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Reed v. J. Racklin

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 9, 2017

PETER J. REED, Plaintiff,
v.
E. RACKLIN, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition to filing a complaint (ECF No. 1), plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. ECF No. 5.

         I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         The court has reviewed plaintiff's application and finds that it makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).

         II. Screening Requirements

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental 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 legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that 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).

         A claim “is [legally] frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). “[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Id.

         “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, ' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. (citations omitted). “[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004)).

         “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trs., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

         III. Screening Order

         A. Background

         Plaintiff alleges that on April 4, 2016, while incarcerated at California State Prison - Solano (Solano), he was summoned to defendant Racklin's office for a “pre-committee interview.” ECF No. 1 at 6. Plaintiff alleges that upon his arrival, Racklin sexually harassed him by asking whether plaintiff could “jack him off in the blink of an eye.” Id. Plaintiff informed Racklin that he would be filing a complaint, and Racklin stated that his comment was intended as a joke. Id.

         After the meeting with Racklin, plaintiff approached defendant Easterling and told him about the incident. Id. Easterling brusquely told him to file a grievance form. Id. Eventually, plaintiff filed a complaint and an investigation into the incident was conducted. Plaintiff claims that defendant White acted improperly when he closed a Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) investigation into the incident without interviewing plaintiff or a mental health professional to whom plaintiff had spoken about the incident. Id. at 7.

         On April 13, 2016, plaintiff was directed to attend a committee meeting. Id. He asked several staff members whether Racklin would be present at the meeting, and each told him that he would not be. Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff attended the meeting and spotted Racklin, which caused him to suffer an anxiety attack and nervous breakdown. Id. at 8. Plaintiff was subsequently excused from the meeting by defendant Popvich. Id. Plaintiff alleges that defendants ...


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