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Cortinas v. Huerta

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 31, 2017

LARRY WILLIAM CORTINAS, Plaintiff,
v.
M. HUERTA, et al., Defendants.

         SCREENING ORDER ORDER FINDING COGNIZABLE CLAIMS (ECF, NO. 1.) ORDER FOR PLAINTIFF TO EITHER: (1) FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT, OR (2) NOTIFY THE COURT OF HIS WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY WITH COGNIZABLE CLAIMS ORDER DENYING REQUEST FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL THIRTY DAY DEADLINE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT OR NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED

          GARY S. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         Larry William Cortinas (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On January 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action. (ECF No. 1.)

         On March 3, 2017, Plaintiff consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and no other parties have made an appearance. (ECF No. 8.) Therefore, pursuant to Appendix A(k)(4) of the Local Rules of the Eastern District of California, the undersigned shall conduct any and all proceedings in the case until such time as reassignment to a District Judge is required. Local Rule Appendix A(k)(3).

         Plaintiff's Complaint is now before the court for screening.

         II. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         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). “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 upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         A complaint is required to 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)). 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). To state a viable claim, 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 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.

         III. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison (CSP) in Corcoran, California, in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), where the events at issue in the Complaint allegedly occurred. Plaintiff names as defendants Correctional Officer (C/O) M. Huerta, C/O J. Scalia, Lieutenant (Lt.) A. Ruiz, Sergeant (Sgt.) A. Randolph, and five Doe Defendants (collectively, “Defendants”).

         Plaintiff's allegations follow. On December 31, 2014, at approximately 10:00 a.m., C/O Huerta ordered Plaintiff to exit his cell so his cable box could be fixed. C/O Huerta handcuffed Plaintiff per policy, then escorted him roughly 20 feet to the shower. The handcuffs were left on. After about 10 minutes, C/O Huerta and C/O Scalia ordered Plaintiff to back out of the shower. C/O Huerta placed a “controlled arm bar hold[, g]ripping both my thumbs.” (ECF No. 1 at 4.) As Plaintiff approached his cell's open door, C/O Scalia and C/O Huerta slammed Plaintiff into the wall. C/O Huerta applied his estimated 280 pounds into Plaintiff's back, while C/O Scalia pulled Plaintiff's right [leg] out from under him. C/O Huerta landed on Plaintiff's back as Plaintiff was slammed onto the concrete floor. C/O Scalia grabbed Plaintiff's hair and beard and slammed his face into the floor by lifting up Plaintiff's head by the hair. Then C/O Scalia placed his knee on Plaintiff's neck and pounded Plaintiff's head into the concrete floor 10 times as he said, “You like this.” (ECF No. 1 at 5.) After the tenth time, Plaintiff lost consciousness. He had a lemon-size knot on his left temple, a black eye, dizziness, ears ringing for two days, and vomiting. Only due to the control tower's alertness was an alarm sounded. For two weeks, Plaintiff was denied medical treatment. He still suffers back and neck pain.

         Between July 25, 2014, and October 18, 2014, Plaintiff wrote several complaints and 602 appeals against C/O Scalia about Scalia's abuse of mentally ill prisoners. During this time, C/O Scalia was Plaintiff's legal runner. All legal work was turned over to C/O Scalia for copies and mailing. C/O Scalia warned Plaintiff to mind his own business, or else. Plaintiff informed both Lt. Ruiz and Sgt. Randolph of the threats made by C/O Scalia. In October 2014, during a 602 appeal, Lt. Ruiz and Sgt. Randolph were present when Lt. Ruiz stated, “I do not get involved in personal conflict, Cortinas. Just do as C/O Scalia says. Turn away from stuff that does not concern you.” (ECF No. 1 at 6.) Plaintiff responded, “How can you stand by while C/O Scalia pepper sprays Mexicans in holding telephone booth size cages? These guys are seriously ill. Do not speak English. Yet for no reason he f****s them up for sport. It's wrong.” (ECF No. 1 at 6.) Yet Lt. Ruiz and Sgt. Randolph left Plaintiff in harm's way. Plaintiff wrote the Director of CDCR, who then sent the letters to the Warden, who gave them to Lt. Ruiz, who interviewed Plaintiff with Sgt. Randolph present. These letters are in Plaintiff's C-file. Lt. Ruiz and Sgt. Randolph left Plaintiff in harm's way and Plaintiff was injured by C/O Huerta and C/O Scalia on December 31, 2014. This was retaliation for using CDCR's appeals system and for Plaintiff's complaints to Lt. Ruiz and Sgt. Randolph. Plaintiff requests monetary damages and injunctive relief.

         IV. PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. “[Section] 1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)); see also Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 618 (1979); Hall v. City of Los Angeles, 697 F.3d 1059, 1068 (9th Cir. 2012); C ...


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