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Johnson v. California Medical Facility

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 12, 2017




         Plaintiff is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff's first amended complaint is before the court for screening.

         I. Screening Requirement

         The in forma pauperis statute provides, “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).

         II. Pleading Standard

         Section 1983 “provides a cause of action for the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987).

         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 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)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. Facial plausibility demands more than the mere possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 677-78.

         III. Plaintiff's Allegations

         The conduct underlying this complaint occurred while plaintiff was housed at California Medical Facility (“CMF”) in Vacaville, California. The caption of the pleading identifies these defendants: J. Portee, A. Maszk, R. Anderson, S.W. Theard, Warden R. Fox “et al.” Plaintiff names the defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         As best as the court can determine, plaintiff alleges as follows:

         Plaintiff is a Black inmate who suffers from a number of ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder, seizure disorder, and cardiovascular pulmonary problem. He is on multiple medications, including “psy” medication.

         Plaintiff complains of systemic discrimination and staff misconduct directed at Black inmates at CMF. On an unspecified date, plaintiff was involved in an altercation with a White inmate, J. Ferris. Although plaintiff was defending himself against the younger and larger Inmate Ferris, plaintiff was charged with battery on an inmate and placed in the Secure Housing Unit (“SHU”) term for 14 months. Inmate Ferris, on the other hand, served only 85 days. CCI Thompson, in collusion with Inmate Ferris, sought multiple 90-day extensions of time to keep plaintiff in administrative segregation.

         On May 10, 2014, after his 14-month SHU term, plaintiff was transferred to a urine- and feces-stained cell that used to belong to Inmate Ferris. This cell, with its high risk of infection, was located in an area known to be loud and disconcerting all night long, providing no rest for the nearby inmates. Plaintiff claims Inmate Ferris was taken out of this unit because he is White, and plaintiff was placed there because he is Black. Plaintiff accuses Inmate Ferris of orchestrating the move in collusion with CMF staff members, including CCI Thompson, CCI N. Clerk, CCI Carpe, Sgt. R. Thomas, and Sgt. Infante. Plaintiff claims that “all Defendant[s]” knew of the high risk of infection in this cell, but placed him there anyway. As a result, plaintiff suffered two staph infections.

         Black inmates are routinely assaulted and denied personal items, medication, and food. Plaintiff complained of this conduct to the Warden, Associate Warden, and many others but to no avail. Two months after plaintiff complained to Warden Fox, the Black inmates were moved to another wing that was “worse” with no hot water in the cells. Only after the cells were closed by “the Eastern District” were most Black inmates placed back in general population.

         On an unspecified date, CO Partee and CO Maszk assaulted and pepper sprayed another Black inmate, Inmate Hunt, who was not a threat to the officers. This conduct violated prison regulations, was based on the ...

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