United States District Court, E.D. California
M. COTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the Court
is Plaintiffs complaint (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges
violations of his Eighth, First, and Fourteenth Amendment
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 it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2)
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or
(3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).
Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that
complaints contain a “. . . short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims
must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See
McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996)
(referring to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are
satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of
the Plaintiffs claim and the grounds upon which it rests.
See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir.
1996). Because Plaintiff must allege with at least some
degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants
which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations
fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible
for the Court to conduct the screening required by law when
the allegations are vague and conclusory.
names the following as defendants: (1) Nasaria Chamberlain, a
prison superintendent; (2) Lori Stein, a supervisor of the
Prison Industry Authority (PIA); (3) Charlotte Reynolds, a
prison superintendent; (4) Phillip Earley, a PIA
administrator; (5) Brad Smith, a PIA administrator; (6) T.
Tozi, a prison superintendent; (7) D. Conlon, a correctional
officer; (8) R. Bennett, a correctional officer; (9) J.
Lizarraga, the prison warden; (10) K. Rogers, a correctional
lieutenant; (11) C. Heintscel, a correctional captain; (12)
J. Feltner, a correctional sergeant; (13) M. Voong, Chief of
the CDCR Third Level Appeals; and (14) R. Roy, as associate
prison warden. Plaintiff alleges the following:
October 2017, Plaintiff informed his work supervisor,
Defendant Stein, that his broken chair caused him pain.
See ECF No. 1, p. 7. Defendant Stein ignored
Plaintiffs concerns. Plaintiff then filed a grievance with
the prison and a report with the Department of Industrial
Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Defendant Stein, shortly thereafter, filed a false Rules
Violation Report (RVR) and admitted it was in response to
Plaintiffs grievance. See id. at 7-8, 21.
days later, Defendant Earley interviewed Plaintiff about the
grievance but later “disappeared.” See
id. at 10. Defendant Earley's disappearance
obstructed Plaintiffs ability to appeal his grievances in
violation of California Code of Regulations. See id.
Not until Plaintiffs wife wrote a citizens complaint did
Defendant Lizarraga urge Defendant Earley to process
Plaintiffs grievances. See id.
December, Defendant Chamberlain submitted a falsified RVR
after telling Plaintiff she was tired of his grievances.
See id. at 10-11. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff
reported Defendant Chamberlain to Defendant Conlon for
shoving Plaintiffs desk at work. See id. at 12.
Defendants Tozi and Earley heard Plaintiffs grievance but
took no action. See id. The following day,
Defendants Chamberlain and Conlon asked to meet with
Plaintiff, but he refused. See id. at 13-14.
Defendant Conlon attempted to provoke Plaintiff by calling
him a rapist in front of other inmates. See id. at
14. Other inmates also witnessed Defendant Conlon coaching
Defendant Chamberlain on the computer. See id.
Plaintiff alleges the two conspired to retaliate by
falsifying another RVR. See id.
of the false RVRs, Plaintiff could not return to his previous
work assignment. See id. at 15. Defendant Earley
assigned Plaintiff to a new job allegedly in violation of the
California Code of Regulations. See id. On his first
day of work, his new supervisor, Defendant Reynolds, told
Plaintiff not to file grievances. See id. at 16.
Plaintiff later heard Defendant Reynolds tell another inmate
that Plaintiff had snitched on Defendant Reynolds. See
id Plaintiff alleges Defendant Reynolds was having an
illicit sexual relationship with another inmate, Hersey, for
whom she was smuggling in heroin and cellphones. See
id. Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant
Reynolds's illicit activity and asserting she was
deliberately indifferent to his safety by labeling him a
snitch. See id. at 17. Defendant Reynolds falsified
a work report shortly after that. See id. On June
13, Defendant Reynolds verbally accosted Plaintiff, during
which time she again called Plaintiff a “snitch”
in front of other inmates. See Id. at 18. Defendant
Reynolds filed an RVR in which she falsified Defendant
Bennett's presence at the scene of the altercation.
See id. In return, Plaintiff filed a grievance
against Defendant Reynolds and her supervisors, Defendant
Tozi and Defendant Smith. See id.
Plaintiffs disciplinary hearing regarding the June 13
incident, Plaintiff asked Defendant Bennett to appear on his
behalf and testify that he was not present during the
altercation, contrary to Defendant Reynolds's RVR.
See id. at 18-19. Defendant Bennett told Plaintiff
he should not have reported Defendant Reynolds's sexual
relationship with inmate-Hersey. See id. at 19. At
Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing, Defendant Bennett
allegedly lied and testified that he was present during the
June 13 incident. See id. The disciplinary committee
found Plaintiff guilty and restricted him from his work
assignment. See id.
on these factual allegations, Plaintiff raises the following
claims: (1) Defendants violated his First Amendment rights by
retaliating against Plaintiff for filing grievances and by
failing to intervene in the unconstitutional acts of their
subordinates; (2) Defendants' retaliations resulted in
various violations of Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment
right to due process; (3) Defendants were deliberately
indifferent to his safety in violation of his Eighth
Amendment rights; and (4) Defendant Earley violated the
California Code of Regulations by interfering with
Plaintiff's appeals process and impermissibly
transferring Plaintiff's work assignment.
First Amendment Retaliation Claim
order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
retaliation, the prisoner must establish that he was
retaliated against for exercising a constitutional right, and
that the retaliatory action was not related to a legitimate
penological purpose, such as preserving institutional
security. See Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813,
815-16 (9th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). In meeting this
standard, the prisoner must demonstrate a specific link
between the alleged retaliation and the exercise of a
constitutional right. See Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d
802, 807 (9th Cir. 1995); Valandingham v. Bojorquez,
866 F.2d 1135, 1138-39 (9th Cir. 1989). The prisoner must
also show that the exercise of First Amendment rights was
chilled, though not necessarily silenced, by the alleged
retaliatory conduct. See Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d
443, 449 (9th Cir. 2000), see also Rhodes v.
Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 569 (9th Cir. 2005). Thus, the
prisoner plaintiff must establish the following in order to
state a claim for retaliation: (1) prison officials took
adverse action against the inmate; (2) the adverse action was
taken because the inmate engaged in protected conduct; (3)
the adverse action chilled the inmate's First Amendment
rights; and (4) the adverse action did not serve a legitimate
penological purpose. See Rhodes, 408 F.3d at 568.
the chilling effect, the Ninth Circuit in Rhodes
observed: “If Rhodes had not alleged a chilling effect,
perhaps his allegations that he suffered harm would suffice,
since harm that is more than minimal will almost always have
a chilling effect.” Id at n.11. By way of
example, the court cited Pratt in which a
retaliation claim had been decided without discussing
chilling. See id This citation is somewhat confusing
in that the court in Pratt had no reason to discuss
chilling because it concluded that the plaintiff could not
prove the absence of legitimate penological interests.
See Pratt, 65 F.3d at 808-09. Nonetheless, while the
court has clearly stated that one of the “basic
elements” of a First Amendment retaliation claim is
that the adverse action “chilled the inmates exercise
of his First Amendment rights, ” id at 567-68,
see also Resnick, 213 F.3d at 449, the comment in
Rhodes at footnote 11 suggests that adverse action
which is more than minimal satisfies this element.
Plaintiff states cognizable retaliation claims against
Defendants Stein, Reynolds, Chamberlain, and Bennett for
various adverse actions taken in ...