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Eckstrom v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 2, 2018

JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner at the California Health Care Facility (CHCF) in Stockton, under the authority of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Plaintiff proceeds pro se with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and an application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         This action is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302(c). For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted, and his complaint is dismissed with leave to file a First Amended Complaint subject to the legal standards set forth herein.

         II. In Forma Pauperis Application

         Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit and prison trust account statement that make the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis, ECF No. 8, will be granted.

         As a result, plaintiff must, over time, pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. See 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 to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         III. Legal Standards for Screening Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). A claim is legally frivolous when 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).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly at 555). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal at 678 (quoting Twombly 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly at 556). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of “entitlement to relief.”'” Id. (quoting Twombly at 557).

         A pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and an opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).

         IV. Screening of Plaintiff's Complaint

         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         The complaint challenges the quality of mental health care plaintiff is receiving at CHCF and the refusal of the California Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) to transfer plaintiff to a treatment program within the California Department of Mental Health (DMH). Plaintiff describes a “Catch 22” in which the BPH, in 2006 and 2013, denied plaintiff parole (and, apparently, transfer to DMH), in deference to the assessments of Drs. Sargent, Oyeyemi and Sahni that plaintiff continues to require an intensive and structured therapeutic environment that plaintiff asserts he is not receiving within CDCR. Plaintiff references (but does not attach) inmate appeals which he describes as follows, ECF No. 1 at 13:

My request for transfer and appeal were based on the following considerations: I am not getting the level of treatment found necessary by Dr. Sargent and Dr. Oyeyemi. I am not receiving 10 hours of therapy as counted by CMC prison. Time spent in “treatment” as counted by CMC in Tier Group was not treatment. The Group watched nature, history or music videos instead of treatment. Petitioner has been victimized by other inmates in CMC D-Quad. Petitioner is in need of a diagnostic evaluation as to whether he is schizoid or not for Parole Board and treatment purposes; CMC has refused to do the evaluation. The Parole Board is dissatisfied with petitioner's level of treatment as an EOP and refuses to parole petitioner on that basis.

         Plaintiff identifies other alleged inadequacies in the mental health treatment he receives within CDCR, including an allegation that his current therapist is unlicensed. Id. at 18.

         The complaint alleges that the BPH improperly relied on submitted psychological assessments to conclude that plaintiff's underlying crimes (including first degree murder) were the product of his mental illness, and thus indicative of his ongoing mental illness, despite the jury rejecting plaintiff's diminished capacity defense at trial. Plaintiff contends that, as a matter of due process, the BPH should rely on the findings of the jury or reconvene a parole reconsideration hearing that includes the live testimony of witnesses and a six-person jury to reach new and accurate findings concerning plaintiff's mental condition and entitlement to parole.

         The complaint identifies two claims for prospective injunctive relief: (1) transfer of plaintiff to DMH; and (2) a new parole hearing. The complaint names two defendants: former CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard, and BPH Executive Officer Jennifer ...

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