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Rodriguez v. Koenig

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 11, 2019

CESAR A. RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG KOENIG, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER OF PARTIAL DISMISSAL; AND SERVICE OF COGNIZABLE CLAIMS

          YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, a former state prisoner who was previously incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility (“CTF”), filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in a separate written Order.

         Venue is proper because the events giving rise to the claim are alleged to have occurred in CTF, which is located in this judicial district. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

         In his complaint, Plaintiff names the following Defendants: CTF Warden Craig Koenig; California Board of Parole Hearings (“BPH” or “Board”) Commissioner Pete Labahn; BPH Deputy Commissioner James Martin, and “‘Doe's' Board members and California courts.” Dkt. 1 at 2-3. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id. at 3-4.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that 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. Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements:

(1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff claims that when he appeared before the Board on June 13, 2017, Defendants “ignored their established procedures and statutes” as required by state law, thereby violating his rights to due process by “depriving him of an actual length of incarceration that matches his culpability, reformation, and offense . . . .” Dkt. 1 at 3. Liberally construed, Plaintiff's allegations appear to state an arguably cognizable claim under § 1983 for a violation of due process. See Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S. 216, 220 (2011) (prisoner subject to parole statute similar to California's receives adequate process when allowed opportunity to be heard and provided statement of reasons why parole was denied).

         The Court notes that although the complaint names Defendant Koenig, the warden at CTF, as a defendant, Plaintiff makes no specific allegations against him. See Dkt. 1 at 3. Therefore, Defendant Koenig is DISMISSED because Plaintiff does not allege that this Defendant actually or proximately caused the deprivation of any federally protected right. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). It seems that Plaintiff could be contending Defendant Koenig is liable based on the conduct of his subordinates. However, there is no respondeat superior liability under Section 1983. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, Plaintiff must allege that the supervisory liability defendant “participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them.” Id. Here, no facts are alleged to establish supervisorial liability on the part of Defendant Koenig. Accordingly, to the extent that Plaintiff contends Defendant Koenig is liable based on the conduct of his subordinates, such a supervisory liability claim is DISMISSED without prejudice.

         Finally, Plaintiff identifies “‘Doe's' Board members and California courts, ” whose names he intends to learn through discovery. The use of Doe Defendants is not favored in the Ninth Circuit. See Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). However, where the identity of alleged defendants cannot be known prior to the filing of a complaint the plaintiff should be given an opportunity through discovery to identify them. Id. Failure to afford the plaintiff such an opportunity is error. See Wakefield v. Thompson, 177 F.3d 1160, 1163 (9th Cir. 1999). Accordingly, the claims against these Doe Defendants are DISMISSED from this action without prejudice. Should Plaintiff learn these Doe ...


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