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Sekona v. Bradley

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 23, 2018

OFFICER BRADLEY, et al., Defendants.



         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. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Since plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), his request 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 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).

         I. Screening Standard

         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 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).

         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). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

         In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than “naked assertions, ” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-557 (2007). In other words, “[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). Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief has facial plausibility. 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

         II. Allegations in the Complaint

         All of the allegations in plaintiff's complaint occurred while he was an inmate at Mule Creek State Prison. The complaint names three individual officers as defendants who are sued in their individual as well as official capacities. According to the allegations in the complaint, Officer Bradley ordered plaintiff to provide a urine sample in December 2015 in retaliation for plaintiff's report of a drug dealer and alcohol maker in the prison.[1] ECF No. 1 at 2-3. Plaintiff also alleges that these actions were done in retaliation for a lawsuit that plaintiff filed against officers who were involved in an undescribed June 27, 2014 incident. Id. at 3. Defendant Bradley issued plaintiff a rules violation report or “115” after plaintiff indicated that he did not want to provide a urine sample due to his chronic diseases. Id. at 2. Defendant Bradley then conducted a nude search of plaintiff and made him wait for the urine test for “about 3 hours in [the] cold weather [of] 30º or less outside.” Id. at 2. These actions caused plaintiff to suffer pain, emotional distress, embarrassment, and heart problems. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Bradley's actions violated the First and Eighth Amendments to the federal Constitution. Id. at 2-3.

         Defendant Hang was appointed plaintiff's employee assistant for the administrative hearing related to the 115 issued by defendant Bradley. ECF No. 1 at 8. According to plaintiff, defendant Hang did not do anything to help plaintiff, who is not a native English speaker, and failed to explain the hearing procedure to him. Id. These actions allegedly constituted a violation of the due process clause. Id.

         Plaintiff further alleges that defendant Mrs. Santillan violated his right to due process when she found him guilty of the 115 issued by defendant Bradley. ECF No. 1 at 5. Specifically, plaintiff states that defendant Santillan did not call any of plaintiff's witnesses at the hearing and she refused to delay the hearing, all allegedly done in violation of due process. Id. By way of relief, plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

         III. Analysis

         A. Official Capacity Claims

         At the outset, the court notes that plaintiff brings this action against defendants in both their official and individual capacities. However, plaintiff may not bring a suit for damages against defendants in their official capacities. “The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages in federal court against a state, its agencies, and state officials in their official capacities.” Aholelei v. Dept. of Public Safety, 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). However, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits seeking damages against state officials in their personal capacities, Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 30 (1991); Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 491 (9th Cir. 2003), or suits for declaratory or injunctive relief brought against state officials in their official capacities, Austin v. State ...

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