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Lipsey v. Medina

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 17, 2019

MEDINA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff has filed a second amended complaint asserting claims against governmental employees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court is required to screen complaints brought by inmates seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         I. Relevant Procedural Background

         Plaintiff initiated this action on December 19, 2017, for claims related to the delayed receipt of his personal property following several institutional transfers; this property included legal documents, personal hygiene items, and a Torah. The Court screened the complaint and found it lacked a cognizable claim. (Doc. 12.) Plaintiff then filed a first amended complaint (Doc. 14), which the Court screened again and deemed it to be substantively identical to the original complaint. Because plaintiff failed to state a claim and his allegations suggested that there were no additional facts to plead, the Court issued findings and recommendations to dismiss the first amended complaint without leave to amend. (Doc. 18.) Plaintiff objected to the findings and recommendations. (Doc. 19.) On review of the objections, District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill granted the findings and recommendations in part, giving plaintiff one final opportunity to state an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim and a First Amendment free exercise claim. Plaintiff's second amended complaint follows from that order and is now before the Court for screening.

         II. Pleading Standard

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), and courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, ” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Prisoners may bring § 1983 claims against individuals acting “under color of state law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2)(B)(ii). Under § 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted), but nevertheless, the mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting the plausibility standard, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         III. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against four defendants: Corcoran State Prison Associate Warden R. Godwin, Chief Deputy Warden J. Perez, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) S. Kernan, and Appeals Examiner / Captain T. Lee. Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief. Plaintiff's allegations are summarized as follows:

         A. Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment Claims

         Plaintiff's first challenge concerns the relationship between his indigency and the CDCR's alleged practice of excessively delaying the transfer of an inmate's personal property following the inmate's transfer to another institution. Plaintiff claims that he was transferred multiple times since 2014, accompanying each transfer was a six to eight-week delay in the receiving his personal property.

         Plaintiff, who owes restitution and court fees, has been unable to purchase any hygiene items from the canteen because any money that is in his account is taken before he is able to buy anything. Therefore, during those periods while he awaited the receipt of his personal property, he was forced to rely on items provided to him by the institution, to include toothpaste, soap, and shower shoes. In lieu of toothpaste, however, plaintiff was (and presumably still is) provided baking soda, which causes plaintiff's gums to bleed and become highly sensitive. This prevents him from eating healthy solid foods, such as apples, and forces him instead to eat “a lot of bread, ” resulting in weight gain and gingivitis. He also claims that he was denied shower shoes, forcing him to go extended periods of time without a shower for fear of contracting an illness walking barefoot in the showers. Between 2015-2016, plaintiff claims he “went a whole year without a shower and using a piece of soap as toothpaste.”

         In early 2017, and in anticipation of an upcoming transfer to CSP, plaintiff submitted an inmate grievance explaining his past problems with the delayed receipt and/or loss of his personal property, but the appeal was not processed. Upon his transfer to CSP in March 2017, plaintiff claims that “most of his property was either damaged or missing.” As a result, from March 2017 until October 2017, plaintiff was forced to forego showers and to wash his clothes, body, and cell with a single bar of soap.

         On March 30, 2017-the same month that he was transferred to CSP-plaintiff filed an inmate grievance regarding the property transfer policy in general and its effect on indigent inmates. This appeal was denied at the first level of review by defendant Associate Warden Godwin; denied at the second level by defendant Warden Perez; and ...

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