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Thornberry v. Baughman

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 19, 2019

DAVID BAUGHMAN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has filed an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (ECF No. 2).

         Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).

         Screening Standards

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. § 1915A(b).

         A pro se plaintiff, like other litigants, 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.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). While the complaint must comply with the “short and plaint statement” requirements of Rule 8, its allegations must also include the specificity required by Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than “naked assertions, ” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-557. In other words, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. 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, 556 U.S. at 678. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

         Screening Order

         Plaintiff alleges that in April 2017 he requested that the Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) rescind his special needs yard designation so he could remain housed at California State Prison, Sacramento. ECF No. 1 at 4. In considering plaintiff's request, defendant Warden Baughman allegedly stated, “I thought you didn't like the way we treat inmates here, ” in reference to administrative appeals plaintiff had filed. Id. at 8. Baughman allegedly agreed to release plaintiff to the A yard general population, but admonished plaintiff to “stop filing 602s” and said that if he sees plaintiff on the yard in six months, he expects “to not remember him.” Id. In the following months, plaintiff filed two staff complaints and two civil rights lawsuits. Id. at 9.

         A month or so later, plaintiff again convened with the ICC because of a conflict with his cellmate. Id. at 10-11. Defendant Baughman issued a tentative decision to keep plaintiff housed in the A facility. Id. at 11. However, on May 16, 2018, the ICC reconvened and in Baughman's absence, defendant Peterson decided that plaintiff should be transferred to the special needs yard at Salinas Valley State Prison. Id. When plaintiff questioned Peterson's reasoning for the transfer, Peterson replied that plaintiff “had been trouble.” Id. at 12. Plaintiff asked defendant supervising correctional counselor Percy to intervene, but she would not override Peterson's decision. Id. at 13-14.

         Ultimately, Peterson did not transfer plaintiff to Salinas Valley State Prison, but to the California Correctional Institution (CCI) instead. Id. at 14, 17. According to plaintiff, CCI is “the most violent correctional facility for male SNY inmates . . . .” Id. at 14. Before the transfer occurred, plaintiff again sought intervention from Percy, stating that he is gay, and that CCI inmates are known for attacking such inmates. Id. at 15. Percy simply advised plaintiff that if he had problems he could “always lock it up, ” in an apparent reference to administrative segregation. Id. On November 6, 2018, plaintiff was attacked by three inmates at CCI.

         Plaintiff alleges that each of the defendants has violated his First Amendment right to be free from retaliation and failed to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 16, 18, 19. As ...

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