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Woods v. Marquez

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 20, 2019

ROBERT WOODS, Plaintiff,
v.
G. MARQUEZ, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER OF SERVICE Docket No. 1

          Edward M. Chen United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Robert Woods, a prisoner at the California State Prison - Corcoran, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint is now before the court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The complaint alleges the following about events that occurred in May 2015 at Salinas Valley State Prison:

         Due to prison overcrowding, Salinas Valley officials were re-housing some inmates. Officials devised a scheme to house security threat group (STG) inmates with non-STG inmates in hopes that one of them would object and thereby earn a trip to administrative segregation.

         In April 2015, Mr. Woods was single-celled. In an effort to thwart any effort to house him in an unfavorable situation, he found a compatible potential cellmate and asked his housing officer to be housed with this inmate. Staff did not implement Mr. Woods’ request.

         On May 14, 2015, correctional officer (C/O) Marquez said Mr. Woods was going to be housed with an inmate Mr. Woods did not know. Mr. Woods asked about his earlier request to be housed with the compatible potential cellmate. This inquiry irritated C/O Marquez, who asked if Mr. Woods was refusing the ordered move. Mr. Woods said he was not refusing but wanted a compatible cellmate; Mr. Woods asked to speak to a supervisor, which further irritated C/O Marquez. C/O Marquez took Mr. Woods to a program office and made him wait outside while C/O Marquez went inside. About 20 minutes later C/O Marquez and C/O Cardona came out of the office. They grabbed Mr. Woods and slammed him against a wall, yelling “here’s your fucken rights, ” and then dragged him into the program office where they slammed him into a steel cage and dislocated his shoulder. Docket No. 1 at 7 (error in source). Correctional lieutenant Celaya and C/O Correa supervised the use of force on Mr. Woods. They also told Mr. Woods that it was the “direct result of plaintiff not following instructions to cell up with who they tell him to cell up with and next time plaintiff will think twice about complying with their orders.” Id. at 8. Lieutenant Celaya and C/O Correa declined to obtain immediate medical attention for Mr. Woods and told him he could get medical attention in administrative segregation.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Id . at § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         The unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain on a prisoner amounts to cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eight Amendment. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). “[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the core judicial inquiry is . . . whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992). Liberally construed, the complaint states a cognizable claim against defendants Marquez, Cardona, Celaya and Correa for the use of excessive force on Mr. Woods. Although defendants Celaya and Correa are not alleged to have personally applied force to Mr. Woods, they are alleged to have directed and supervised the use of force, and that allegation is sufficient to state a claim against them. See generally Keates v. Koile, 883 F.3d 1228, 1243 (9th Cir. 2018) (claim that supervisory official “knew of unconstitutional conditions and ‘culpable actions of his subordinates’ but failed to act amounts to ‘acquiescence in the unconstitutional conduct of his subordinates’ and is ‘sufficient to state a claim of supervisory liability’”); Robins v. Meecham, 60 F.3d 1436, 1442 (9th Cir. 1995) (prison official’s failure to intervene to prevent 8th Amendment violation may be basis for liability).

         “Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005) (footnote omitted). The complaint alleges that the defendants used excessive force on Mr. Woods to retaliate against him for questioning why he was not allowed to have his chosen potential compatible cellmate rather than accept a cellmate of correctional staff’s choosing. Liberally construed, the complaint states a cognizable claim against defendants Marquez, Cardona, Celaya and Correa for retaliation against Mr. Woods.

         Deliberate indifference to an inmate’s serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004). To establish an Eighth Amendment claim on a condition of confinement, such as medical care, a prisoner-plaintiff must show: (1) an objectively, sufficiently serious, deprivation, and (2) the official was, subjectively, deliberately indifferent to the inmate’s health or safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Liberally construed, the complaint states a cognizable claim against defendants Celaya and Correa for ...


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