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Garcia v. Gomez

United States District Court, S.D. California

August 14, 2014

JAMES H. GARCIA, CDCR #F-55317, Plaintiff,
v.
LVN A. GOMEZ; ALAN HERNANDEZ; J. RODRIGUEZ; B. PACREM; A. FRAZE; DOMINGO URIBE, JR., Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHOUT PREJUDICE FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(b) & 1915A(b)

CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

I.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On August 9, 2013, James H. Garcia ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the California State Prison-Los Angeles County, located in Lancaster, California, and proceeding pro se, submitted a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) In addition, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). (ECF No. 8.) The Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP and simultaneously dismissed his Complaint for failing to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(b) & 1915A(b). (ECF No. 9.) Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended complaint in order to correct the problems with the pleading identified in the Court's Order. ( Id. ) After requesting and receiving extensions of time, Plaintiff has now filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (ECF No. 15.)

II.

SUA SPONTE SCREENING PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b)

As the Court stated in the previous Order, notwithstanding payment of any filing fee or portion thereof, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") requires courts to review complaints filed by prisoners against officers or employees of governmental entities and dismiss those or any portion of those found frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 446 (9th Cir. 2000) (§ 1915A).

Prior to the PLRA, the former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) permitted sua sponte dismissal of only frivolous and malicious claims. Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1126, 1130. However 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A now mandate that the court reviewing a prisoner's suit make and rule on its own motion to dismiss before directing that the complaint be served by the U.S. Marshal pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 4(c)(2). Id. at 1127 ("[S]ection 1915(e) not only permits, but requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim."); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). The district court should grant leave to amend, however, unless it determines that "the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts" and if it appears "at all possible that the plaintiff can correct the defect." Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130-31 (citing Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 701 (9th Cir. 1990)).

"[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick, 213 F.3d at 447; Barren, 152 F.3d at 1194 (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). However, while liberal construction is "particularly important in civil rights cases, " Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992), the court may nevertheless not "supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

As currently pleaded, the Court finds that Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 imposes two essential proof requirements upon a claimant: (1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

A. Heck Bar

In 2010, Plaintiff was housed at Centinela State Prison. ( See FAC at 1.) Once again, Plaintiff alleges that he was wrongfully accused of raping his cellmate which resulted in a disciplinary hearing. ( See FAC, Ex. Rules Violation Report, ECF No. 15 at 51.) Plaintiff was found guilty and assessed a forfeiture of 360 days in behavioral credits. ( Id. ) Plaintiff contends that both the charges and the disciplinary hearing that followed violated his constitutional rights. He seeks monetary damages, along with a request that this Court "have this false and wrongful charge expunged from my record." ( Id. at 17.) However, these claims amount to an attack on the constitutional validity of Plaintiff's disciplinary charges, and as such, may not be maintained pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless and until he can show that his disciplinary hearing and loss of behavior credits has already been invalidated. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994).

"In any § 1983 action, the first question is whether § 1983 is the appropriate avenue to remedy the alleged wrong." Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1353 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). A prisoner in state custody simply may not use a § 1983 civil rights action to challenge the "fact or duration of his confinement." Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489 (1973). The prisoner must seek federal habeas corpus relief instead. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005) ( quoting Preiser, 411 U.S. at 489). Thus, Plaintiff's § 1983 action "is barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of his suit (state conduct leading to conviction or internal prison proceedings)-if success in that action would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration." Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 82.

In this case, Plaintiff's claims "necessarily imply the invalidity" of his conviction and sentence from his disciplinary hearing. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487. In creating the favorable termination rule in Heck, the Supreme Court relied on "the hoary principle that civil tort actions are not appropriate vehicles for challenging the validity of outstanding criminal judgments." Heck, 511 U.S. at 486. This is precisely what Plaintiff attempts to accomplish here. Therefore, to satisfy Heck's "favorable termination" rule, Plaintiff must first allege facts which show that the conviction which forms the basis of his § 1983 Complaint has already been: (1) reversed on direct appeal; (2) expunged by executive order; (3) declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such ...


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