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Crane v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 13, 2015

RICHARD JOSEPH CRANE, Plaintiff,
v.
RODRIGUEZ, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

KENDALL J. NEWMAN, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). Therefore, the court may dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989), superseded by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) ("[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless."); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). 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, 550 U.S. at 555. However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555, citations and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93, and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).

Plaintiff alleges that on December 30, 2009, defendants Barton and Probst forced plaintiff to move to cell 113 with inmate Washington, aka "BG" or "Baby Gangster, " an alleged Crips gang member. Plaintiff claims that following repeated requests to be moved for his protection from BG's threats, plaintiff was assaulted by BG and plaintiff's nose and ribs were broken. Plaintiff claims he was subjected to a false rules violation ("115") for fighting. Plaintiff alleges that on February 5, 2010, BG assaulted plaintiff after plaintiff informed Correctional Officer Silva that BG threatened to beat plaintiff up.

Plaintiff also alleges that on January 22, 2011, he was repeatedly denied a cell move away from inmate Smith, and when plaintiff asked defendant Rodriguez to move plaintiff due to inmate Smith's threats, plaintiff alleges that defendant Rodriguez threatened to drag plaintiff out of his cell, beat plaintiff, and then throw plaintiff back in the cell. Days later, plaintiff alleges that defendant Smith attacked plaintiff from behind and severely beat plaintiff's head against the concrete wall.

Plaintiff also claims that on January 16, 2013, an inmate Dolihite was induced into stabbing plaintiff in the neck. Finally, plaintiff alleges that on March 1, 2013, defendant Robinette had two black inmates attack plaintiff, and after plaintiff was beaten, Robinette and other guards handcuffed plaintiff and then hit plaintiff over the head with batons, knocking plaintiff unconscious. Plaintiff alleges that prison guards at High Desert State Prison ("HDSP") "were on a campaign of acts of violence against [plaintiff] for legal actions [he] was pursuing." (ECF No. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff names as defendants Correctional Officers Rodriguez, Robinette, Barton, and Probst.

First, plaintiff raises factual allegations as to six separate incidents that occurred over a four year period at HDSP. Plaintiff is advised that it is not appropriate to raise unrelated claims against different defendants in one action; rather, unrelated claims against different defendants must be pursued in multiple lawsuits. The controlling principle appears in Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a):

A party asserting a claim... may join, [] as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims... as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2) (joinder of defendants not permitted unless both commonality and same transaction requirements are satisfied). Therefore, plaintiff must pursue his claims based on separate incidents in separate lawsuits. However, the undersigned will address plaintiff's claims so that plaintiff may decide which claim to pursue in this action, and which claims to pursue in separate actions.

Second, allegations of mere threats are not cognizable. See Gaut v. Sunn, 810 F.2d 923, 925 (9th Cir. 1987) (mere threat does not constitute constitutional wrong, nor do allegations that naked threat was for purpose of denying access to courts compel contrary result). Thus, plaintiff's claims as to defendants Barton ...


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