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Watts v. Aceves

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 13, 2014

TORY WATTS, Plaintiff,
S. ACEVES, Defendant.


DENNIS L. BECK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Tory Watts ("Plaintiff") is a California state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed this action on March 10, 2014. He names Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") Correctional Officer S. Aceves as the sole Defendant.[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).

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)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Id . (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead , 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles , 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones v. Williams , 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff's allegations must link the actions or omissions of each named defendant to a violation of his rights; there is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-77; Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz. , 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2010); Ewing v. City of Stockton , 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009); Jones , 297 F.3d at 934. Plaintiff must present factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service , 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss , 572 F.3d at 969.


Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at PVSP, where the events at issue occurred.

Plaintiff alleges that on August 19, 2013, he was stopped by Defendant Aceves. Defendant Aceves conducted a clothed body inspection and confiscated a black 4x6 phone book which was labeled, "Confidential Law Documents." ECF No. 1, at 3. Plaintiff states that the book contained indispensable information related to pending and anticipated legal actions. He states that it took him eleven years to obtain the information, and that it will be nearly impossible for him to replace on his own.

Plaintiff contends that after the "intentional larceny" of his personal property, Defendant Aceves refused to give him a written notice of the confiscation. ECF No. 1, at 3. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Aceves told him that if he continued to ask her for the documents, she would make sure that Plaintiff never saw the documents again.

Plaintiff filed an inmate appeal the next day requesting return of his book. On December 8, 2013, Defendant Aceves was interviewed and she admitted to "throwing away and/or losing ALL' of [his] legal documents that were illegally confiscated." EFC No. 1, at 4.

Plaintiff attaches his inmate appeal as an exhibit to the complaint. In the First Level Response dated December 25, 2013, the reviewer referred to Defendant Aceves' December 8, 2013, interview. Defendant Aceves told the interviewer that she did not issue a property receipt because she was preoccupied with conducting searches of the Housing Unit at the time. When asked if she returned the property to Plaintiff, she stated that she did not. Defendant Aceves said that she went home on her Regular Days Off, and when she returned, Plaintiff's property was gone and she could not find it. Defendant Aceves said that she did not know that the book contained confidential/legal documents.

The First Level Response determined that staff was liable for the loss of his address book, though Plaintiff's claim that the book was a legal document was unsubstantiated. Plaintiff was offered compensation for his lost book, but he declined. Plaintiff requests ...

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