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Fratus v. Baptista

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 9, 2015

JOHN RICHARD FRATUS, Plaintiff,
v.
BAPTISTA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER OF SERVICE

JAMES DONATO, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a state prisoner, proceeds with a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's complaint was dismissed with leave to amend and he has filed an amended complaint.

DISCUSSION

I. 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the Court must identify any cognizable claims, and 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." Although 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, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. The United States Supreme Court has explained the "plausible on its face" standard of Twombly: "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

II. LEGAL CLAIMS

Plaintiff states that several defendants used excessive force against him in retaliation for reporting an injury. The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment. Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). "After incarceration, only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain... constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986) (ellipsis in original) (internal quotation and citation omitted). The core judicial inquiry is whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm. Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320-21.

"Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) an assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal." Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005) (footnote omitted). Accord Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 806 (9th Cir. 1995) (prisoner suing prison officials under § 1983 for retaliation must allege that he was retaliated against for exercising his constitutional rights and that the retaliatory action did not advance legitimate penological goals, such as preserving institutional order and discipline).

In the prior screening order (Docket No. 6) the Court found that plaintiff had stated a claim against defendants Baptista and Beers for excessive force when they sprayed him with pepper spray. The remaining supervisory defendants were dismissed with leave to amend to provide more information. The only additional defendant mentioned in the amended complaint is Sergeant Johnson, and plaintiff alleges that he was present during the last portion of the pepper spray incident and helped the defendants cover up the incident and destroyed evidence. Plaintiff provides no other information regarding his involvement or how he aided in a cover up. These allegations are insufficient to state a claim against Johnson and he is dismissed from this action. Plaintiff also alleges that Baptista and Beers used excessive force in retaliation for plaintiff reporting a back injury he suffered from a prior incident with the defendants. Plaintiff alleges that Baptista called him a "rat" and asked how his back was feeling prior to using the pepper spray. This is sufficient to allege a retaliation claim against these defendants.

CONCLUSION

1. All defendants are DISMISSED from this action except for Baptista and Beers.

2. The clerk shall issue a summons and the United States Marshal shall serve, without prepayment of fees, copies of the amended complaint with attachments and copies of this order on the following defendants: ...


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