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Crew v. Commissioner of Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 19, 2016

DAVID CREW, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, Defendant.

          PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

          Lawrence J. O’Neill United States Chief District Judge

         Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseloads in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. Given the shortage of district judges and staff, this Court addresses only the arguments, evidence, and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of United States Senators Feinstein and Boxer to address this Court’s inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to reconsider consent to conduct all further proceedings before a Magistrate Judge, whose schedules are far more realistic and accommodating to parties than that of U.S. Chief District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill, who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases.

         Civil trials set before Chief Judge O'Neill trail until he becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to accommodate criminal matters. Civil trials are no longer reset to a later date if Chief Judge O'Neill is unavailable on the original date set for trial. Moreover, this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges throughout the nation to serve as visiting judges. In the absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from inside or outside the Eastern District of California.

         I. Screening requirement and standard.

         Plaintiff David Crew is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff’s complaint, filed on April 26, 2016, is currently 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, 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); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). If an action is dismissed on one of these three basis, a strike is imposed per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and has not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury does not qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Richey v. Dahne, 807 F.3d 1201, 1208 (9th Cir. 2015).

         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 mereconclusory 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)). While a plaintiff’s allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Id.

         II. Plaintiff’s allegations. [1]

         Plaintiff’s complaint outlines a series of events concerning his medical history around August and September 2015. It is difficult to understand the relevance of most of the allegations given the limited basis for his claims, discussed in more detail below. Around August 30, 2015, Plaintiff was seen by an unnamed registered nurse (“RN”), who informed Plaintiff that he had a metallic object in his stomach. The RN insisted that the object was a razor. Later, an unnamed doctor and an unnamed Supervising Nurse saw Plaintiff and confirmed that he had something in his stomach. Though they did not know what it was, they did not think it was a razor.

         Plaintiff returned to Kern Valley State Prison (“KVSP”), where he was placed on suicide watch by order of an unnamed psychiatrist. “KVSP medical” allegedly “tried to talk to the psychiatrist who refused to listen.” On Septmeber 1, 2015, Plaintiff was placed under suicide restraints in a holding cage. The psychiatrist visited with Plaintiff and stated that Plaintiff knew he had staples in his stomach. Plaintiff alleges that while on suicide watch he was denied his “C-pap machine, ” which helps him breathe at night.

         Plaintiff claims he was not aware of having staples in his stomach, that no medical professional had informed him of the staples, and that there is no medical documentation of them. He argues this amounts to medical malpractice. Plaintiff further argues the medical care the KVSP psychiatrist provided, specifically, placing Plaintiff on suicide watch and ignoring his serious medical condition and needs, was “grossly incompetent and inadequately excessive.”

         III. Plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim.

         As noted, the basis for Plaintiff’s claims is not clear. It appears that Plaintiff asserts solely Eighth Amendment medical claims. Under the Eighth Amendment, the government has an obligation to provide medical care to those who are incarcerated. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000). “In order to violate the Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment, there must be a ‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.’” Id. (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). Lopez takes a two-prong approach to evaluating whether medical care, or lack thereof, rises to the level of “deliberate indifference.” First, a Court must examine whether the plaintiff’s medical needs were serious. See Id. Second, a Court must determine whether “officials intentionally interfered with [the plaintiff's] medical treatment.” Id. at 1132. “The indifference to his medical needs must be substantial. Mere ‘indifference, ’ ...


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