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Cowart v. Chavez

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 22, 2016

GARDELL COWART, Plaintiff,
v.
D. CHAVEZ, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATION TO DISMISS ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE (ECF NO. 8) FOURTEEN-DAY OBJECTION PERIOD

          MICHAEL J. SENG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's complaint was previously dismissed with leave to amend for failure to state a claim. (ECF Nos. 1, 7.) Before the Court for screening is Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 8.)

         I. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         The in forma pauperis statute provides, "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 upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         II. PLEADING STANDARD

         Section 1983 "provides a cause of action for the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States." Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

         To state a claim under § 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); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987).

         A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 677-78.

         III. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         At all relevant times Plaintiff was an inmate housed at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility ("CSATF") in Corcoran, California. He names the following CSATF correctional staff as Defendants: Correctional Officer ("CO") D. Chavez and Correctional Lieutenant ("Lt.") S. Deathriage.

         Plaintiff's claims can be summarized essentially as follows:

         On September 10, 2015, in the middle of a staph infection outbreak at CSATF, Plaintiff cleaned the area around his bunk in a shared dorm. CO Chavez came to inspect the area and then later called Plaintiff into the building's main office where she directed Plaintiff to sign a document authorizing the removal of funds in the amount of $22.11 from Plaintiff's trust account. This withdrawal was for the alleged destruction or damage of certain items, including sheets, a laundry bag, and a blue chambray shirt. Plaintiff denies having destroyed or damaged any state-issued property. When he refused to sign the document, CO Chavez threatened to freeze Plaintiff's trust account and to issue a Rules Violations Report ("RVR") for destruction of state property. Plaintiff did not sign the document, and an RVR issued.

         On September 23, 2015, a hearing was held on the RVR. Plaintiff appeared at the hearing, presented testimony, and offered evidence. The hearing officer, Lt. Deathriage, found Plaintiff guilty after improperly relying on CO Chavez's statements. Lt. Deathriage said, "How do I know you didn't do it? You inmates think you know everything, you don't know shit." Plaintiff was assessed a 60-day loss of credit, a 90-day loss of privileges, and a confiscation of Plaintiff's appliances.

         After receiving a final copy of the RVR on October 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed an inmate appeal on November 10, 2015. Due to delays caused by prison staff, ...


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