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Phelps v. Cate

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 28, 2015

MATTHEW CATE, et al., Defendants.


MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff Mark Phelps, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 4, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) The Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and dismissed it for failure to state a claim but gave leave to amend. (ECF No. 11.) Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 14.) is now before the Court for screening.


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, malicious, " or 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). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal... fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).


Plaintiff identifies (1) Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), (2) Mike Stainer, Warden of the California Correctional Institution ("CCI") at Tehachapi, (3) J. Zamera, Appeals Examiner, (4) D. Foston, Chief of Appeals, and correctional officers: (5) Kristofer Campbell, (6) Jordan Dalton, (7) Steve Gurule, (8) Elizach Rangel, and (9) Does 1-8 as Defendants. Plaintiff's allegations can be summarized essentially as follows:

On May 19, 2011, two inmates, Charest and Medina, attacked Plaintiff by stabbing him nine times in the exercise yard. A third inmate, Boukes, was complicit in the attack. Plaintiff believes he was attacked because he was mistakenly identified as a sex offender and because prison guards condone and allow such attacks.

One or more of the Doe Defendants (Does 1 and/or 2) and Defendants Dalton, Gurule, and Rangel were in charge of strip searching Plaintiff, Charest, and Medina prior to allowing them to enter the exercise yard. Defendants either were negligent in following the procedures for searching the inmates or purposefully allowed the knife to be passed through security.

Defendants Campbell, Dalton, Gurule, Rangel, and Does 3 and 4 violated CDCR policy by failing to properly search cells. Proper and routine cell searches would have resulted in the knife being found prior to the attack on Plaintiff.

In retaliation against Plaintiff for filing grievances regarding the incident, Defendants Stainer, Campbell, Dalton, Gurule, Rangel, and Does 1-6 required him to remain in administrative segregation ("ad-seg") for an extra 191 days, from September 11, 2011 until April 26, 2012. Placement in ad-seg chilled Plaintiff's desire to pursue grievances. Inmates should only be placed in ad-seg for short periods of time because inmates are confined to 60 square feet cells for 23 hours per day. The conditions in ad-seg are more severe because inmates have greater restrictions on their use and possession of property and participation in prison activities. There was no penological purpose for placing Plaintiff in ad-seg because Plaintiff had served his term in the segregated housing unit and was set to return to regular housing.

Defendants Cate, Stainer, Zamera, Foston, and Does 7 and 8 failed to protect Plaintiff, prevented him from filing grievances, and retaliated against him as is evidenced by: 1) Plaintiff's grievance being converted to a staff complaint, 2) the failure of the prison to punish the involved correctional officers, 3) after the incident, the District Attorney was not notified and asked to file charges against the inmates involved, and 4) Stainer and Cate's conduct in protecting officers who violate prison policy.

As a result of the attack, Plaintiff sustained both physical injuries and psychological and emotional damage. Plaintiff seeks damages and costs for Defendants' violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and California state law.

IV. ...

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