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Patterson v. Heastie

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 3, 2019

J. HEASTIE, et al., Defendants.


          Jacqueline Scott Corley United States Magistrate Judge.


         Plaintiff, a California prisoner, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against J. Heastie and I. Fletes, two officials at the California Training Facility in Soledad, California.[1] The complaint claimed that they failed to remove an inaccurate arson designation from his prison record, and that Fletes retaliated against him while deciding Plaintiff's administrative grievance challenging that designation. Following a preliminary review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the claims were found, when liberally construed, to state cognizable claims for the violation of his due process and First Amendment rights.

         Defendants have filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff filed an opposition, and Defendants filed a reply brief. Although the Court found on preliminary review that the complaint, when liberally construed, stated cognizable claims for relief, upon review of the arguments raised by the parties in the briefing of Defendants' motion, and upon further review of the complaint and its attachments, the Court concludes, for the reasons discussed below, that Plaintiff's claims are not cognizable under Section 1983. Consequently, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.


         According to the allegations in the complaint and the attachments thereto, Plaintiff's criminal records show a 1988 arrest for possession of a destructive device under California Penal Code § 12303.2. (ECF No. 1 at 5). At a prison classification hearing in 2007, prison officials approved his eligibility for a “Non-Combustible Minimum Support Facility” (“MSF”). (Id. at 13, 18.) The hearing decision stated that, at the hearing, Plaintiff explained that he had been arrested in 1988 for possession of “an M-80” but the officer gave him a ticket instead of taking him to jail. (Id.) The classification decision concluded that, pursuant to a 2004 prison policy entitled “Arson Criteria and Minimum Custody Eligibility Memorandum, ” Plaintiff's admission to the arrest and possession of the explosive device precluded him from placement in a prison “camp”. (Id.) Following another classification hearing in 2010, prison officials determined that under the 2004 Memorandum Plaintiff's classification would include a designation (known as an “Administrative Determinant”) of arson. (Id. at 13.)

         In 2017, Plaintiff submitted a written request to have the arson designation removed from his prison records. (Id. at 7.) He stated that he was only cited for possession of the explosive device but was “never arrested or convicted.” (Id.) He further stated that when he inquired about the citation in court, court officials could not find it and he never received a promised court date. (Id.) Defendant Heastie, a supervisor at CTF, denied Plaintiff's appeal of the denial of his request because prison officials do not have the authority to remove an arrest from his “RAP sheet, and advised Plaintiff to contact the Department of Justice. (Id.)

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an administrative grievance in which he complained about the denial of his request to remove the arson designation from his records. (Id. at 8-11.) He again asserted that while he was cited for possessing the explosive device, he was not arrested or convicted, and prison officials “lied” that he had admitted to such an arrest. (Id.) He also claimed that Heastie “falsified” Plaintiff's prison records by stating that Plaintiff had been arrested. (Id. at 10-11.) The first level of administrative review of the grievance was bypassed, and at the second level Defendant Fletes investigated Plaintiff's allegations, interviewed him, and denied the grievance. (Id. at 12-13.) Fletes found that plaintiff's RAP sheet indicating an arrest for possession of explosive device and his admission to that effect at the 2007 classification hearing were sufficient to support the designation of arson under the 2004 Memorandum. (Id. at 12-13.) Fletes also found that Heastie did not falsify documents because her written decision accurately reflected Plaintiff's RAP sheet, which indicated that Plaintiff had been arrested. (Id. at 5, 13.) Plaintiff appealed Fletes's decision to the third and final level of review, where a non-defendant denied it. (Id. at 14-15.)


         I. Standard of Review

         The standard applied to a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is the same as that applied to a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Cafasso v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is a ruling on a question of law. Parks School of Business, Inc., v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1483 (9th Cir. 1995). "The issue is not whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to support his claim." Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). Review is limited to the contents of the complaint, Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994), including documents physically attached to the complaint or documents the complaint necessarily relies on and whose authenticity is not contested. Lee v. County of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001). Allegations of fact in the complaint must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). The court need not, however, “accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” Ibid.

         In order to state a cognizable claim for relief, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations and internal quotations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 1986-87. A motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint does not proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570; see, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1952 (2009).

         A pro se pleading must be liberally construed, and "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570 (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show that there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if ...

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