United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure brought on behalf of defendants Ringler and Scotland. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion, and defendants have filed a reply.
For the reasons stated herein, the court finds that defendants' motion to dismiss should be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendants Ringler and Scotland. Therein, plaintiff alleges as follows. On July 2, 2012, defendant Ringler as well as Sergeants Ramirez and Clark conducted a two and a half hour search of plaintiff's personal property and housing area. Sergeant Clark confiscated plaintiff's television and radio, believing they were contraband. Plaintiff showed Sergeant Clark documentation establishing plaintiff's rightful ownership, and Clark subsequently summoned plaintiff to retrieve the seized property. Plaintiff observed that his radio had been damaged due to defendant Ringler's attempt to open it to search for contraband. When plaintiff mentioned this to Sergeant Clark, plaintiff was ordered to leave. Later that day, plaintiff was summoned back to the center complex where Sergeants Ramirez and Clark and defendants Ringler and Scotland were all seated. Plaintiff made a verbal complaint about the prior search and seizure of his property, and defendant Ringler reached over and broke off a piece of plaintiff's radio, saying "There, it's fixed." Immediately thereafter, defendant Scotland warned plaintiff that the searches would continue if he continued to press the issues about which he was verbally complaining. (Compl. at 5-5b)
Plaintiff pursued a formal inmate grievance about defendants' alleged conduct in the center complex, which prison officials denied. On November 21, 2012, Correctional Officers Henderson and DeStefano conducted a search of plaintiff's living area. Shortly thereafter, defendant Ringler arrived at the scene and went straight to plaintiff's living area. Although Officer Henderson told defendant Ringler he had already searched plaintiff's area, defendant Ringler proceeded to search it again anyway. Plaintiff pursued another formal inmate grievance about defendant Ringler's conduct, which prison officials partially granted. On May 7, 2013, defendant Ringler and Correctional Officer Ruiz conducted another search of plaintiff's living area and again confiscated more of plaintiff's property. In terms of relief, plaintiff requests damages. (Compl. at 5b-5d)
At screening, the court found that, liberally construed, plaintiff's complaint appeared to state a cognizable claim for retaliation under the First Amendment against defendants Ringler and Scotland. (Doc. No. 9)
I. Motion Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint. North Star Int'l v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). See also Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
In determining whether a pleading states a claim, the court accepts as true all material allegations in the complaint and construes those allegations, as well as the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). In the context of a motion to dismiss, the court also resolves doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).
In general, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The court has an obligation to construe such pleadings liberally. Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). However, the court's liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that are not pled. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992).
In the pending motion to dismiss, defense counsel argues that: (1) plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim for retaliation under the First Amendment against defendants Ringler and Scotland; (2) plaintiff has not alleged facts to support a claim for punitive damages; and (3) defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. ...