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Jordan v. Vargas

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 6, 2017

HAROL JORDAN, Plaintiff,
VARGAS, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff, a state prisoner incarcerated at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”), filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order. The complaint is now before the Court for review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.


         The complaint alleges the following:

         Plaintiff was assigned to a job as a janitor/porter at SVSP. His supervisor was defendant correctional officer Vargas. For several months prior to the incident at issue in the present action, Vargas had been falsifying plaintiff's time card such that plaintiff was being given credit for work that Vargas was not permitting plaintiff to actually perform. Specifically, Vargas would order working inmates out of the building they were assigned to report to for work duty and would send them to the exercise yard so that Vargas did not have to supervise them. After plaintiff complained about this practice, Vargas retaliated by setting up an altercation between plaintiff and another inmate. Vargas conspired with defendant correctional officers M. Garcia and M. Alverez to stage the altercation.

         On April 2, 2017, plaintiff showed up to work, and Vargas once again forced plaintiff to leave his prison-assigned janitor/porter job and go to the exercise yard. Plaintiff sat down in the exercise yard and began playing cards with some other inmates. While plaintiff was playing cards, another inmate, inmate Carr, approached plaintiff from behind without warning and proceeded to punch plaintiff several times in the back of plaintiff's head and on the side of his face. Carr was known to be a violent gang member. The punches broke plaintiff's jaw and left plaintiff unconscious. Garcia came over and handcuffed plaintiff and place him in a holding cage. Garcia, Vargas, and Alverez also handcuffed Carr and placed him in a holding cage next to plaintiff's holding cage. Plaintiff requested medical treatment, but he was merely escorted back to his cell. Thirty minutes later, Alverez approached plaintiff's cell and forced plaintiff to sign a document under threat of subjecting plaintiff to further punishment. Plaintiff was still not given medical attention despite his obvious injuries.

         The following day, April 3, 2017, plaintiff was released from his cell, and he reported to work so as not to receive a rules violation report. Vargas once again refused to permit plaintiff to stay inside and sent plaintiff to the exercise yard. Plaintiff proceeded to the yard and waited to be called to the medical clinic for treatment. While plaintiff was waiting in the yard, Carr was again released onto the yard and attacked plaintiff a second time. Plaintiff tried to run away, but Carr proceeded to beat, kick, and punch plaintiff as Garcia, Vargas, and Alvarez looked on. Other inmates broke up the fight. When plaintiff came to, he was in an ambulance on his way to the prison hospital. The doctor who examined plaintiff ordered him immediately sent to the emergency room at Natividad Medical Center. X-rays taken at the emergency room showed jaw bone and facial fractures as well as a hematoma from head injuries. Plaintiff received emergency surgery.


         A. Standard of Review

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed, however. 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.” “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, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . 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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 1974.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 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 ...

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