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Alexander v. Salinas Valley State Prison

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

January 23, 2015



RICHARD SEEBORG, District Judge.


Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this federal civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which he raises Eighth Amendment medical treatment claims against his jailors and medical staff at Salinas Valley State Prison. The complaint is now before the Court for review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Having concluded that the complaint (Docket No. 1) states a cognizable claim, defendant J. Dunlap is directed to file a dispositive motion or notice regarding such motion on or before April 27, 2015, unless an extension is granted. The Court further directs that defendant is to adhere to the notice provisions detailed in Sections 2.a and 10 of the conclusion of this order.


A. Standard of Review

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 its 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).

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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic 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." 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 (1988).

B. Legal Claims

Plaintiff alleges that (1) Dr. J. Dunlap, Chief Medical Officer at Salinas Valley State Prison, violated his Eighth Amendment rights by preventing, or failing to provide, him from receiving physical therapy, which he asserts is necessary to treat his paralysis; (2) unnamed prison officials knowingly placed him at risk of contracting Valley Fever; (3) unnamed staff at an unknown time failed to release him from his cell for "oxygen treatment"; and (4) unnamed prison officials "cover-up inmate complaints." When liberally construed, Claim 1 is cognizable under section 1983. Claims 2-4 are DISMISSED without prejudice because they are unrelated to the first claim. If plaintiff wishes to seek relief on these claims, he must file a separate civil rights action. Salinas Valley State Prison is TERMINATED as a defendant because Claim 1 relates only to the actions of defendant Dunlap.


Plaintiff has filed many motions, most of which are premature. He may refile them after defendant has filed a dispositive motion. Accordingly, his motions for injunctive relief (Docket Nos. 5, 6, and 7), his motion for a trial by jury (Docket No. 8), and his motion for a settlement conference (Docket No. 10) are DENIED without prejudice. The Clerk shall terminate Docket Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 10.

His motion for the appointment of counsel (Docket No. 10) is DENIED without prejudice. The decision to request counsel to represent an indigent litigant under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is within "the sound discretion of the trial court and is granted only in exceptional circumstances." Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1236 (9th Cir. 1984). A finding of "exceptional circumstances" requires an evaluation of the likelihood of the plaintiff's success on the merits and an evaluation of the plaintiff's ability to articulate his claims pro se in light of the complexity of the legal issues involved. See Agyeman v. Corrections Corp. of America, 390 F.3d 1101, 1103 (9th Cir. 2004). Neither the need for discovery, nor the fact that the pro se litigant would be better served with the assistance of counsel, necessarily qualify the issues involved as complex. See Rand v. Rowland, 113 F.3d 1520, 1525 (9th Cir. 1997). Plaintiff has not shown that exceptional circumstances exist.


For the foregoing reasons, the Court ...

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