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Hodge v. Gonzales

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 8, 2017

MARK HODGE, Plaintiff,
v.
J. GONZALES, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS, (ECF NO. 17), PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT, (ECF NO. 24), AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SCHEDULING ORDER, (ECF NO. 23)

          BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Mark Hodge (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action currently proceeds on Plaintiff's first amended complaint against Defendants Gonzalez and Flores for unconstitutional conditions of confinement, against Defendant Gonzalez for excessive force, and against Defendant Flores for failure to protect Plaintiff, all in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This matter was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.[1]

         On May 10, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss this action on the grounds that it is clear from the face of the first amended complaint that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the holdings of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 480 (1994), and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 643 (1997). (ECF No. 17.) Defendants also filed a request for judicial notice in support. (ECF No. 18.) On May 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, (ECF No. 20), and on June 1, 2016, Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition, (ECF No. 21.)

         On June 23, 2016, Plaintiff lodged a proposed second amended complaint. (ECF No. 22.) On July 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for scheduling order, asserting that since he lodged a second amended complaint correcting the defects in his first amended complaint, Defendants could not continue to argue for dismissal on those grounds anymore. (ECF No. 23.)

         On August 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his first amended complaint. (ECF No. 24.) On September 6, 2016, Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion to amend, (ECF No. 25), and on September 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed a reply to that opposition, (ECF No. 26.)

         These motions are deemed submitted. Local Rule 230(1).

         II. Summary of First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff's first amended complaint concerns allegations against Defendants Gonzalez and Flores while he was housed at Corcoran State Prison, where Defendants were employed. Plaintiff alleges that on January 8, 2013, he was placed on the program holding cell in Facility 3A for “about an hour” while handcuffed. (First Am. Compl., ECF No. 8, p. 3.) Plaintiff recently had rotator cuff surgery, as well as foot surgery, involving the placement of screws in Plaintiff's toes.

         Plaintiff asked Defendant Gonzalez if he could remove the handcuffs and give Plaintiff shower shoes, because of the pain from Plaintiff's recent surgery. Defendant Gonzalez denied Plaintiff's request. Plaintiff alleges that after an hour, he began to bang on the holding tank door while handcuffed. Plaintiff was told by Defendants Gonzalez and Flores that “I ain't got nothing coming.” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff specifically told both Defendants about his recent surgery, and again asked to have his handcuffs removed and for shower shoes. Plaintiff also asked to see a doctor. Defendants left him in the holding cage for another hour.

         Plaintiff alleges that after an hour, the following occurred:

Gonzalez and Flores came back into the holding tank area and Gonzalez pulled out his O.C. pepper spray and opened the food port and sprayed me point blank range at my genitals causing unbearable pain, stating, this is for messing with our woman folk; then he and Flores started laughing and coughing and closed the food port and left out. I immediately could not talk, or breathe, being inside the Plexiglas enclosed holding tank. The left me in there like that for about ten minutes, and then correctional officers Shelton and Meier came in and escorted me barefooted out to the front of the 3A program office.

(Id. at 5, 6.)

         Plaintiff alleges that when Gonzales came into the holding tank after the first hour, Plaintiff had let his underwear fall to the floor in order to have something to stand on. Plaintiff alleges that when Gonzales sprayed Plaintiff with the pepper spray through the food port door, he sprayed him “point blank” in the genitals. Plaintiff alleges that earlier that morning, Defendant Gonzales admitted that he was aware that Plaintiff was having chest pains and breathing problems. Plaintiff told Gonzales that he suffered from asthma and used inhalers.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in the holding cell to be prepared for escort to the Administrative Segregation Unit, but he knew that Defendants never intended to escort him “like they claimed in their reports, ” because he was never given a jumpsuit or shower shoes for the escort. (Id. at 6-7.)

         II. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). They argue that if Plaintiff were successful in this section 1983 action, that judgment would render certain rule violations that Plaintiff was convicted of invalid. Therefore, they assert that this action is barred by the favorable termination rule of Heck and Edwards.

         A. Legal Standards

         1.Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures provides for motions to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969); Meek v. County of Riverside, 183 F.3d 962, 965 (9th Cir. 1999). However, the Court need not credit “naked assertions, ” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007).

         In general, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The court has an obligation to construe such pleadings liberally. Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). However, a court's liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not pled. Ivey v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

         2.Favorable Termination Rule

         It has long been established that state prisoners cannot challenge the fact or duration of their confinement in a section 1983 action and their sole remedy lies in habeas corpus relief. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005). Often referred to as the favorable termination rule or the Heck bar, this exception to section 1983's otherwise broad scope applies whenever state prisoners “seek to invalidate the duration of their confinement-either directly through an injunction compelling speedier release or indirectly through a judicial determination that necessarily implies the unlawfulness of the State's custody.” Wilkinson, 544 U.S. at 81; Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 482, 486-487 (1994); Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 644 (1997). Thus, “a state prisoner's [section] 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter the relief sought (damages or equitable ...


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