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Valdez v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 22, 2018

RUBEN VALDEZ, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) He has consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (ECF No. 6.) Defendants declined to consent to Magistrate judge jurisdiction. (ECF No. 51.)

         The Court screened Plaintiff's third amended complaint (ECF No. 16) and found it states due process and equal protection claims against Defendants Beard, Castorena, Escobar, Lambert, Mahoney, Cano, Kraay, Galaviz, Rousseau, Gipson, Taber, Jennings, Sanchez, Pina, Pacillas, Lackovic, Smith, Kellogg, McGuire, Mayo, Mata, Holland, Prince, Chavez, Vasquez, Edgar, Garcia, Mayfield, and Patterson. (ECF No. 18.) Although not expressly stated, the remaining claims were ostensibly dismissed. Plaintiff later was permitted to file a fourth amended complaint (ECF Nos. 53, 60), and the action has proceeded since that time on the cognizable claims identified herein. The District Judge has not yet reviewed the dismissal of Plaintiff's non-cognizable claims.

         I. Williams v. King

         Federal courts are under a continuing duty to confirm their jurisdictional power and are “obliged to inquire sua sponte whenever a doubt arises as to [its] existence[.]” Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 278 (1977) (citations omitted). On November 9, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) requires the consent of all named plaintiffs and defendants, even those not served with process, before jurisdiction may vest in a Magistrate Judge to dispose of a civil claim. Williams v. King, 875 F.3d 500 (9th Cir. 2017). Accordingly, the Court held that a Magistrate Judge does not have jurisdiction to dismiss a claim with prejudice during screening even if the plaintiff has consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. Id.

         Here, Defendants were not yet served at the time that the Court screened the third amended complaint and therefore had not appeared or consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. Because Defendants had not consented, the undersigned's dismissal of Plaintiff's claims is invalid under Williams. Because the undersigned nevertheless stands by the analysis in his previous screening orders, he will below recommend to the District Judge that the non-cognizable claims be dismissed.

         II. Findings and Recommendations on Plaintiff's Third and Fourth Amended Complaints

         The Court dismissed certain claims upon review of the third amended complaint. However, the fourth amended complaint (ECF No. 53) is now the operative pleading. Both complaints are addressed herein.

         A. Screening Requirement

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an 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).

         B. Pleading Standard

         Section 1983 provides a cause of action against any person who deprives an individual of federally guaranteed rights “under color” of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), and 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). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). 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), but nevertheless, the mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting the plausibility standard, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         C. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff identifies Secretary of Corrections Jeffrey Beard; Chief Deputy Wardens R. S. Lambert, E. Vasquez, and M. Jennings; Psychologists J. Mahoney, J. Edgar, and D. Prince; Institutional Gang Investigators A. Mayo, J.C. Garcia, and S. Pina; Assistant Institutional Gang Investigator J. Cano; Sergeants T. Kraay, J. Taber, H. Holland, and A. Kellogg; Correctional Counselors T. Galaviz, P. Sanchez, A. Pacillas, K. Mata, R. Chavez, D. Mayfield, D. Patterson, and D. McGuire; Captain S. Rousseau; Warden C. Gipson; Dr. A. Lackovic; Associate and Chief Deputy Warden J. Smith; and Classification Staff Representatives M. Escobar and B. Castorena as Defendants.

         Plaintiff's allegations can be summarized essentially as follows:

         Since July 2012, Plaintiff has been confined in the segregated housing unit (“SHU”) due to his alleged membership in the Northern Structure prison gang. Plaintiff was denied an opportunity to present evidence, witnesses or his views on the issue prior to his SHU placement.

         On August 2, 2012, Defendants Lambert, Mahoney, Cano, Kraay, Galaviz, and Rousseau reviewed Plaintiff's case and decided to keep him in the SHU. Plaintiff was not assigned a special investigator for the hearing or given the opportunity to dispute his gang involvement or present evidence or witnesses. Defendants did not re-examine or re-assess any of the evidence against Plaintiff. On December 20, 2012, Defendants Gipson, Mahoney, Taber, Sanchez, Pina, and Pacillas committed the same violations. On June 20, 2013, Defendants Gipson, Lackovic, Smith, Kellogg, McGuire, Mayo, Pacillas, and Mata committed the same.

         On July 23, 2013, Defendant Escobar approved Plaintiff's retention in administrative segregation. Defendant Escobar did not provide Plaintiff with a hearing, an opportunity to dispute his gang involvement, to present witnesses or evidence, or provide him with an investigative employee.

         On January 28, 2014, Defendants Smith, Holland, Prince, Pina, Galaviz, and Chavez reviewed Plaintiff's case and retained him in the SHU for an indeterminate term. Defendants did not permit Plaintiff to dispute the evidence of his gang involvement, present witnesses or evidence, or assign him an investigative employee. On June 24, 2014, Defendants Jennings, Holland, Prince, Pina, Galaviz, and Chavez committed the same during Plaintiff's annual review. On October 6, 2014, Defendant Castorena approved the retention of Plaintiff in SHU without a hearing or other opportunity for Plaintiff to object. On January 7, 2015, Defendants Vasquez, Holland, Garcia, Edgar, Patterson, and Mayfield committed the same.

         The above named Defendants were acting in accordance with Defendant Beard's unconstitutional policy requiring segregation of gang affiliated inmates from the general population for an indeterminate term without evidence of misconduct. Defendant Beard was aware of Plaintiff being subjected to this policy based on Plaintiff's appeals. Despite Plaintiff's appeals, Defendant Beard failed to change the policy or correct his subordinates' unconstitutional conduct. The policy violates an inmate's right to freedom of association, does not serve a legitimate penological objective, and discriminates against identified prison gang members.

         Plaintiff has not had any disciplinary action taken against him since 2009. He has never been found guilty of gang activity or participation in any gang-related conspiracies. However, because of his placement in the SHU, Plaintiff is subject to gang sanctions. He is confined to his 7 x 11 foot cell for approximately 159 hours per week with no periods of darkness. The food has made Plaintiff sick, his mattress is thin and he is not allowed a pillow, he has limited access to medical services, showers, and the library, his yard space and allowable activities are limited, numerous restrictions are placed on his visitation, he can only receive one personal property package per year, and he is subjected to extensive searches prior to and after transport from his cell.

         Plaintiff sues Defendants in their individual and official capacities and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, expungement of his records, damages and costs for violation ...

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