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Mester v. Martel

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 30, 2018

MORRIS MESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL MARTEL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. He has also filed motions for preliminary injunction and default judgment. ECF Nos. 2, 9.

         I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). ECF Nos. 8, 11. Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

         Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         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 “frivolous, malicious, or 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).

         A claim “is [legally] frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). “[A] judge may dismiss . . . claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227-28 (citations omitted).

         “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, ' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. (citations omitted). “‘[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ' 1216 (3d ed. 2004)).

         “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of the Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969) (citations omitted).

         III. Complaint

         The complaint alleges that defendants Martel, Dix, and Gonzales violated plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from a dangerous living condition.[1] ECF No. 1. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that the cell doors at California Health Care Facility (CHCF) are unsafe because they open outward and do not have any latches or handles that allow inmates to safely close the doors themselves when they are inside their cells. Id. at 5. According to prison policy, after an inmate returns to his cell, prison staff are responsible for ensuring that the cell door is securely closed before heading to the next cell. Id. at 3, 5. However, on November 9, 2016, defendants Dix and Gonzales were returning inmates to their cells and releasing other inmates when Dix violated policy by not waiting to close plaintiff's cell door after he returned to his cell. Id. Instead, he opened the door and immediately left to let other inmates out. Id. at 5. Plaintiff then tried to close the cell door himself by grabbing the side of the cell door and pulling hard. Id. However, he did not get his hands out of the way fast enough and his right thumb got caught in the door and partially amputated. Id. He began yelling “man down” and Dix and Gonzales immediately came running and sounded an alarm. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff was rushed out to the hospital where they tried to save his thumb. Id. at 6. He now has permanent nerve damage and disfiguration. Id. Defendant Martel is the warden at CHCF. Id. at 7.

         IV. Failure to State a Claim

         A. Defendants ...


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