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Harrison v. Niehus

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 2, 2018

NIEHUS, et al., Defendants.


          Barbara A. McAuliffe UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Marcus Harrison is a state proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff's complaint is currently before the Court for screening. (ECF No. 1.)

         I. Screening Requirement and Standard

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b); 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         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)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, 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).

         To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff is currently housed at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California. Plaintiff alleges that the events at issue took place at Corcoran State Prison (“Corcoran”). Plaintiff names the following defendants, each of whom are employed at Corcoran: (1) Institutional Gang Investigator S. Niehus; (2) Institutional Gang Investigator J. Pierce; (3) Investigative Services Unit R. Broomfield; (4) Chief Deputy Warden M. V. Sexton; (5) Associate Warden J. Vanderpoel; and (6) Officer Beam, 4B SHU Law Library.

         Plaintiff alleges as follows: On February 3, 2015, Plaintiff arrived at Corcoran's Security Housing Unit (“SHU”) via a transfer. Plaintiff handed Officer Beam a CDCR Form 22 dated February 3, 2015, and some legal documents for his case, Harrison v. S. Burris, No. 13-2506-JST, which had a February 6, 2015 deadline. Plaintiff requested access to the SHU law library, which he was not accorded. Consequently, Plaintiff's legal case was dismissed.

         On March 11, 2015, Plaintiff was issued his personal legal property. Upon inspection, Plaintiff informed Officer G. Robles that several legal documents and materials were missing. Officer Robles informed Plaintiff that Corcoran's Institutional Gang Investigation Unit (“IGI Unit”) had searched Plaintiff's property and confiscated materials.

         On March 15, 2015, Plaintiff sent a CDCR Form 22 dated March 15, 2015 to Corcoran's IGI Unit, addressed to Officer Niehus, wherein Plaintiff inquired about the confiscation of his political writings, pamphlets, reference notes, newspaper clippings, etc. On March 17, 2015, Officer Niehus responded by saying, “On February 18, 2015, Corcoran I.G.I. Unit searched your property located in 4B SHU Property Room. Refer to attached property receipt. On February 18, 2015, a copy of the attached search receipt was forwarded to you via institutional mail. All items confiscated will be documented @ a future date.” (Compl. 11.)

         As a result of the confiscation of Plaintiff's legal exhibits, Plaintiff suffered the following harm: (1) Harrison v. S. Burris, No. 13-2506-JST, was dismissed on March 31, 2015; and (2) Harrison v. D. Milligan, No. 14-15022, was dismissed on May 19, 2015. As indicated by Officer Niehus, all of Corcoran's IGI Unit staff members were complicit in confiscating Plaintiff's exhibits. IGI Unit Sergeant J. Pierce and Investigative Services Unit (“ISU”) Captain R. Broomfield signed off on 602 appeal No. CSPC-8-05-02088, wherein they state:

In February 2015, your personal property, which was stored in the Corcoran SHU property room, was searched by members of the Corcoran Institutional Gang Investigations (I.G.I.) Unit. During the search, contraband and suspected contraband was confiscated and you were issued a property removal receipt.

(Compl. 13.) Chief Deputy Warden Sexton and Associate Warden Vanderpoel were made aware of the officers confiscating Plaintiff's property, which obstructed Plaintiff's access to the courts.

         Per a second level review in 602 appeal log no. CSPC-5-15-02088, Plaintiff received an itemized list of his confiscated items, including the following: (1) newspaper clippings; (2) postcard image of George Lester Jackson; (3) 23 page document entitled, “Resisting the Subversive Extremes of Political Persecution”; (4) 21 page political dictionary; (5) 3 page political writing entitled, “Thoughts on the Historical Materialism of the Prison Movement”; (6) 8 page political writing about the anatomy; (7) 24 pages dealing with the W.L. Nolen Mentorship program; (8) 47 page manuscript entitled, “Manifesto of Political Disorder”; (9) 41 photocopied images of George Jackson Lives; (10) 10 pages of handwritten reference notes; (11) 14 photocopied pages of newspaper clippings; (12) 3 page document discussing New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism; (13) 2 page document of martial art movements; (14) copies of a pamphlet entitled, “George Jackson Lives.” These items were not contraband, as defendants have alleged.

         Plaintiff asserts a claim for violation of his right to access the courts, and a violation of his rights to freedom of speech, expression, and association under the First Amendment. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory relief, the return of his confiscated ...

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