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Cassells v. Villa

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 3, 2019

KEITH M. CASSELLS, Plaintiff,
v.
NADINE N. VILLA, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that his rights have been violated because he has not been found suitable for parole. Presently before the court is plaintiff's amended complaint for screening. (ECF No. 12.) For the reasons set forth below, the court will recommend that the complaint be dismissed without leave to amend.

         SCREENING

         I. Legal Standards

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 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 Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227. Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

         However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

         The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. Here, the defendants must act under color of federal law. Bivens, 403 U.S. at 389. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). “A person ‘subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

         Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

         II. Allegations in the Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff names as defendants: (1) Nadine Villa; (2) Terry Fowler; (3) Vijay Desai; (4) Nina Starr; (5) John Garcia; and (6) Rhoda Skipper-Dotta. (ECF No. 12 at 3.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 2, 1998 he was sentenced to a prison term of thirty years for several counts of second-degree robbery. (Id. at 4.) Approximately ten days later he was returned to court so that Villa, the victim of one of the robberies, could make a statement.

         Plaintiff alleges that Villa was (and possibly still is) an employee of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). (Id.) He claims her speech contained accusations based on “feelings” and not on the “facts” of the case. Villa called plaintiff a monster and “stated she hoped some hairy lifer would attempt” to sexually assault plaintiff. (ECF No. 12 at 5.)

         Plaintiff argues Villa's purpose in speaking at the sentencing hearing was to document allegations that could not be shown by the district attorney and “to aid Villa's ‘Red Flagging' of Plaintiff's prison file for all Correctional Counselors and Case records Staff to see and take note of.” Plaintiff alleges he was assaulted by fellow inmates on two separate occasions and an officer used excessive force against him. Plaintiff claims these incidents “all stemmed from Defendant Villa's vindictiveness, as the perpetrators of the assaults suffered no major consequence, as one //// was classified as a mental patient and the other paroled soon after attacking plaintiff from behind.” Plaintiff claims that he has been denied parole based on false documentation that was not contained in his prison file.

         Plaintiff challenges several findings of unsuitability for release on parole as set forth below:

- August 27, 2015 - Fowler cited a recent rules violation and a victim letter opposing release in finding plaintiff unsuitable for release. Plaintiff claims he verified that he had not received a rules violation since 2012 and ...

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