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Morris v. Petersen

United States District Court, Northern District of California

November 3, 2014

LEON E. MORRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
PETERSEN, et al., Defendants

Leon E. Morris, Plaintiff, Pro se, Represa, CA.

ORDER OF SERVICE; ORDER DIRECTING DEFENDANTS TO FILE A DISPOSITIVE MOTION OR NOTICE REGARDING SUCH MOTION; INSTRUCTIONS TO CLERK

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This is a second lawsuit filed by plaintiff Leon Morris against officers and medical staff at the Salinas Valley State Prison. The first dealt with 19 incidents and 36 correctional officers in 2004-2005; I recently allowed service after dismissing the bulk of the claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 because they were unrelated by fact and law. Morris v. Evans, Case No. 10-04010 (WHO), Dkt. No. 23 (Oct. 20, 2014). This complaint picks up where the last left off in 2005, alleging under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 18 more incidents in 2005-2006 against 27 defendants. It suffers from the same defects as Morris's earlier one. Most of the incidents appear unrelated and do not, on their own, rise to the level of a constitutional violation. The allegations of a conspiracy are not sufficiently detailed to be plausible.

Given my responsibility to preliminarily screen Morris's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), I will limit this lawsuit to the earliest potentially plausible claim -- that in June 2005, correctional officers Fernandez and Kessler violated his right to due process in connection with a Rules Violation Report hearing. Dkt. No. 1, p.5. In this regard, I direct defendants to file in response to the operative complaint a dispositive motion, or notice regarding such motion, on or before February 3, 2015, unless an extension is granted. I further direct that defendants adhere to the notice provisions detailed in Section 10 of the conclusion of this order.

Judge Gonzalez-Rogers issued an Order To Show Cause on February 12, 2013, questioning whether Morris's claim is untimely. Dkt. No. 5. Defendants may wish to file a motion to dismiss on such grounds, but they are not required to do so. If defendants file such a motion, they must discuss Morris's contention that the statute of limitations does not bar his claims because the claims were in nearly continuous litigation, and rarely out of the courts. Dkt. No. 6.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Morris is a pro se state prisoner. A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In this review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See id . § 1915A(b) (1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).[1]

A " complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Furthermore, a court " is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged." Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988).

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20, persons may be joined in one action as defendants only if " (A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action."

B. Legal Claims

Morris raises 18 claims against 27 defendants, all employees of Salinas Valley State Prison.[2] He alleges that in March 2005, correctional officer Mercado took and refused to return Morris's property, including his copy of the Koran, violating his due process rights and his rights under RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc; (Compl. at 3-4); [3] in June, August and September 2005, correctional officers T. Robinson, M. Torres, J. Fajardo searched his cell to abuse and retaliate against Morris; ( id . at 4); in June 2005, A. Fernandez and Kessler violated his right to due process in connection with a Rules Violation Report hearing; ( id . at 4-5); August 2005, Peterson failed to remove an industrial shower mat that had been placed in front of Morris's cell, over which correctional officers A. Fernandez and J. Brewen forced Morris to trip and injure himself, an act of retaliation for filing grievances; ( id . at 5-6); in August 2005, T. Robinson and J. Fajardo removed his legal materials from his cell and J. Perez failed to intervene ( id . at 10); also in August 2005, T. Robinson, J. Fajardo, S. Espey, and D. Perez removed his legal materials ( id .); in September 2005, Dr. Nguyen provided constitutionally inadequate health care by decreasing the amount of Morris's prescribed medication, an act of retaliation ( id . at 8-9); in September 2005, Registered Nurse William, without any authority, terminated his prescribed pain medications, an act of retaliation ( id . at 9); in September 2005, S. Espey threw a peanut butter packet at Morris, who suffered a laceration when it hit him ( id . at 6); in October 2005, Peterson used excessive force against Morris by repeatedly pepper-spraying him ( id . at 6-7); Peterson would not let him clean up properly after being pepper-sprayed ( id .); Morris's cell was never properly decontaminated after the pepper-spraying ( id .); in August 2006, J. Rodriguez used excessive force against him in retaliation for Morris filing a grievance ( id . at 7-8); law librarians McDonald and Powell retaliated against him by failing to provide him with requested legal materials ( id . at 8); C. Jones, R. Sanchez, J. Fajardo, Arubias, and Peterson stole his legal mail and his confidential medical records ( id .); Beatty failed to give Morris a proper mattress ( id . at 11); Roque, Sullivan, and Espey failed to accommodate his medical condition ( id .); and from June 2005 to June 2006, S. Espey, J. Fajardo, Torres, D. Crawford, A. Hernandez, M. Nornes, M. Lopez, O. Ponce, R. Sanchez, Peterson, Sullivan, McBride, Kessler, and Locke repeatedly withheld, or served incomplete, meals as an act of retaliation ( id . at 12).

Morris attempts to link these disparate events by alleging that they are acts of retaliation by the Salinas Valley correctional officers (whom he collectively calls the " Greenwall Gang") who dislike Morris because of his litigiousness. He cites as proof of this plan of retaliation conversations he overheard among correctional officers on April 6, 2006 ( id . at 13-14), and some direct admissions by officers ...


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