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Kao v. Soria

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 6, 2017

CHUNG KAO, Plaintiff,
R. SORIA, et al., Defendants.


          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge


         Plaintiff, a state prisoner incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison (“SQSP”), filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that he was retaliated against for pursuing an administrative grievance. Plaintiff is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order. The complaint is now before the Court for review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.


         The complaint alleges the following:

         In December 2013, defendant SQSP correctional officer R. Soria confiscated plaintiff's privileged legal correspondence at the SQSP library and prepared a false entry for plaintiff's prison file. Plaintiff requested that Soria amend or remove the entry from plaintiff's prison file, but Soria refused to respond. Plaintiff proceeded to file an inmate grievance challenging Soria's actions, and he pursued the grievance through to the final level of review. The inmate appeal was assigned for review as a “staff complaint” against Soria, which meant that Soria would be notified of the allegations.

         At the time of these events, Soria's father worked at SQSP as a correctional captain. Soria used his father's position to obtain a post in plaintiff's housing unit and began working as one of plaintiff's housing unit officers on February 4, 2014. On the morning of February 5, 2014, Soria, along with defendant housing unit officers B. Coffer, S. Arana, and B. Broyles woke plaintiff up, removed him from his cell, locked him in a stand-up holding cage, and proceeded to search plaintiff's cell for nearly three hours. The search was conducted while defendants housing unit sergeant J. Van Blarcom and lieutenant Hal Williams were present in the housing unit, sanctioning the search and giving directions. The search was later joined by defendant Investigative Services Unit sergeant A. Lujan.

         During the search, defendant correctional lieutenants D. McGraw and T.A. Lee escorted plaintiff to the unit sergeant's office ostensibly to conduct an interview concerning the staff complaint against defendant Soria. During the interview, McGraw and Lee pressured plaintiff to withdraw the staff complaint. Plaintiff did not.

         As a result of the cell search, defendants confiscated a typewriter and a bottle of glue, both of which were authorized by prison regulations as allowable inmate personal property. The glue was discarded at once, and defendant Lujan took the typewriter to the SQSP Investigative Services Unit. Defendants also confiscated a cell phone and cell phone charger, which they claimed were hidden in the typewriter.

         Plaintiff was issued a Rules Violation Report (“RVR”) for possession of the cell phone and charger. He pled guilty to the charge in exchange for defendant Williams's promise to return the typewriter to plaintiff. Williams never returned the typewriter. Plaintiff further contends that the prison refused to permit him to send the typewriter home, as allowed by prison policy


         A. Standard of Review

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed, however. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative ...

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