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Trotter v. Pfeiffer

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 19, 2019

WARDEN PFEIFFER, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff James Trotter is a state prisoner currently proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Currently before the Court for screening is Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed on November 18, 2019. (ECF No. 48.)

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing his original complaint on January 22, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) On March 22, 2019, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and granted Plaintiff leave to file a first amended complaint. (ECF No. 24.) On April 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint. (ECF No. 27.) On July 3, 2019, the Court issued a screening order finding that Plaintiff's first amended complaint failed to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and failed to state any cognizable claim for relief. (ECF No. 37.) The Court granted Plaintiff thirty days to either file a second amended complaint or a notice of voluntary dismissal. (Id. at 15-16.) On August 9, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for an extension of time to file a second amended complaint. (ECF No. 44.) On August 13, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff an additional thirty days to file a second amended complaint. (ECF No. 46.)

         On September 9, 2019, the Court's August 13, 2019 order was returned as “Undeliverable, Unable to Forward.” On October 31, 2019, after Plaintiff failed to file a notice of change of address, file a second amended complaint, or otherwise communicate with the Court for more than sixty-three days, the undersigned issued findings and recommendations recommending that this action be dismissed based on Plaintiff's failure to prosecute this action. (ECF No. 47.) The findings and recommendations were served on Plaintiff and contained notice that any objections thereto were to be filed within fourteen (14) days after service. (Id. at 3.)

         However, as noted above, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on November 18, 2019. (ECF No. 48.) Therefore, on November 21, 2019, the Court vacated the October 31, 2019 findings and recommendations recommending dismissal of this action due to Plaintiff's failure to prosecute. (ECF No. 49.) The Court now screens the second amended complaint.

         II. Screening Requirement and Standard

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or 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 on which relief may be granted, ” or that “seek[] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

         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. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         III. Summary of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff is currently housed at Folsom State Prison. Plaintiff alleges that the events at issue in his second amended complaint took place at Kern Valley State Prison (“KVSP”). Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) KVSP Warden Pfeiffer; (2) Correctional Officer Garcia; and (3) Correctional Officer Barcia Reign.

         Plaintiff alleges as follows: On April 22, 2017, Plaintiff was assigned as a Dining Vocational Trade Worker, section location 004-A 7/8 Dining 2/w, with Position #DRW.004.004.

         “06/01/2017 correction officer Garcia briefing had been given by administration staff Facility ‘C' and ordering him to comply he personally refused denoucing (sic) all good changes, again strongly refusing to hirer (sic) anybody, not only White inmates, no Black inmates, and no Asian inmates.” (ECF No. 48, at 5.) The Facility C Staff Sergeant requested a list of inmates who qualified for medium custody status to work in the culinary trade. Plaintiff submitted 15 names on a list and another list was submitted, consisting of 10 names of inmates who previously worked for Defendant Garcia and who said that they knew how to work around Defendant Garcia.

         However, Defendant Garcia totally ignored “instruction, the list and completely refused hirering (sic) inmates who passed all the cook tests White inmates, Black inmates, and Asian inmates, and [Defendant Garcia] again said … [he was] only for my people Mexican inmates this is our Land.” (Id.) From June 1, 2017 and on, Defendant Garcia continued opposing all direct orders from administrative staff members to hire inmates of all races in order to balance the ethnic makeup of the kitchen workers.

         Plaintiff asserts that “the direct job assignment is headed by designated assignment Lt. (only)[.]” (Id. at 6.) On December 8, 2017, Plaintiff was issued an Inmate Assignment Card for Location YDW.003.005-A Upper Yard 2/w position YDW.003.005. Plaintiff alleges that “Correction Officer Garcia and Facility Lt. who created actual crime both together illegally changing job assignment with no authority.” (Id.)

         On the night of December 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a 602 appeal form. Almost immediately after that, Plaintiff was sent another Inmate Assignment Card that reassigned him back to his former Dining Worker position, with an effective date of December 12, 2017. After alerting Management Cook II, Facility Sergeant, and all correctional officers working in the kitchen that he was reassigned to his former Dining Worker position, Plaintiff reported each day to his job assignment, but each time he “was illegally denied and turned away for no reason.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff subsequently filed a 602 appeal, explaining the situation involving Correctional Officer Garcia. Plaintiff was eventually interviewed by the Facility lieutenant, “who said he already knows and I agreed saying the only computer that change a inmate assignment is Lt., which I said you broke into Lt. assignment office illegally P.C. § 626.” (Id.)

         “Days later ‘punishment' correction officers came to living quarters stating Lt. Facility A want to see me again, I said let's go ready, willing and able, and Correction officer's (sic) said turn around and cuff up and I was placed in administrative segregation with no pending rules violation report, no contact with the outside work of any kind substantive right's (sic) constitutional violation's (sic). Punishment no rights, Punishment no liberty, and miscarriage of justice.” Id. Further, Plaintiff alleges that he was “adverse punishment by confinement in a prison cell beyond ten days maximum time period with the right to exercise, as administrative punishment, without his due process right to notice of the cause for confinement.” (Id. at 3.) Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Plaintiff alleges his First and Fourteenth Amendments were violated when he was denied access to the court, legal library, legal books, and paper when he was confined to administrative segregation.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief and compensatory and punitive damages.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8

         Pursuant to Rule 8, 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). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations ...

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