiff to a medical appointment outside the prison. As they approached Plaintiff's cell, Plaintiff heard Herrera say to Brannum that "this is the one with the staff assault." Herrera was involved in transporting Plaintiff the previous month (to a court proceeding), and during the transport, continued to ask Plaintiff about his case. The assault involved a correctional officer that is a friend of Herrera's. Plaintiff alleges that during the previous transport, Herrera became angry at Plaintiff for his unwillingness to discuss his case.

Once Herrera and Brannum arrived at Plaintiff's cell, Plaintiff began to go through the routine unclothed body search procedures, including bending and squatting. When Plaintiff squatted, Herrera ordered Plaintiff to squat "all the way down." Plaintiff alleges that he previously told Herrera that because he had a bad disc in his lower back, he could not squat all the way down. Plaintiff alleges that Herrera and Brannum became verbally abusive. Plaintiff told them to "get away from my door, I'm not going." Brannum told Plaintiff: "I'll say you assaulted my officer." Brannum and Herrera then left.

Approximately fifteen minutes later, a sergeant arrived at Plaintiff's cell, and informed him that Herrera and Brannum accused him of grabbing Herrera through the tray slot. Plaintiff was then taken to a holding cage and was examined by a nurse in order to complete a Medical Report of Injury or Unusual Occurrence. The same day, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance regarding the issue.

On March 17, 2009, Plaintiff was formally charged (by a Rules Violation Report, RVR) with battery on a peace officer. According to the charging document, Herrera alleged that Plaintiff reached his right arm through the cell port and grabbed Herrera's wrist and forearm in an attempt to gain control of Herrera. Plaintiff was advised that the RVR would be referred to the Kern County District Attorney's Office for possible prosecution.

On April 5, 2009, Lt. Castro interviewed Plaintiff regarding his inmate grievance. Plaintiff advised Castro that he had declarations from two witnesses to the event. Castro asked Plaintiff for the declarations. Approximately one week later, Plaintiff was served with another RVR, charging Plaintiff with falsification of records or documents for submitting a false declaration. Plaintiff alleges that the second RVR was based on Lt. Castro's interview of one of his witnesses, inmate Johnson. When Lt. Castro asked Johnson what he knew of Plaintiff, Johnson indicated that he did not know anyone by that name. Plaintiff indicates that Johnson would have known Plaintiff by a different name. Plaintiff alleges that Lt. Castro failed to interview the other witness, inmate Reed.

On May 15, 2009, Plaintiff was interviewed by C/O Chavez, the assigned Investigative Employee for the RVR charging Plaintiff with making a false declaration. Plaintiff explained to Chavez that inmate Johnson knew him by a different name. Plaintiff alleges that C/O Chavez interviewed inmate Johnson, and Johnson ...


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