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Simmons v. Atkins

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 5, 2017

WALTER F. SIMMONS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
SHERRI ATKINS, et al., Defendants.

          SCREENING ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, FOR FAILURE TO STATE A COGNIZABLE CLAIM FOR RELIEF (ECF NO. 1)

          Barbara A. McAuliffe UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Walter F. Simmons Jr. (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF No. 3.)

         Plaintiff's complaint, filed on September 29, 2016, is currently 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 and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         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) (citations omitted). To survive screening, 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, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff is currently housed at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, CA. The events at issue in this complaint took place at Valley State Prison (“VSP”) in Chowchilla, CA. Plaintiff names the following defendants in this action: Sherri Atkins, Native American Spiritual Advisor at VSP; Carmen Maroney, Community Resource Manager at VSP; Warden R. Fisher; former Warden Ron Davis; Governor Jerry Brown; State of California; and the United States of America.

         Plaintiff's allegations are as follows: Plaintiff was denied weekly access to his primary religious service; i.e., Sweat Lodge ceremonies by defendants Sherri Atkins, Carmen Maroney, Warden Fisher, and former Warden Ron Davis. Each of these defendants is responsible for ensuring qualified chaplains are provided and religious services needs are met. Plaintiff was denied proper, meaningful, and authentic Lakota ceremonies as taught to Plaintiff by his ancestors and spirit helper. All of the above are responsible, from Plaintiff's arrival at VSP to the present.

         Plaintiff was also denied a properly trained, endorsed, and federally recognized American Indian “medicine man, ” spiritual advisor or volunteer, from 2000 to present.

         Plaintiff was denied access to, and ability to, acquire materials and items needed for prayer and traditional cultural purposes, since 2006.

         Plaintiff was denied freedom of religious expression by Defendant S. Atkins, including his traditional right to conduct ceremony for himself and others in keeping with his family, histories, personal vision and calling.

         Plaintiff has been denied due process by Defendant S. Atkins, C. Maroney, Warden Fisher and former Warden Davis. S. Atkins, who concocted a lie to have Plaintiff put in Ad Seg. Other officials refused to do a thorough investigation of Plaintiff's traditional ceremonies and lack of qualification claims regarding S. Atkins.

         Plaintiff was subjected to cruel and unusual punishments by S. Atkins, Warden R. Fisher, and former Warden Ron Davis in having to endure daily disrespect of being denied all of the above, the disrespecting of the Lodge and purification ceremonies conducted by unqualified non-Indians. Further, Plaintiff endured shame, watered-down spirituality, dead ceremonies, and was placed in Ad. Seg. on two separate occasions for voicing what is proper and correct for men's ceremonies and how to form a proper traditional spiritual circle. Plaintiff was then transferred, which severed Plaintiff from close family connections, without affording him due process.

         Plaintiff is seeing the appointment of counsel and a jury trial. Plaintiff also seeks that (1) recognized, properly-trained AMI male spiritual advisors be utilized in men's prisons; (2) that a second Sweat Lodge and sacred grounds area be provided; (3) that federal guidelines for American Indian religious property, materials and allowable items be implemented and the current restrictions of the CDCR Religious Property Matrix be removed; (4) that Plaintiff's personal vision and beliefs regarding ceremonies for himself and others be recognized and accommodated; (5) that various state and federal rules, regulations, policies and laws which violate Plaintiff's rights be revised; and (6) that an oversight counsel be formed under Plaintiff's guidance. Plaintiff also seeks punitive and compensatory damages.

         III. Discussion

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, 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). As noted above, 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         Plaintiff's complaint is short, but it is not a plain or clear statement of his claims and the factually allegations underlying those claims. Plaintiff's complaint is mainly comprised of conclusory statements that his rights were denied.

         Plaintiff has also attached fourteen pages of exhibits to his complaint. The exhibits are not referenced or otherwise explained in the complaint. The Court is not required to sift through Plaintiff's exhibits and attachments in an effort to determine what Plaintiff's claim(s) are.

         Plaintiff will be granted leave to amend his complaint. If Plaintiff elects to amend his complaint, he must allege what each individual defendant, by name, did or did not do that resulted in a violation of his constitutional rights. If he chooses to add attachments or exhibits to any amended complaint (which he is not required to do), Plaintiff must identify them for the Court and explain their significance, with particularity. Plaintiff may refer to exhibits that are already filed, but must incorporate them by specific reference (using the title or form number of a report, date, author, or other identifying information, for example).

         B. ...


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