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Smith v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

July 6, 2015



DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.



On April 7, 2015, Rickey Trent Smith ("Plaintiff") filed a pro se complaint against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Dkt 1 ("Complaint"). Plaintiff was formerly incarcerated at the California Institution for Men ("CIM") in Chino, California. Complaint at 5.[1] The Complaint alleges violations of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and violations of rights protected by state law. Specifically, the Complaint alleges the following causes of action: (1) false imprisonment; (2) cruel and unusual punishment; (3) mental stress; (4) loss of liberty; (5) deliberate indifference; (6) ADA discrimination; and (7) contempt of court. Complaint at 5, 6. The gravamen of Plaintiff's complaint is that the CDCR incorrectly calculated his time of release, extending his incarceration by 127 days, because they failed to give him 2 for 1 time credits. Id . Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $1, 000 per day per violation, equaling a total of $1, 016, 000. Id.

Because Plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis, this Court screens the Complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.



On September 19, 2014, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and received a sentence of 2 years and 8 months with credit for time served.[2] Id. at 5, 6. Plaintiff assumed that his time would be recalculated once he was in a CDCR facility at the 2 for 1 credit rate, giving him an "out date, " or release date, of December 10, 2014. Id . Plaintiff's counselor at the reception center at North Kern State Prison told Plaintiff that his time would be recalculated once he reached the "main line." Id . On December 30, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred to CIM where he received a release date of May 16, 2015. Id . Plaintiff filed an inmate appeal on form CDCR 602 in which he contended that he was eligible for 2 for 1 credits. Id. at 5, 12. The CDCR rejected Plaintiff's appeal, explaining that Plaintiff did not meet the criteria for 2 for 1 credits. Id. at 5, 11. After several more appeals Plaintiff was given a readjusted release date of April 12, 2015. Id. at 6. Plaintiff was released on April 12, 2015. Dkt. 8 at 2.



The Court's screening of the Complaint is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Further, since Plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the complaint liberally and must afford Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988).

However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). Moreover, with respect to Plaintiff's pleading burden, the Supreme Court has held that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitlement 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... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted, alteration in original); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (holding that to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." (internal citation omitted)).

If the Court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, the Court has discretion to dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible that the defects in the complaint could be corrected, especially if a plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting that "[a] pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint, and some notice of its deficiencies, unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment") (citing Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987)). However, if, after careful consideration, it is clear that a complaint cannot be cured by amendment, the Court may dismiss without leave to amend. Cato, 70 F.3d at 1105-06; see, e.g., Chaset v. Fleer/Skybox Int'l, 300 F.3d 1083, 1088 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that "there is no need to prolong the litigation by permitting further ...

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