United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER OF SERVICE; ADDRESSING PENDING MOTIONS Re: Dkt. Nos. 3, 4, 10, 11
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, Jr., District Judge.
Plaintiff, a state prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison ("PBSP") proceeding pro se, has filed an amended civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order. For the reasons stated below, the Court will serve the amended complaint.
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 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).
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.
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 defendants retaliated against him for engaging in hunger strikes and for filing previous lawsuits against PBSP staff. Plaintiff also alleges that the retaliation placed him at risk of attack from other inmates.
"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).
The Eighth Amendment requires that prison officials take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of prisoners. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). In particular, prison officials have a duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners. Id. at 833; Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th Cir. 2005). The failure of prison officials to protect inmates from attacks by other inmates or from dangerous conditions at the prison violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the deprivation alleged is, objectively, sufficiently serious; and (2) the prison official is, subjectively, deliberately indifferent to inmate safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Hearns, 413 F.3d at 1040-41. A prisoner need not wait until he is actually assaulted to state a claim and obtain relief. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 845.
Plaintiff alleges that, on August 8, 2013, in retaliation for plaintiff's engaging in hunger strikes and for filing prior lawsuits against PBSP staff, defendant Correctional Officer Thomas Drager yelled in a loud voice into plaintiff's housing unit that plaintiff and two other inmates needed to pack up their property and prepare to move to the debriefer unit. The two other inmates had also been on a hunger strike with plaintiff and had also filed previous lawsuits against PBSP staff. When one of the other inmates responded that he was not a debriefer, defendant Drager stated that they had to move. Plaintiff further alleges that, on August 17, 2013, defendant Correctional Officer Rodney Brunner announced to unidentified floor officers that D-pod is where all the debriefers go. Defendant Brunner's voice was loud enough for other inmates to hear. When another inmate asked defendant Brunner why he would say that, defendant Brunner replied that "the captain had all of [us] on shit status' for filing lawsuits and being hunger striker flip floppers." Amended Complaint at 16. Plaintiff believes that defendant Captain Glen W. Olson was the captain that defendant Brunner was referring to. Plaintiff alleges that being referred to as a debriefer in this manner exposed him to harm by other inmates. Liberally construed, plaintiff's First and Eighth Amendment claims are sufficient to proceed against defendants Drager and Brunner. Plaintiff has failed to present sufficient allegations linking defendant Olson to any constitutional violation; therefore he will be dismissed from this action. Even at the pleading stage, "[a] plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights." Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). Should plaintiff wish to amend his complaint to include defendant Olson, he must do so within 28 days of the filing date of this Order. Plaintiff is advised that in order to state a cognizable claim against a defendant, he must show that the defendant's actions both actually and proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). Plaintiff is cautioned that there is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983. See Henry A. v. Willden, 678 F.3d 991, 1003-04 (9th Cir. 2012) (recognizing that a supervisor may be liable under § 1983 only upon a showing of (1) personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation).
Finally, plaintiff claims that defendants Pedroso, James, Navarro, and Chaucer retaliated against him by creating two separate false disciplinary reports, and finding him guilty at disciplinary hearings on each report. Plaintiff asserts that the guilty findings, based on the false reports, resulted in a total of 180 days loss of credits. "Federal law opens two main avenues to relief on complaints related to imprisonment: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and a complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Challenges to the lawfulness of confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus.'" Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 573, 579 (2006) (quoting Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004)). "An inmate's challenge to the circumstances of his confinement, however, may be brought under § 1983." Id . Habeas is the "exclusive remedy" for the prisoner who seeks "immediate or speedier release'" from confinement. Skinner v. Switzer, 131 S.Ct. 1289, 1293 (2011) (quoting Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 82 (2005)). Claims challenging the loss of good time credits affect the duration of confinement, and thus, are properly brought in a habeas petition. See Butterfield v. Bail, 120 F.3d 1023, 1024 (9th Cir. 1997). Moreover, plaintiff may not obtain money damages for the allegedly unlawful disciplinary sanctions that include the loss of ...