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Rials v. Avalos

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 23, 2017

JAMES ALEXANDER RIALS, Plaintiff,
v.
DAISY AVALOS, Defendant.

          ORDER SCREENING THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”) in Soledad, California, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His third amended complaint (Dkt. No. 15) is now before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or from an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the Court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Third Amended Complaint

         One week prior to March 15, 2016, as Plaintiff was returning from his job assignment, named defendant Correctional Officer Daisy Avalos searched Plaintiff and found Plaintiff in possession of two personal photos. Dkt. No. 15 at 3. Plaintiff informed CO Avalos that these two photos were religious artifacts which he uses in his daily religious practice. Id. at 3. On March 15, 2016, Officer Avalos again searched Plaintiff as he was entering Exercise Yard #1, and again found the same two photos. Id. at 3. Office Avalos demanded that Plaintiff refrain from taking personal items out of his cell. Id. at 3‒4. Prior to and after March 2016, Plaintiff witnessed CO Avalos find other inmates in possession of personal religious items that were not work-related, yet CO Avalos did not demand that these other inmates leave these personal religious items in their cells. Id. at 4. On March 29, 2016, Officer Avalos issued Plaintiff an RVR for taking his personal items out of his cell and reiterated her demand that Plaintiff leave his personal items in his cell. Dkt. No. 15 at 4. She warned him that he would face “imminent, progressive disciplinary action” if he did not comply. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Avalos issued this RVR in retaliation for him filing an unrelated, successful complaint with Cal OSHA. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that the issuance of the RVR was retaliatory in violation of the First Amendment, and that the RVR violated Plaintiff's rights under the Equal Protection Clause; Plaintiff's right to free exercise of religion; and Plaintiff's right to petition the government for redress of grievances. Id.

         C. Legal Claims

         1. First Amendment Retaliation Claim

         Plaintiff alleges that CO Avalos issued him an RVR in retaliation for his filing a successful complaint with the California DIR may also state a claim for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. “Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the ...


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