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Godinez v. Kernan

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 17, 2019

SCOTT KERNAN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) inmate proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He filed this action on November 6, 2018. ECF No. 1. On April 24, 2019, the court determined that plaintiff's complaint impermissibly joined multiple, unrelated claims against more than one defendant. ECF No. 10 at 2-3. Plaintiff was given leave to amend to address this deficiency in his complaint. Id. at 4.

         The court must screen the amended complaint.[1] Having done so, it is recommended that plaintiff's claims be dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff's motion to compel the return of his legal materials is also denied.


         I. Legal Standards

         Pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), the court must dismiss the case at any time if it determines the allegation of poverty is untrue, or if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant.

         Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), a complaint, or portion thereof, should be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails to set forth “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true.” Id. (citations omitted). Dismissal is appropriate based either on the lack of cognizable legal theories or the lack of pleading sufficient facts to support cognizable legal theories. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         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 Hosp. 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). A pro se plaintiff must satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) “requires a complaint to include 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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-563 (2007).

         II. Analysis

         The court was unequivocal in its previous screening order: “plaintiff's initial complaint, which was brought against multiple defendants, contained various unrelated claims. The law is clear that “[u]nrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits . . . .” George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). And plaintiff's claims in the initial complaint were not sufficiently related to each other. To reiterate, he alleged at least five unrelated claims in that initial filing: (1) that defendant Rios used excessive force against him in December of 2015; (2) that after the excessive force incident with Rios, medical staff at High Desert State Prison failed to offer plaintiff adequate medical care; (3) that plaintiff's due process rights were violated after he was charged with a rules violation report in connection with the Rios excessive force incident; (4) that plaintiff was served poisoned meals as a form of unauthorized punishment by defendants Martell, Rodriguez, McNaught, and Courtney; and (5) that plaintiff was wrongfully placed on administrative appeal restriction for failing to comply with the procedural requirements of the prison grievance system. The second amended complaint has not corrected this issue of misjoinder; it still contains multiple unrelated claims.

         First, plaintiff again alleges that, on December 19, 2015, defendant Rios punched him in the face several times and slammed him to the ground. ECF No. 27 at 4. He also claims that defendant Gambert (the captain of the facility where the excessive force occurred), Warden Adams, and CDCR Secretary Kernan were aware of a pattern of misconduct. Id.

         Second, plaintiff claims that, on December 23, 2015, defendant Christensen - a nurse practitioner - failed to provide plaintiff with adequate medical care. Id. at 5. Specifically, plaintiff claims that Christensen misstated his medical complaints and then, despite evidence that plaintiff was in pain and spitting up blood, declined to order x-rays on his ribs. Id. He argues that defendants Adams and Foss - the warden and deputy warden, respectively - were aware of the inadequacies in his medical treatment. Id.

         Third, plaintiff alleges that he was falsely charged with a rules violation report after the Rios excessive force incident. Id. at 6. He claims that his due process rights were violated in that: (1) he was denied a disciplinary hearing; (2) he was denied the ability to call witnesses; and (3) he was not otherwise allowed to present a defense. Id. It is unclear which defendants were involved in this alleged violation of his rights.

         Fourth, [2] plaintiff alleges that his ability to litigate a state habeas petition was frustrated by his inability to access legal mail and the unit law library. Id. Plaintiff provides no details regarding the denial of access, nor does he specify how his state habeas litigation was hampered. He ...

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