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Jones v. Nichols

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 14, 2014

EDWARD JONES, CDCR #K-52736 Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL COUNSELOR NICHOLS, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 27)

BARRY TED MOSKOWITZ, Chief District Judge.

Currently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 27.) Plaintiff has filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 28) to which Defendant has filed a Reply (ECF No. 29.)

I. Plaintiff's Factual Allegations

In 2010, Plaintiff was housed at Centinela State Prison ("CEN").[1] ( See SAC at 1, 3.) On April 2, 2010, Plaintiff was issued a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") in which he was charged with "conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance into a state prison with the intent to distribute." ( Id. at 3.) On September 23, 2010, Plaintiff was found "not guilty" of these charges at a prison disciplinary hearing. ( Id. ) After the ruling in Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing, Defendant Nichols, as Plaintiff's correctional counselor, informed Plaintiff that "she would be taking him back to the Unit Classification Committee ("UCC") and recommend [that] his overnight family visits be denied permanently." ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges Defendant Nichols "prepared the documents" and "supplied all reports" to the UCC. ( Id. )

At the disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff claims Defendant Nichols "acted as the Correctional Counselor Supervisor knowing that she would have the final decision over Plaintiff's case." ( Id. at 4.) As a result, Plaintiff claims his "equal protection right to have a fair and impartial [UCC] hearing by violating their own rules and regulations" was violated. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims the CDCR's rules and regulations provide that a person who has a "predetermined belief of the inmate' guilt or innocence shall not hear the charges or be present during deliberations." ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that he did not receive a fair and impartial hearing because Defendant Nichols sat on the committee determining his guilt or innocence and acted in the capacity of two different members of the committee. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims other inmates at CEN were given fair and impartial hearings. ( Id. at 5.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant Nichols "made the final decision to deny Plaintiff overnight family visits permanently." ( Id. ) Plaintiff further claims that the decision to deny Plaintiff overnight visits was in retaliation for the previous disciplinary hearing on September 23, 2010, at which Plaintiff was found "not guilty" of a conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance.

II. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

A. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6)

Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff fails to state a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim; and (2) Plaintiff fails to state a claim for First Amendment retaliation.[2]

A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal may be based on either a "lack of a cognizable legal theory' or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'" Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare System, LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121-22 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). In other words, the plaintiff's complaint must provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief." Id. (citing FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2)). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant[s] fair notice of what... the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).

A motion to dismiss should be granted if plaintiff fails to proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

In addition, factual allegations asserted by pro se petitioners, "however inartfully pleaded, " are held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519-20 (1972). Because " Iqbal incorporated the Twombly pleading standard and Twombly did not alter courts' treatment of pro se filings, [courts] continue to construe pro se filings liberally when evaluating them under Iqbal. " Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985).

C. Application to Plaintiff's Complaint

1. Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim

Plaintiff alleges his right to equal protection was violated by the manner in which his disciplinary hearing was conducted and claims "other inmates housed at Centinela State Prison were allowed to have fair and ...


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