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Wilkins v. County of Contra Costa

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 7, 2017

COUNTY OF CONTRA COSTA, et al., Defendants.


          JAMES DONATO United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner, has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has paid the filing fee. Docket No. 35.



         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). 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. Id. at 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.” Although 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, 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. The United States Supreme Court has explained the “plausible on its face” standard of Twombly: “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

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


         Plaintiff's allegations arise from his detention at Martinez Detention Facility while he was a pretrial detainee. Plaintiff alleges that his due process rights were violated in being placed in Administrative segregation (“Ad. Seg.”), the conditions in Ad. Seg. violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, his rights under the Equal Protection Clause were violated, he was denied access to the courts, a defendant retaliated against plaintiff due to his protected conduct and there was a conspiracy.

         Due Process

         A court presented with a procedural due process claim by a pretrial detainee should first ask if the alleged deprivation amounts to punishment and therefore implicates the Due Process Clause itself; if so, the court then must determine what process is due. See, e.g., Bell, 441 U.S. at 537-38 (discussing tests traditionally applied to determine whether governmental acts are punitive in nature). Disciplinary segregation as punishment for violation of jail rules and regulations, for example, cannot be imposed without due process, i.e., without complying with the procedural requirements of Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). See Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 523-26 (9th Cir. 1996).

         If the alleged deprivation does not amount to punishment, a pretrial detainee's due process claim is not analyzed under Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 474 (1995), which applies to convicted prisoners, but rather under the law as it was before Sandin. See Valdez v. Rosenbaum, 302 F.3d 1039, 1041 n.3 (9th Cir. 2002). The proper test to determine whether detainees have a liberty interest is that set out in Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 472 (1983), and Kentucky Dep't of Corrections v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 461 (1989). Under those cases, a state statute or regulation creates a procedurally protected liberty interest if it sets forth “‘substantive predicates' to govern official decision making” and also contains “explicitly mandatory language, ” i.e., a specific directive to the decisionmaker that mandates a particular outcome if the substantive predicates have been met. Thompson, 490 U.S. at 462-63 (quoting Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 472).

         If the alleged deprivation does not amount to punishment and there is no state statute or regulation from which the interest could arise, no procedural due process claim is stated and the claim should be dismissed. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-27 (1976) (interests protected by due process arise from Due Process Clause itself or from laws of the states).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in Ad. Seg. for eight months for unknown reasons without any due process. He also presents allegations that the deprivations amounted to punishment. This is sufficient to state a due process claim against the ...

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