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Smith v. Hutchinson

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 10, 2017

TOY TERRELL SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
R.M. HUTCHINSON, et al, Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (ECF NO. 1) THIRTY DAY DEADLINE

         Plaintiff Toy Terrell Smith (“Plaintiff”) is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that he did not receive adequate mental health care, was forcibly removed from his cell in order to transfer to another prison, and suffered an inmate attack when staff left him exposed at a prison with known enemies.

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on December 27, 2016, which is before this Court for screening.[1] (ECF No. 1.) For the reasons described below, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for violation of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff is given leave to amend his complaint if he believes that additional facts would state a claim under the legal principles described below.

         I. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         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 or malicious, ” that 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). “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).

         A complaint is required to 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)). 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). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.

         To state a viable claim for relief, Plaintiff must set forth sufficient factual allegations to state a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.

         II. SUMMARY OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff's complaint provides a detailed chronology of Plaintiff failing to receive the mental health treatment he requested. Plaintiff had been the victim of a stabbing incident on September 27, 2013. Following the incident, Plaintiff began requesting elevated mental health care. On October 2, 2013, he explained that he was suffering great mental stress and could not think clearly or focus. Plaintiff explained to mental health staff that Plaintiff believed he was being retaliated against by staff, and was being specifically targeted by prison officials. The stabbing incident was the third incident that occurred against him. Plaintiff asked the mental health staff to be placed somewhere he could sleep, be left alone, and receive adequate mental health care assistance.

         During a one-on-one mental health counseling sessions in October, 2013, Plaintiff's mental health clinician, Dr. Lacy, assured Plaintiff she would speak to mental health authorities to see what could be done to get him additional mental health assistance. She indicated she would request that Plaintiff remain at New Folsom Prison until she had received an adequate response.

         However, on October 29, 2013, Plaintiff was told that he was being transferred to Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). Plaintiff arrived at KVSP on October 30, 2013. On November 7, 2013, Plaintiff received a phone call from a mental health psychologist, Dr. Morgan, at New Folsom prison regarding a health care appeal he had filed while there. Dr. Morgan explained that she could not address the matter any longer because he had been transferred, but would forward his information to the assigned mental health clinician at the new location.

         On November 13, 2013, Plaintiff was interviewed by his newly assigned mental health clinician at KVSP, Dr. Barajas. Plaintiff explained that he was extremely depressed and could not deal with his current living situation, that he was being retaliated against by prison staff, that he had recently been stabbed, and that he needed placement into a mental health treatment facility in order to gather himself and recuperate. Plaintiff requested transfer to an institution that provided mental health assistance so he could be left along and try to regain focus, balance, and a sense of purpose.

         Dr. Barajas said that he would recommend mental health placement for Plaintiff's upcoming prison classification committee hearing scheduled for November 19, 2013. At that hearing, Plaintiff requested such a transfer, but the committee told Plaintiff that they had not received any recommendation for mental health transfer from Dr. Barajas. When Plaintiff finally confronted Dr. Barajas, Dr. Barajas said “I didn't have a chance to get to it.” Plaintiff then asked for group therapy, anger management classes, or whatever was available at KVSP. Dr. Barajas said “I will put you on the waiting list for group therapy.” However, Plaintiff later learned that there was no group therapy or other mental health programs at KVSP.

         Plaintiff then saw the second level appeal reviewer, B. Mason, who offered to have Plaintiff see Dr. Barajas more frequently in order to receive additional one-on-one counseling. Plaintiff declined because he no longer trusted Dr. Barajas due to his untruthfulness, unprofessionalism, and carelessness.

         Plaintiff continued to seek transfer to a different institution for mental health care. Plaintiff's request was denied by R. M. Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer of mental health services. Mr. Hutchinson wrote in his denial, “The professional judgment of the mental health staff working with you indicates that you are at the appropriate level of mental care.” Plaintiff unsuccessfully tried to appeal this decision. In Plaintiff's appeals, Plaintiff indicated that “A) it was improper, deceitful and unprofessional for his assigned mental health clinician to be untruthful and even go as far as to sign the plaintiff up for group therapy/anger management classes that didn't even exist, B) that he could not focus/function on a daily basis in his living environment and needed serious help, and C) he was placed in an institution that was well known for riots, shootings, extensive lockdowns and various other unproductive activity that was unconducive to Plaintiff's state of being.”

         Plaintiff continued suffering from feelings of hopelessness and despair and contemplated suicide. Plaintiff was then framed by KVSP administrative staff and, on May 1, 2014, approached by prisoners in reaction to untruths spread by staff members. A fight ensued. Plaintiff was shot by a riot gun. After prison lockdown status was raised, Plaintiff was approached by another prisoner, which triggered a full scale racial riot in which inmates were beaten and stabbed. Plaintiff saw no reason to avoid such altercations, as he had been doing prior to being denied mental health assistance. Plaintiff indicated on his 602 appeals that he felt like harming others in order to be left alone, but would prefer to receive mental health assistance and placement in a different facility.

         On August 4, 2014, Plaintiff was placed in KVSP's administrative segregation unit and charged with battery on an inmate. Mental staff told Plaintiff that he should have talked to someone before having such an episode. Plaintiff said that he had been trying to talk to someone for a long time. It was determined by mental health staff that the Plaintiff's mental disorder contributed to his behavior and should be considered in any penalty.

         While in administrative segregation, Defendant R. M. Hutchinson told Plaintiff that “somebody slipped up” and he would be considered for Enhanced Outpatient Program at the next interdisciplinary treatment team hearing.

         However, on January 20, 2015, administrative staff told Plaintiff he was being transferred to Corcoran State Prison, Security Housing Unit (SHU). Plaintiff arrived there on January 23, 2015. At Corcoran, Plaintiff's mental health clinician, Dr. Tepperman, informed Plaintiff that due to a recent court order regarding Corcoran's SHU, Plaintiff would be faced with many delays. Around September 2015, Plaintiff's mental health clinician took a leave of absence. Plaintiff went without a mental health clinician for approximately 6-8 weeks. A different mental health clinician, Dr. Lester, arrived at Corcoran in November 2015, but she was not properly trained or helpful.

         On January 12, 2016, Plaintiff was approached by his correctional custody counselor, J. Torres, and told that his SHU term would be over in approximately 60 days. Torres asked which institution Plaintiff wished to be transferred to. Plaintiff said he was not interested in any of the institutions to choose from because he wanted an institution that deals with inmates in need of mental health treatment.

         On January 12, 2016, a classification committee was held to determine what to do with Plaintiff. Plaintiff gave Torres a two page statement discussing Plaintiff's recent mistreatments by prison staff. The statement concerned the injustices that Plaintiff had suffered, including at KVSP. The classification committee met without Plaintiff and determined that Plaintiff should be transferred back to KVSP. According to the chrono, it appears that Torres did not provide the Committee with Plaintiff's written statements, Torres recommended that Plaintiff be transferred to KVSP, Torres said falsely that KVSP was Plaintiff's preferred institution, and also indicated falsely that KVSP was near Plaintiff's family. Plaintiff filed a grievance challenging his transfer. Plaintiff met with M. Hoggard regarding ...


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