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Bradford v. Voong

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 2, 2018

SYLVESTER BRADFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
MINH VOONG, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING REQUEST FOR SCREENING; DISMISSING CERTAIN CLAIMS WITH PREJUDICE; ORDERING DEFENDANTS TO SHOW CAUSE

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Mule Creek State Prison, has filed a pro se civil rights action. This action was removed to federal court, Dkt. No. 1, and the Court found that the complaint alleged federal law claims, Dkt. No. 17. The Court now reviews the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations [in order to state a claim], . . . 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 for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 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).

         B. Complaint

         Plaintiff names as defendants Correctional Training Facility (“CTF”) correctional officers J. Barba, M. Ramirez, DN McCall, and Arnold; CTF Warden Spearman; California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) Director Jeffrey Beard; and CDCR Office of Appeals Chief M. Voong.

         According to the complaint, on August 21, 2015, while Plaintiff was housed at CTF, Officer Arnold searched Plaintiff's cell. During the search, Officer Barba waited outside the cell. Officer Barba then issued a rules violation report (“RVR”) on August 25, 2015, falsely stating that he had personally discovered two bags of pulp and a large bag of inmate manufactured alcohol during the cell search, and falsely accusing Plaintiff of possessing inmate manufactured alcohol. Plaintiff was found guilty of this RVR after a hearing conducted by Lt. McCall. Plaintiff filed numerous grievances and staff complaints regarding this RVR, which were reviewed, denied, and/or cancelled by Officer Ramirez, Warden Spearman, Director Beard, and Chief Voong. Plaintiff filed grievances challenging the cancellations, and these grievances were reviewed, denied, and/or cancelled by Officer Ramirez, Warden Spearman, Director Beard, and Chief Voong.

         Plaintiff alleges sixteen causes of action. The causes of action state two federal law claims and numerous state law claims.

         Plaintiff's first federal law claim is that Officer Barba's false accusation constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Dkt. No. 1-1 at 39-41 (first cause of action) and Dkt. No. 1-1 at 44-45 (third cause of action).[2] Officer Barba's false accusation does not implicate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel or unusual punishment. To qualify as a punishment subject to the Eighth Amendment, there must be a criminal penalty or punishment that attaches after a formal adjudication of guilt. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 537 n.16 (1979). Here, Officer Barba's false accusation and the subsequent consequences for Plaintiff are unrelated to punishment for a crime, or to an adjudication of guilt for a crime. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against Officer Barba in his first and third causes of actions are DISMISSED with prejudice because leave to amend would be futile. See James v. Giles, 221 F.3d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 2000) (where amendment would be futile, denial of leave to amend is appropriate).

         Plaintiff's second federal law claim is that Officer Barba and Director Beard violated his federal due process rights. See Dkt. No. 1-1 at 50-51(seventh cause of action); and Dkt. No. 1-1 at 66-67 (fourteenth cause of action[3]).[4]

         In Plaintiff's seventh cause of action, he alleges that his due process rights were violated when Officer Barba falsely accused him of possessing inmate manufactured alcohol, and when Officer Arnold allowed Officer Barba to make a false accusation. The Ninth Circuit has not directly addressed whether being falsely or wrongly accused of conduct violates an inmate's federal due process rights. Other circuits, however, have held that, generally speaking, allegations of a fabricated charge fail to state a claim under § 1983. See, e.g., Sprouse v. Babcock, 870 F.2d 450, 452 (8th Cir. 1989) (inmate's claims based on the falsity of the charges did not, standing alone, state constitutional claims; Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d 949, 951 (2d Cir. 1986) (inmate has “no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongly accused of conduct which may result in the deprivation of a protected liberty interest;” only has right to not “be deprived of a protected liberty interest without due process of law”); Hanrahan v. Lane, 747 F.2d 1137, 1140-41 (7th Cir. 1984) (allegation that prison guard planted false evidence implicating inmate in disciplinary infraction fails to state cognizable due process claim where procedural due ...


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