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Blake v. Santa Clara Department of Corrections

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 3, 2015

SHAWNCEY BLAKE, Plaintiff,
v.
SANTA CLARA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; SERGEANT GILETTE; LIEUTENANT TAYLOR; CAPTAIN SEPULVEDA, Defendants.

ORDER OF SERVICE

JEFFREY S. WHITE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Santa Clara County Jail, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that he was disciplined in retaliation for pursuing complaints. The complaint was dismissed with leave to amend, and he filed a timely amended complaint. For the reasons discussed below, certain claims in the amended complaint are dismissed because they are not cognizable, while other claims are cognizable and the amended complaint is ordered served on certain defendants.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. dismiss any claims which 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. Id. at 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the.... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974. Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two 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. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

LEGAL CLAIMS

Plaintiff alleges in the amended complaint that he filed an administrative grievance with jail officials requesting his medical records and a doctor's appointment. He also contacted Defendant Linda Kowellis, an official in the Internal Affairs Department of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, about these issues. Defendant Sergeant Gillotte, a jail official, ordered him not to contact the Internal Affairs Department about these issues anymore, but he continued to do so. He was then disciplined by Gillotte and Defendants Lieutenant Taylor and Captain Sepulveda for disobeying an order from a jail official. He then wrote letters to Chief of Corrections John Hirokawa and Sheriff Laurie Smith about these problems but they did nothing to remedy them. He claims that by punishing him for complaining about his prison conditions, or by acquiescing in this punishment, these Defendants violated his right to access the courts and retaliated him for exercising his First Amendment rights. When liberally construed, these claims are cognizable.

Plaintiff also alleges that in an unrelated incident he was disciplined in retaliation for helping another inmate pursue a complaint about medical care. He claims that this violates state law, the state constitution and jail policy. Such claims are not cognizable under Section 1983, which only provides a remedy for violations of federal law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). These allegations do not state a cognizable retaliation claim either, which requires retaliation for the exercise of a federal constitutional right. See Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 283-84 (1977). There is no federal constitutional right to assist another inmate in pursue a complaint. Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U.S. 223, 231 (2001). Accordingly, there is no cognizable retaliation claim stemming from this alleged incident.

Plaintiff also alleges that in another incident, Defendants Davis and Borgzinner verbally harassed and threatened him and other inmates on a bus. Allegations of verbal harassment and threats do not state a claim under Section 1983. See Rutledge v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 660 F.2d 1345, 1353 (9th Cir. 1981). He also alleges that Lieutenant Borgzinner disciplined him for asking other jail officials a question. He claims that the disciplinary proceeding was "biased" because Plaintiff had previously complained about Borgzinner's conduct in an administrative grievance, and because two witnesses to the disciplinary proceeding had also been present during the bus incident. Allegations of "bias" in a jail disciplinary proceeding do not, without more, implicate an inmate's constitutional right to due process. See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974).

Accordingly, these allegations do not state a cognizable claim either.

Plaintiff has not cured the deficiencies that were present in his original complaint with respect to suing the ...


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