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Martinez v. Rios

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 5, 2019

MIGUEL MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
C. RIOS, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          DENNIS M. COTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendants' unopposed motion to dismiss (ECF No. 15).

         I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff Miguel Martinez is currently a prisoner at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in Susanville, California. See ECF No. 1, pg. 1. Plaintiff names the following as defendants: (1) C. Rios; (2) R. Cisneros; and (3) Lt. Davidge. Id. Plaintiff claims that these defendants conspired to have him erroneously classified as a member of the street gang known as “Salinas East Market St.” Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff contends that this misconduct resulted in violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id.

         In May of 2016, Corrections Officer C. Rios initiated an investigation into plaintiff's suspected affiliation with the Salinas East Market St. gang. Id. at 5. Rios conducted an interview with plaintiff and observed a red “M” on plaintiff's chest which Rios noted as representing “Market St.” in Salinas. Id. at 7. Rios also asked plaintiff how long he had been a member of Salinas East Market St. and plaintiff allegedly responded “since I was fourteen years old.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). Also, Rios observed a Mayan tattoo for the number four, a common identifier for members of Norteno street gangs, including Salinas East Market St. Id. Lastly, on May 16, 2016, Rios conducted a cell search and found a drawing in plaintiff's personal property with the initials “S-E-M.” Id. at 8. These initials are a common identifier for the Salinas East Market St. gang. Id. On May 20, 2016, Rios allegedly provided all of these documents and disclosures to plaintiff and received no opposition from him. See ECF No. 1, pg. 5. From this investigation, Rios deemed there was enough evidence to identify plaintiff as a member of the Salinas East Market St. gang. Id. The information from Rios' investigation, along with an alleged self-admission of gang-membership made by plaintiff in 2015, was compiled into a validation packet by Lieutenant Davidge and sent to a prison official named Spralue for evaluation. Id. at 9. On February 2, 2017, plaintiff was validated as a member of the Salinas East Market St. gang. Id.

         Plaintiff appealed the gang validation on April 19, 2017. Id. at 10. In his appeal, plaintiff asserted that that his validation was fraudulent and denied ever making self-admissions in either 2015 or 2016. Id. Also, plaintiff alleges that Rios misrepresented facts. Id. at 12. Plaintiff argued that Rios never mentioned that the “M” was a documented symbol of the Salinas East Market St. gang. Id. Instead, plaintiff claimed the “M” represented the Minnesota Twins baseball team. Id. Plaintiff also claimed that the letter “M” alone can't be enough for gang determination. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that on May 31, 2016, he tried to discuss his appeal to the gang validation with Corrections Officer Cisneros and another officer, but they denied him the opportunity. Id. at 12. On June 4, 2016, plaintiff made a second attempt to discuss his appeal with Rios and another officer, but they again denied him the opportunity. Id. On May 19, 2017, plaintiff's appeal was denied. See ECF No. 1, pg. 11.

         On June 6, 2017, plaintiff submitted another appeal regarding his gang validation. Id. at 11, 13. Plaintiff argued that his alleged “self-admission” was manipulated and that he simply told the interviewers that he “grew up” on the East Side of Salinas, around Market St., not that he was gang affiliated. Id. at 11. Plaintiff also claimed that contentions by interviewers, such as that he was provided the opportunity to be heard, were “lies.” Id. at 13 Plaintiff contended in his appeal that they did not hear him out and took the position that his case had “no merit.” Id. On August 31, 2017, this appeal was also denied. See id. at 11.

         In conjunction with these factual allegations, plaintiff alleges Rios: (1) violated numerous prison policies; (2) initiated the gang validation investigation for retaliatory purposes; and (3) fabricated the documents of “self-admission.” See id. at 3. Plaintiff further alleges that Cisneros: (1) conspired with Rios to undermine plaintiff's investigation and defense against his gang validation; (2) was assigned as plaintiff's “investigative employee, ” which presented a conflict of interest since Cisneros was also involved in the gang validation; and (3) conspired with Rios to retaliate against plaintiff and “screw him over” for making Cisneros' cousin, a prison employee, “do paperwork.” Id. Finally, plaintiff alleges that Lt. Davidge: (1) submitted validation documents that were fabricated; and (2) failed to independently confirm the reliability of said documents. Id.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all allegations of material fact in the complaint as true. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). The court must also construe the alleged facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816 (9th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). All ambiguities or doubts must also be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. See Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, legally conclusory statements, not supported by actual factual allegations, need not be accepted. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009). In addition, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         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” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. 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 under Rule 12(b)(6), 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.” Id. at 555-56. The complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility for entitlement to relief.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court generally may not consider materials outside the complaint and pleadings. See Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 1998); Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453 (9th Cir. 1994). The court may, however, consider: (1) documents whose contents are alleged in or attached to the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, see Branch, 14 F.3d at 454; (2) documents whose authenticity is not in question, and upon which the complaint necessarily relies, but which are not attached to the complaint, see Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001); and (3) documents and materials of which the court may take judicial notice, see Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994).

         Finally, leave to amend must be granted “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defects.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); see also ...


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