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Rhoden v. Department of State Hospitals

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 30, 2018

LAWTIS DONALD RHODEN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE HOSPITALS, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL OF CERTAIN CLAIMS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A COGNIZABLE CLAIM FOR RELIEF [ECF NO. 29]

         Plaintiff Lawtis Donald Rhoden is a civil detainee appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Individuals detained pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code § 6600 et seq. are civil detainees and are not prisoners within the meaning of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Page v. Torrey, 201 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2000).

         Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's fourth amended complaint, filed April 9, 2018.

         I.

         SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         Notwithstanding any filing fee, the court shall dismiss a case if at any time the Court determines that the complaint “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis complaints, not just those filed by prisoners); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (dismissal required of in forma pauperis proceedings which seek monetary relief from immune defendants); Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (district court has discretion to dismiss in forma pauperis complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 1998) (affirming sua sponte dismissal for failure to state a claim). The Court exercises its discretion to screen the plaintiff's complaint in this action to determine if it “i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). 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)).

         In reviewing the pro se complaint, the Court is to liberally construe the pleadings and accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Therefore, the complaint must contain sufficient factual content for the court to draw the reasonable conclusion that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         II.

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS

         During the lockdown at Coalinga State Hospital from January 13, 2018 to February 8, 2018, Plaintiff was denied the ability to communicate with his lawyers and court by phone or letter. For a period of ten days, Plaintiff was not allowed to call his attorneys or send mail to them or the courts where he has pro se pleadings pending.

         During the lockdown, Plaintiff had a pro se habeas corpus action pending in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The Court ordered Plaintiff to file a status report every forty-five days or risk the case being dismissed. During the lockdown, Plaintiff was denied the right to call the court or send mail for ten days. Consequently, Plaintiff was forced to file his status report to the Court approximately ten days late in violation of the Court's October 13, 2017, order.

         During the lockdown, Plaintiff also had a pro se habeas corpus petition pending in the California Supreme Court. Plaintiff was denied access to the law library to conduct research to submit additional and new case authorities in support of his challenge. The habeas corpus petition was denied by the California Supreme Court on March 14, 2018.

         In addition, during the lockdown, Plaintiff was helping his court-appointed attorney research and draft a petition for unconditional release under Welfare and Institution Code section 6605, in Orange County. Plaintiff was prevented from doing legal research and denied the ability to mail a petition to his attorney which resulted in prolonged civil commitment. Plaintiff's lawyer was not able to file the petition for unconditional discharge until he received it from Plaintiff two weeks past the due date.

         Plaintiff had a protected property interest in owning his electronic and storage devices (personal laptop computer, tablet, other electrical devices, thumb drives/flash drives/ microchips, C/Ds and DVDs). The confiscation of his electronic devices was the result of an established state procedure pursuant to ...


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