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Smith v. Ahlin

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 20, 2017

AHLIN, et al, Defendants.



         A. Background

         Plaintiff, Reginald Smith, is a civil detainee, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this action on January 29, 2016. (Doc. 1.) It was screened and dismissed with leave to amend. (Doc. 8.)

         On September 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint, which was screened and dismissed with leave to amend. (Docs. 11, 17.) Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint is before the Court for screening. (Doc. 20.) Although Plaintiff has twice been given the required pleading and legal standards, he fails to state a cognizable claim. The Court recommends that this action be dismissed with prejudice.

         B. 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, malicious, 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); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). If an action is dismissed on one of these three bases, a strike is imposed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and has not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury, does not qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Richey v. Dahne, 807 F.3d 1201, 1208 (9th Cir. 2015).

         Section 1983 “provides a cause of action for the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

         To state a claim under § 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 acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987). A complaint will be dismissed if it lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege sufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         C. Summary of the Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff complains of incidents that occurred while he was civilly detained at Coalinga State Hospital (“CSH”) pursuant to California's Sexually Violent Predator Act in Welfare & Institution Code sections 6600 et seq. (“SVPA”). A person so detained is a Sexually Violent Predator (“SVP”) which is statutorily defined as an individual with “a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior.” Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600(a).[1] The SVPA authorizes the involuntary civil commitment of a person who has completed a prison term, but has been given a “full evaluation” and found to be a sexually violent predator. Reilly v. Superior Court, 57 Cal.4th 641, 646 (2013); People v. McKee, 47 Cal.4th 1172, 1185 (2010).

         Plaintiff complains that Defendants State Hospital Director Pam Ahlin, retired CSH Executive Director Audrey King, CSH Executive Director Brandon Price, CSH Medical Director Robert Witherow, M.D., and CSH Program Director Daniel Meeks failed to protect him from another detainee, Stallworth. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages as well as injunctive and declarative relief for violation of his rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (Doc. 20, pp. 3-4) and under the Equal Protection Clause (id., p. 5).

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that “[o]n April 15, 2010, Plaintiff was involved in a combative situation with another patient.” (Doc. 20, p. 3.) Although CSH staff broke up the altercation, they failed to follow-up to ensure no further incidents of this nature occurred. On May 21, 2013, another patient, Stallworth, advised Unit 8's R.N. that he was tired of Plaintiff (who lived in Stallworth's dorm room) and that he was not afraid of killing Plaintiff. As a result, Stallworth was removed from the unit and placed in a different program and unit.

         In August of 2015, over Plaintiff's objections, Stallworth was returned to Unit 8. On August 5, 2015 and August 25, 2015, staff noted Plaintiff's concern for his safety in light of Stallworth's return to the unit. Four months later, on December 26, 2015, Plaintiff and another patient were watching television when Stallworth entered and attacked Plaintiff, rendering him unconscious. Plaintiff was subsequently taken to Coalinga Regional Community Hospital where his injuries were treated.

         Plaintiff also alleges that from March 12, 2015, through December 26, 2015, he was involved in eleven altercations “which may have easily been prevented had Ahlin, Price,, concluded that it would be best for all parties involved that (sic) a physical separation of involved parties would alleviate direct conflicts that would more likely than not result acts of violence.” (Doc. 20, pp. 3-4.)

         As discussed in greater detail below, despite twice having been provided the pleading and legal standards for the claims he attempts to state, Plaintiff fails to sufficiently link any of the defendants to his factual allegations and to state cognizable claims. It, therefore, appears that Plaintiff is unable to state a cognizable claim and so as ...

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