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Cook v. State

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 4, 2016

THOMAS P. COOK Plaintiff,
STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et. al ., Defendants.




         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. Background

         At the time he filed the original complaint in this case, Plaintiff Thomas P. Cook (“Plaintiff”) was a California state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis[1] in this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See ECF No. 1. Plaintiff filed his original complaint (ECF No. 1) on December 31, 2014, and the first amended complaint (ECF No. 7) on March 24, 2015. Plaintiff’s second amended complaint (“SAC”), filed on December 30, 2015 (ECF No. 12) is currently before the Court[2] for screening. According to the SAC, Plaintiff was paroled on September 20, 2015. ECF No. 12 at 1.

         II. Screening Requirement and Standard

         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). In this case, Plaintiff is no longer a prisoner in state custody, as he was paroled on September 20, 2015. See ECF No. 12 at 1. Nevertheless, as Plaintiff continues to proceed pro se, the Court will apply the standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), which is substantially similar to the standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) for prisoner complaints. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court reviews a pro se complaint to determine whether the complaint is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Thus, the critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however unartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989).

         As a pro se litigant, Plaintiff is entitled to have his pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in his favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Nevertheless, Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that his complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” 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)). 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). Thus, to survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court reasonably to 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.

         If the Court determines that the complaint may be cured by amendment, the Court will grant Plaintiff leave to amend and provide him with notice of the complaint’s deficiencies. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). The Court will deny leave to amend if “it is absolutely clear” that amendment of a claim would be futile. See id.

         III. Plaintiff’s Allegations

         Plaintiff has asserted claims against the following Defendants: the State of California; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”); Edmund G. Brown; M.D. Stainer, director of the CDCR; Support System Homes, a substance-abuse treatment center; and Scott Grinnell, a parole agent, employed by CDCR (“Agent Grinnell) (collectively, “Defendants”). See generally ECF No. 12.

         The SAC contains two main claims, both of which arose out of events that occurred after Plaintiff was released on parole. First, Plaintiff alleges general discrimination against him by the State of California and the CDCR on account of his status as a registered sex offender under section 290 of the California Penal Code (“CPC”). Id. at 1-2.[3] Plaintiff alleges that after he was paroled from Valley State Prison on September 20, 2015, he was taken to Support Systems Homes Treatment Center for thirty days of substance abuse treatment. Id. at 1. Plaintiff had already completed nine months of substance abuse treatment while he was in prison. Id. Plaintiff alleges that “[b]y completing these substance abuse programs in prison, [he] was promised many things such as assistance with getting ID/license, [a] social security card, employment placement, clothing, transportation[, ] and so on, ” and that he has received no help on his re-entry into society from Support Systems Homes. Id. Furthermore, he alleges that his treatment is paid for by “the Stop Fund, ” such funding is being misused and his account is being charged for services that he has not received, and asks that the Court “look into these accounts and the use of discrimination” against persons who have registered as sex offenders under CPC § 290. Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff states that “if you register 290[, ] you have nothing coming, no help with reentry into society, ” and that “no matter what a 290 does, he/she will do the max parole, [and] be treat[ed] as if their crime just happen[ed].” Id. In connection with this allegation, Plaintiff requests that the Court review his parole conditions from 1998 to 2015, alleging that each time he has paroled, his conditions have worsened. Id. Plaintiff has also attached various documents “concerning [his] civil rights, ” which include information and records relating to the State’s funding of substance abuse programs for inmates and parolees, id. at 5-10, an administrative complaint he previously filed, id. at 11-16, the CDCR 602 complaint form he attempted to file against Agent Grinnell, id. at 17-18, correspondence which relates to the STOP program, id. at 19-27, and copies of recent state court rulings concerning CPC § 290, id. at 29-32.

         Next, Plaintiff alleges that after he was released on parole, Agent Grinnell interfered with his medical care. Id. at 3. He states that on December 17, 2015, “after being sick for weeks, ” he was able to get a day off training and go to the ER at the Santa Clara Hospital, and Agent Grinnell called him and ordered him to leave the hospital while knowing that Plaintiff was sick and in need of medical attention. Id. Plaintiff did not want to violate his parole, so he left the ER. Id. Plaintiff asks this Court to issue a protective order against Agent ...

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