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Powell v. Sutton

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 11, 2017

TROY POWELL, Plaintiff,
J. SUTTON, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His March 3, 2017 complaint is before the Court for screening. (ECF No. 1.)

         I. Screening Requirement

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an 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 on 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 on 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 color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda County, 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)). A 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. Iqbal, at 677-78.

         III. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at California State Prison in Corcoran, California (“CSP-COR”). Before his transfer to CSP-COR, Plaintiff was imprisoned at Wasco State Prison in Wasco, California (“WSP”). The acts giving rise to his complaint occurred at both WSP and CSP-COR. He brings this suit against the following Defendants: (1) John Sutton, Warden at WSP; (2) J.D. White, Associate Warden at WSP; (3) K. Carpenter; WSP Correctional Counselor; and R. Alcala, WSP Correctional Counselor.

         Plaintiff's allegations may be summarized essentially as follows:

         Throughout the time of the acts giving rise to his complaint, Plaintiff was at the Correctional Clinical Case Management System (“CCCMS”) level of care. On September 15, 2015, Plaintiff was transferred from the general population at WSP and placed in Administrative Segregation (“AdSeg”) for “battery on an inmate resulting in serious bodily injury.” On September 24, 2015, Plaintiff appeared before an Institutional Classification Committee (“ICC”) with Defendants Sutton, Carpenter, and Alcala. Here, Defendants informed Plaintiff he would “be disciplined” by transfer to a Security Housing Unit (“SHU”) “for up to sixteen months if found guilty at a prison disciplinary hearing.” Defendants then referred Plaintiff's case to a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) Classification Services Representative for a “180 day retention” in AdSeg pending the outcome of a Rules Violation Report (“RVR”).

         About 129 days later, on or around January 21, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred, “without notice, ” to SHU at CSP-COR. Plaintiff claims he was transferred to SHU “without ever being issued a RVR, being found guilty thereof, or ever being afforded a disciplinary hearing.” Plaintiff remained in SHU until approximately February 1, 2016. While in SHU, Plaintiff suffered from sleep deprivation and suicidal ideation. Plaintiff notes that the lights at CSP-COR SHU are “programmed to remain on all day and night, ” and that “prisoners yell and scream throughout all hours, ” preventing him from sleeping. As a result, Plaintiff suffered from suicidal tendencies, stress, anxiety, migraines, weight loss, sleep deprivation, and indignity. Plaintiff alleges that his transfer constituted “torture” and “corporal punishment.”

         Shortly after his transfer to SHU at CSP-COR, Plaintiff submitted “CDCR Form-22” to prison officials at CSP-COR concerning his transfer to SHU. Plaintiff claims a non-party CSP-COR officer told Plaintiff he was “checking into why [Plaintiff was] transferred to SHU and not [AdSeg].” Plaintiff filed two grievances in January and February 2016 concerning his transfer to SHU at CSP-COR. The first was “never answered or responded to, ” while the second resulted in an interview with Defendant Carpenter, where Carpenter “denied the relief sought” by Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims Defendant Carpenter informed Plaintiff he was transferred to CSP-COR to give Plaintiff “additional out of cell time/activities and increased mental health treatment programs.” However, Plaintiff alleges no such programs or treatment were provided to Plaintiff while he was in SHU, and Plaintiff does not believe any such programs were being implemented at CSP-COR SHU during the time the acts giving rise to his complaint occurred.

         Plaintiff brings suit against Defendants for violation of his Fourteenth and Eighth Amendment rights to due process, equal protection, and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. He seeks declaratory relief and money damages.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Linkage

         Under § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that each named defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his or her rights. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-77; Simmons v. Navajo County, 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21(9th Cir. 2010); Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). A plaintiff may not attribute liability to a group of defendants, but must “set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's” deprivation of his rights. Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).

         Moreover, liability may not be imposed on supervisory personnel under the theory of respondeat superior, as each defendant is only liable for his or her own misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676-77; Ewing, 588 F.3d at 1235. Supervisors may only be held liable if they “participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them.” Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); accord Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-08 (9th Cir. 2011); Corales v. Bennett, 567 F.3d 554, 570 (9th Cir. 2009); Preschooler II v. Clark Cty. Sch. Bd. of Trs., 479 F.3d 1175, 1182 (9th Cir. 2007); Harris v. Roderick, 126 F.3d 1189, 1204 (9th Cir. 1997).

         Plaintiff alleges that the named Defendants “intentionally disregarded Plaintiff's right to due process and equal protection” by transferring him to SHU at CSP-COR. However, such allegations are insufficient to show that each of the Defendants “personally participated” in a deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Plaintiff fails to set forth specific facts as to each individual Defendant's role in the asserted deprivations. Accordingly, claims against the named Defendants will be dismissed and Plaintiff will be given leave to amend.

         B. ...

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