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Bealer v. Sec'y of California Dep't of Corrections

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 21, 2017





         Plaintiff is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California. Plaintiff brings this pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”) against the Secretary of California Department of Corrections (“the Secretary”), the Warden of Kern Valley State Prison (“the Warden”), and Correctional Officer Stinson (“Officer Stinson”). On May 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed his complaint. Doc. 1. The Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend on December 19, 2016. Doc. 15. On January 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint (“FAC”).[1] Doc. 18.


         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a government 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 frivolous, malicious, 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). The § 1915A screening standard “incorporates the familiar standard applied in the context of failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). When a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis but § 1915A does not apply, “the court ‘shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines' that the action ‘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.'” Pierce v. San Francisco Exam'r, No. 15-CV-06051-EMC, 2016 WL 2851649, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 16, 2016) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed on one of these three bases, and has not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury, does not qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

         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)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts are “not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Metzler Inv. GMBH v. Corinthian Colls., Inc., 540 F.2d 1049, 1064 (9th Cir. 2008).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). To survive screening, a plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The mere possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient. Id.


         All facts are taken from Plaintiff's first amended complaint and assumed to be true only for the purpose of this screening. Plaintiff was incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison at some point before he filed this complaint. Doc 18 at 5. On an unspecified date between January and May of 2014, Plaintiff was forced to take a drug test, which included urinalysis. Id. at 5-6, 13. Shortly before the drug test, Officer Stinson entered Plaintiff's cell and turned on the light while Plaintiff was on his bunk. Id. at 6. Plaintiff stood up from his bunk “ready to defend [himself].” Id. After a short conversation Officer Stinson took Plaintiff to the shower where he was searched. Id. Plaintiff was told to bend over and spread his buttocks. Id. Officer Stinson commented “I like that.” Id. Officer Stinson told Plaintiff that he had received a “kite, ”[2] stating that Plaintiff possessed drugs. Id. No drugs were found on Plaintiff or in his cell, and the drug test performed on a subsequent date was negative. Id. at 7. Plaintiff asserts that he has been subjected to fifty or more subsequent searches, though he does not provide any specific details about those searches. Id. at 11.

         Plaintiff subsequently sought and exhausted the administrative remedies available to him. Id. at 3.[3] Plaintiff alleges that the “kite” on which Officer Stinson based his search was fabricated. Id. at 7. He alleges that the drug test performed between January and May of 2014 was ordered in retaliation for a lawsuit Plaintiff had previously filed. Id. at 6. Plaintiff alleges that he was illegally searched and urine illegally seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Plaintiff's right to privacy. Id. at 6-7. He contends that the actions taken by Kern Valley State Prison constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 6-7. He also alleges that he was deprived of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law. Id. at 5. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Kern Valley State Prison's random drug testing policy is unconstitutional. Id. at 6. Plaintiff seeks nominal, punitive, and compensatory damages. Id. at 14.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff's complaint, liberally construed, alleges that his constitutional rights were violated by two separate but related actions. First, Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to a drug test which was purported to be random but was in fact targeted retaliation for a lawsuit he had filed. Second, Plaintiff alleges that the search of his person and cell, which included a visual body cavity search, was prompted by a fabricated “kite” and not motivated by a legitimate penological interest.

         A. ...

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