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Roberts v. KVSP Investiation Service Unit

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 27, 2019



         Plaintiff David Roberts is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's first amended complaint, filed August 22, 2019.


         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 on which relief may be granted, ” or that “seek[] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         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)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.


         The Court accepts Plaintiff's allegations in the complaint as true only for the purpose of the sua sponte screening requirement under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The incidents alleged in the complaint occurred while he was housed at Kern Valley State Prison.

         On July 27, 2018, three officers from the Investigation Services Unit (“ISU”) took pictures of Plaintiff after he was beaten up by six to seven officers. In the incident, Plaintiff sustained a dislocated jaw, swollen nose, busted lip, fractured cheekbone, broken teeth, gash to his forehead, and bruises all over his body. Although Plaintiff was supposed to receive the photographs after he heard from the district attorney, ISU has not sent him the photographs. Plaintiff believes that “they” are trying to cover up his injuries. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for trying to cover up evidence of the July 27, 2018 beating. ///


         Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of a plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. Section 1983 does not provide any substantive rights, but is a statutory vehicle to provide a remedy for a violation of an individual's constitutional and federal rights. Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 617-18 (1979); Magana v. Com. of the N. Mariana Islands, 107 F.3d 1436, 1442 (9th Cir. 1997), as amended (May 1, 1997). To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff is required to show that (1) each defendant acted under color of state law and (2) each defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long, 442 F.3d at 1185.

         There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983, and therefore, each defendant is only liable for his or her own misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. To state a claim, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones, 297 F.3d at 934.

         Here, Plaintiff alleges that the three officers are trying to cover up the injuries that he sustained during the July 27, 2018, incident. However, the only allegations regarding these officers in the complaint are that they investigated the incident and took pictures of Plaintiff. Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts by which that Court can reasonably infer that these officers violated Plaintiff's federal rights. In addition, there is no support for Plaintiff's claim that he has a due process right to receive a copy of the photographs. See Mancilla v. Biter, No. 1:13-cv-01724-BAM-HC, 2013 WL 6070417, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 18, 2013) (“there is no legal requirement under federal law that the prison authorities produce any specific evidence” at a prison disciplinary hearing); Crismond v. Sandon, No. CV 12-3572-ODW (VBK), 2013 WL 1759924, at *7 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2013) (“The Supreme Court has never recognized a due process right to the preservation and testing of physical evidence in the prisoner disciplinary context.”); White v. Superintendent, No. 3:13 CV 300, 2013 WL 6512671, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 11, 2013) (“The hearing officer was not required to produce physical evidence to support the charge….”); see also Lasko v. Holt, 334 Fed.Appx. 474, 476 (3d Cir. 2009) (“Notably absent from the Wolff list of due process rights is a prisoner's right to review all potentially inculpatory evidence prior to the disciplinary hearing….”); Napier v. Swarthout, No. 2:12-cv-1521-JAM-DAD P, 2014 WL 1839129, at *10 (E.D. Cal. May 8, 2014).

         Plaintiff states that ISU has not sent him the photographs, but “[t]he Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages in federal court against a state, its agencies, and state officials acting in their official capacities.” Aholelei v. Dept. of Public Safety, 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Yakama Indian Nation v. State of Washington, 176 F.3d 1241, 1245 (9th Cir. 1999); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996). Section 1983 did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity. Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 982 F.Supp. 1396, 1403 (N.D. Cal. 1997), aff'd, 237 F.3d 1026 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341-42 (1979) and Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 781-82 (1978)). Additionally, section 1983 applies to “persons” acting under color of state law and the Supreme Court has held that government entities are not “persons” under section 1983. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Plaintiff cannot bring a suit for monetary damages against the ISU.

         To the extent that Plaintiff may be attempting to allege a cover-up of any excessive force used during the July 27, 2017 incident, such a claim would allege accessory after the fact liability for excessive force and the court is not aware of any cases recognizing this sort of liability for a constitutional violation. See Hutchinson v. Grant, 796 F.2d 288, 291 (9th Cir. 1986) (municipality's alleged cover up to excuse arrest of plaintiff could not impose liability for the incident); Lang v. Cty. of Sonoma, No. C12-0983 TEH, 2012 WL 4674527, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 2, 2012) (no authority for after the fact accessory liability in Fourth Amendment claim); Mackey v. Cty. of San Bernardino, No. ED CV 09-1124-GW SP, 2012 WL 5471061, at *14 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, No. ED CV ...

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