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Ortiz v. Lewis

United States District Court, Northern District of California

December 2, 2014

GREG LEWIS, et al., Defendants. Re: Dkt. No. 60


JAMES DONATO United States District Judge

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss citing failure to state a claim and qualified immunity.[1] Plaintiff has not filed an opposition or otherwise communicated with the Court. The Court has nevertheless reviewed the merits of the motion and grants it.


Plaintiff was diagnosed with exhibitionism and objected to the measures taken by prison officials to address his behavior and safeguard staff and other inmates. In response to plaintiff being found guilty of indecent exposure on several occasions, prison officials placed yellow placards on his cell door and window and required him to wear a special jumpsuit, made from a no-tear cloth and with a lock on it, when outside his cell. Plaintiff alleges that these measures violated his rights to privacy, equal protection, due process, and freedom from retaliation.


A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests for the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2003). All allegations of material fact are taken as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, legally conclusory statements, not supported by actual factual allegations, need not be accepted. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (courts are not bound to accept as true “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”). “A plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Rather, the allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id.

A motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint does not proffer enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See id. at 558-59, 574. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged- but it has not ‘show[n]’- ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted).

The Court may consider exhibits attached to the complaint, see Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1989), as well as documents referenced extensively in the complaint and documents that form the basis of a plaintiff's claims. See No. 84 Employer-Teamster Join. Council Pension Trust. Fund v. America West Holding Corp., 320 F.3d 920, 925 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003).


A. Right to Privacy

While individuals have a constitutionally protected right not to have their personal medical information disclosed, Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589, 599 (1977), the right is a conditional one “‘which may be infringed upon a showing of proper governmental interest.’” Tucson Woman's Clinic v. Eden, 379 F.3d 531, 551 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona v. Lawall, 307F.3d 783, 790 (9th Cir. 2002)). Prisoners do not have a constitutionally protected expectation of privacy in correctional mental health treatment records when the state has a legitimate penological interest in access to them. Seaton v. Mayberg, 610 F.3d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 2010).

Plaintiff alleges that requiring him to wear a specific jumpsuit and placing special placards on his cell informed other inmates and staff of plaintiff's mental health diagnosis and violated his constitutional right to privacy. However, plaintiff has failed to state a claim based on the allegations of the complaint because defendants had a legitimate penological interest in taking the precautions. Plaintiff includes in the complaint several inmate appeals regarding these same issues. Prison officials noted in the appeals decisions that plaintiff had ten occurrences of indecent exposure from September 2009 to February 2012 and the measures taken by prison officials lasted for 90 days from the last incident of indecent exposure. First Amended Complaint at 16-25. The measures were not a punishment or a violation of plaintiff's privacy; rather, the placards were to alert staff and to prevent indecent exposure incidents, and the jumpsuit was to restrict plaintiff's ability to expose himself while outside of his cell. Id.

Moreover, defendants had a legitimate penological interest in the measures taken to restrict plaintiff from exposing himself to other inmates and staff, even if it did indirectly disclose his medical diagnosis. It also appears that the measures were only in place temporarily in response to specific instances of plaintiff exposing himself. As plaintiff has not filed an ...

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