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Garcia v. Strayhorn

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 3, 2014

RUBEN GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
D. STRAYHORN, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. No. 15.]

ROGER T. BENITEZ, District Judge.

Ruben Garcia, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983, on April 3, 2013. [Doc. No. 1.] Plaintiff then filed a First Amended Complaint on May 13, 2013. [Doc. No. 3.] On June 6, 2013, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint sua sponte pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Plaintiff was granted leave to amend in order to correct all of the deficiencies identified by the Court in his pleading. [Doc. No. 5, at pp. 6-7.] Plaintiff then filed a Second Amended Complaint on July 16, 2013. [Doc. No. 6.]

On September 23, 2013, this Court issued a second Order pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), dismissing some but not all of the claims in the Second Amended Complaint. [Doc. No. 7.] In this Order, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims that Defendants conspired to violate his constitutional rights and violated his constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. [Doc. No. 7, at pp. 3-4.] In addition, the District Court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims based on supervisory liability against Defendants Franco, Reid, Hernandez, and Seibel for failure to state a claim. [Doc. No. 7, at p. 5.] The District Court also concluded Plaintiff failed to state a claim for retaliation against Defendant Stricklin. [Doc. No. 7, at p. 5.] These defendants were all terminated from the Court's docket. [Doc. No. 7, at p. 6.] However, the District Court concluded that Plaintiff sufficiently pled claims for retaliation against Defendants Strayhorn and Luna and ordered them to respond to the Second Amended Complaint. [Doc. No. 7, at p. 6-7.]

Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. [Doc. No. 15.] In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants seek an order dismissing Plaintiff's retaliation claims against remaining defendants Strayhorn and Luna for failure to state a claim, without leave to amend. [Doc. No. 15, at p. 10.] Plaintiff has filed an Opposition to the Motion [Doc. No. 19] and Defendants filed a Reply [Doc. No. 20]. For the reasons outlined below, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim must be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff is housed at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego (RJDCF). [Doc. No. 6, at p. 1; Doc. No. 19, at p. 1.] In the operative Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff describes two separate incidents on October 24, 2011 and April 26, 2012 that serve as the basis for his retaliation claims against Strayhorn and Luna. [Doc. No. 6, at pp. 5-19.] The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's allegations in the Second Amended Complaint. The Court makes no findings of fact.

A. October 24, 2011 Incident

Plaintiff alleges that on October 24, 2011, he had authority and a written pass to attend a pre-scheduled appointment with an optometry specialist at RJDCF. After the appointment, he was escorted by security personnel back to his housing unit and then released to return to his cell. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 5.] While he was on his way, Plaintiff told another inmate: "[D]on't worry. I just came from TTA and [another inmate named Jimenez] just finished a[n] interview regarding a six-o-two against Strayhorn... all this stuff is catching up with him...." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 5.][1] Strayhorn, who was standing nearby, stated: "[You're] p.c. so ain't nobody worry about you!" [Doc. No. 6, at p. 5.] Plaintiff claims that "p.c." is "prison lingo" and is used by inmates and prison staff to identify an inmate as a "jail house informant." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 6 n.3.] Plaintiff alleges that "a large number of inmates" overheard this remark. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 5.] According to Plaintiff, this remark threatened his safety and security because inmates identified as a "jail house informant" are targeted by other inmates for "assault, systematic abuse, or even death." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 6 n.3.]

In response to Strayhorn's "p.c." remark, Plaintiff said, "If you want to give me a direct order... I will gladly follow such orders... other than that we don't need to speak to each other, this is why you get six-o-two..." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 6.] Plaintiff stated that, "I'm six-o-twoing you." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 6.] Strayhorn ordered Plaintiff to return to his housing unit, and Plaintiff complied, but Strayhorn proceeded to "direct a [barrage] of derogatory verbal obscenities at the plaintiff." [Doc. No. 6, at pp. 6-7.] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Strayhorn stated: "You punk bitch don't get it... you six-o-two me and you gonna make me fuck you-up!... I'm not like others you six-o-two... you hear!!... coward, p.c., scary bird... Try me bitch, Try me bitch!!, Try me bitch!!!... I know you hear me!!!... Try me bitch!!!"[2] [Doc. No. 6, at p. 7.] Plaintiff further alleges that Strayhorn left his post to make these remarks and that his conduct could not have had any legitimate penological interest. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 7 n.4.]

Next, Plaintiff alleges that Strayhorn walked fast to catch up to him as he continued on his way toward his housing unit. Strayhorn then stepped in front of Plaintiff, stopped him, and continued to "vent his anger" at Plaintiff with offensive remarks. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 7.] During this time, Luna arrived in the area, and Plaintiff "verbally expressed" to Luna his intent to file "a grievance with the CDCR to report defendant D. Strayhorn [sic] illegal acts and violation of his civil rights." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 7.] In response, Luna allegedly said: "[Y]ou file against my officer and I'll lock you up in Administrative Segregation...." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 8.] Plaintiff said he intended to file a grievance to report "their serious acts of misconduct" regardless of any retaliatory or punitive acts which Luna and Strayhorn had already taken or planned to take against him. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 8.]

After these events, Plaintiff alleges that Strayhorn filed retaliatory disciplinary charges against him. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 8.] In these disciplinary charges, Strayhorn said that Plaintiff verbally threatened his safety and, as a result, he had to be placed in handcuffs. Strayhorn also claimed that Plaintiff stated that he was going to report him for use of excessive force. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 8.] Plaintiff further alleges that Luna filed a "retaliatory" Incident Report to support Strayhorn's retaliatory disciplinary charges and to provide a "cover" for Strayhorn's "illegal acts." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 8.] Plaintiff then filed a Form 602 to report the violation of his civil rights by Strayhorn and Luna. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 9.]

B. April 26, 2012 Incident

Plaintiff alleges that on April 26, 2012, he went to the medical clinic for a doctor's appointment and waited "outside" the inmate waiting area to be called in for his appointment. A short time after he arrived, Strayhorn approached him and instructed him to "turn around." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 9.] Plaintiff complied by turning around to face the wall behind him. He was then handcuffed by Strayhorn. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 9.] Plaintiff stood silently without moving, then was escorted by two other staff members to a gymnasium, where he was locked up "inside a cage." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 9.]

After this incident, Plaintiff alleges that Strayhorn generated and filed more retaliatory disciplinary charges against him. In part, a "Misconduct Report" charges that Plaintiff had "displayed a disregard to Title 15 Policy ยง 3005(a)" which requires inmates to refrain from behavior that might lead to violence or disorder, or which otherwise endangers the facility, and that he called Strayhorn a "child molester in green." [Doc. No. 6, at p. 10.] In response, Plaintiff filed a grievance (Form 602) claiming a violation of his civil rights. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 10.]

The Second Amended Complaint also generally alleges that Defendants had no legitimate penological interest for their conduct and that Defendants' conduct was the actual or proximate case of the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 16.] As a result of Defendants' alleged misconduct, Plaintiff seeks both monetary and injunctive relief. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 20.] Plaintiff apparently believes the misconduct charges made by Strayhorn and Luna could be used against him in the future, as he seeks an injunction to prevent Strayhorn from using fabricated charges to have him placed in Administrative Segregation. [Doc. No. 6, at p. 20.]

C. Exhibits Attached to the Second Amended Complaint

Plaintiff has incorporated by reference all exhibits attached to the Second Amended Complaint. [Doc. No. 6, at pp. 16, 18.] Listed in chronological order, these exhibits include copies of the following documents that are relevant to the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint:

March 16, 2012 [Doc. No. 6, at pp. 43-44] (grievance on Form 602 by Plaintiff complaining that: (1) Strayhorn harassed him during a medical appointment on March 14, 2012; (2) Strayhorn has a "long history" of abusive treatment of Plaintiff and other inmates during medical appointments; (3) Strayhorn targets inmates because they file grievances against him; and (4) he was "currently awaiting a 3rd level response on a [Form] 602 to include c/o Strayhorn");

April 15, 2012 [Doc. No. 6, at p. 45] (Inmate Request (Form CDCR 22) inquiring about status of Form 602 submitted by Plaintiff on March 16, 2012 in which he reported "serious misconduct" by Strayhorn that occurred on March 14, 2012);

April 29, 2012 [Doc. No. 6, at p. 48] (Inmate Request (Form CDCR 22) stating that Plaintiff filed two Form 602s reporting Strayhorn for harassment and that in retaliation Strayhorn cancelled two of Plaintiff's medical appointments and worked with other staff to perpetrate "lies, fabrications & false reports" seeking to have Plaintiff placed in Administrative Segregation);

May 1, 2012 [Doc. No. 6, at p. 50] (Inmate Request (Form CDCR 22) repeating statements made on Form CDCR 22 dated April 29, 2012, described above);

May 4, 2012 [Doc. No. 6, at p. 46] (Inmate Request (Form CDCR 22) requesting status of Form 602 submitted on March 16, 2012 in which he reported ...


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