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Puckett v. Seely

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 27, 2017

DURRELL ANTHONY PUCKETT, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD SEELY, et al. Defendant.

          ORDER

         Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and no other party has been served or appeared in the action. Pending before the court is plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1).

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague and conclusory.

         I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         In his complaint, plaintiff makes several allegations against a number of defendants. In his first claim, plaintiff alleges he was brutalized by several defendants while he was handcuffed and in leg restraints. He alleges defendants Dragash, Hendricks, Mohr, Seely and Sparks each participated in the attack to varying degrees. He further alleges defendants Hyman, Van, Calahan, Sparks, Givens, Lee and Ogbeide were all present during the attack, witnessed the attack, and failed to help plaintiff. Finally, he alleges defendant Kobba refused to provide him a full body screening to document his injuries.

         In his second claim, plaintiff alleges he was denied due process by defendants Macomber, Quinn, Forsterer, Hendricks, Dragash, Porter, Compton, Burnett, and Eldridge. It is unclear exactly how plaintiff purports to have been denied due process, but it appears plaintiff was offered a lower reimbursement amount for damage to a book than he thought was fair. Plaintiff apparently did not accept the amount offered, and the defendants attempted to force him to accept the lowered amount. It further appears that plaintiff is claiming the defendants falsified documents during the 602 appeals process.

         In his third claim, plaintiff alleges retaliation by defendants Dragash, Hendricks, Porter, Compton, Burnett, and Quinn. Again, this claim is unclear, but it appears to be related to the reimbursement and 602 inmate grievance mentioned above. Plaintiff alleges the defendants destroyed evidence, acted with disregard to his 602 grievance, and that defendant Dragash threatened reprisal just before the above mentioned attack.

         Finally, in his fourth claim, plaintiff alleges denial of equal protection and racial profiling. This claim is similarly unclear, but appears to relate to verbal harassment by defendants Dragash, Seely, Van, and Mohr, who allegedly used racial epithets toward plaintiff.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The complaint appears to state a cognizable claim for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) against some of the defendants for some of the claims. However, as discussed below, the complaint fails to state a claim against all of the defendants for all of the claims. The complaint appears to state an Eighth Amendment claim against defendants Dragash, Hendricks, Mohr, Seely and Sparks for their participation in the physical altercation, and against defendants Hyman, Van, Calahan, Sparks, Givens, Lee and Ogbeide for failure to protect plaintiff from the physical abuse. If the allegations are proven, plaintiff has a reasonable opportunity to prevail on the merits of this action. The court, therefore, finds that service is appropriate and will direct service by the U.S. Marshal without pre-payment of costs. Plaintiff is informed, however, that this action cannot proceed further until plaintiff complies with this order, as set out below. Plaintiff is warned that failure to comply with this order may result in dismissal of the action. See Local Rule 110.

         To the extent plaintiff claims defendants Macomber, Quinn, Forsterer, Hendricks, Dragash, Porter, Compton, Burnett, and Eldridge violated his due process rights, such an allegation fails to state a cognizable claim for which relief could be granted. Similarly, his claim for retaliation against defendants Dragash, Hendricks, Porter, Compton, Burnett, and Quinn, his claim regarding the verbal harassment against defendants Dragash, Seely, Van, and Mohr, and his Eighth Amendment claim against defendant Kobba, are all insufficient to state a cognizable claim.

         Eighth Amendment

         The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment “. . . embodies broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). Conditions of confinement may, however, be harsh and restrictive. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Nonetheless, prison officials must provide prisoners with “food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.” Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the official's act or omission must be so serious such that it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities; and (2) subjectively, the prison official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the purpose of inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison official must have a “sufficiently culpable mind.” See id.

         Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury, or risks of serious injury or illness, gives rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105; see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This applies to physical as well as dental and mental health needs. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). An injury or illness is sufficiently serious if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the “. . . unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition is worthy of comment; (2) whether the condition significantly impacts the prisoner's daily activities; and (3) whether the condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         The requirement of deliberate indifference is less stringent in medical needs cases than in other Eighth Amendment contexts because the responsibility to provide inmates with medical care does not generally conflict with competing penological concerns. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Thus, deference need not be given to the judgment of prison officials as to decisions concerning medical needs. See Hunt v. Dental Dep't, 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 1989). The complete denial of medical attention may constitute deliberate indifference. See Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). Delay in providing medical treatment, or interference with medical treatment, may also constitute ...


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