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Jones v. California Medical Facility

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 19, 2019

SCOTT JONES, Plaintiff,



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at California State Prison Solano (CSP-SOL), under the authority of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Plaintiff proceeds with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons that follow, the court grants plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis and gives plaintiff the opportunity to file a First Amended Complaint.

         II. In Forma Pauperis Application

         Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit and prison trust account statement that make the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). See ECF No. 8. Accordingly, plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

         Plaintiff must still pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         III. Screening of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

         A. Legal Standards for Screening Prisoner Civil Rights Complaints

         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 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). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly at 555). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal at 678 (quoting Twombly 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. 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. (citing Twombly 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 of “entitlement to relief.”'” Id. (quoting Twombly at 557).

         “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (internal quotation marks omitted)). See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e) (“Pleadings shall be so construed as to do justice.”). Additionally, a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and an opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).

         B. Plaintiff's Allegations

         When previously incarcerated at the California Medical Facility (CMF), plaintiff submitted a letter to this court requesting that he be transferred to a General Population Level 3 yard “before me or other inmates get hurt.” See ECF No. 1 at 1. Plaintiff stated that he qualifies for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because he has 4 screws in his back. He explained that he was an “Active Southern” and “a G.P. inmate, ” not a “program inmate, ” and disagreed with the July 17, 2018 decision of CMF Correctional Counselor II (CC II) Davis to transfer plaintiff to a special needs program yard. Id. He complained that he had been placed in CMF's administrative segregation unit (Ad Seg) “for not wanting to be a program inmate.” Id.

         The court informed plaintiff that, to proceed with this action, he must file a complaint and an application to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 7. Plaintiff filed both documents.

         When plaintiff filed his complaint on December 26, 2018, he had been transferred to, and housed at, CSP-SOL for more than four months. The complaint recounts plaintiff's difficulties while housed at the Correctional Health Care Facility (CHCF) in Stockton, apparently before he was incarcerated at CMF or between his incarcerations at CMF and CSP-SOL. Plaintiff states he was then post-surgical, in a wheelchair, and that his placement in a special needs yard placed him in danger because he had “to defend” himself between the “two status inmates, ” including in a fight January 2018 and a riot February 2018. ECF No. 12 at 3. Plaintiff alleges that the situation “forced [him in] to a very complicated strategic decision of no real choices.” Id. at 4. He alleges that his wheelchair was damaged, requiring him to forfeit $350.00. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that “[t]he prison unit for my housing unit wasn't up to standards to accommodations . . . [causing plaintiff] discomfort, pain after surgery, then reinjuring back, hip. That my use of wheel chair was lengthened and make use of walker after chair which wouldn't had been needed or another forecoming surgery of lower back and correction of 3 [illegible] fusen screws, which allows my ableness to walk and function as one human [with] no assistance of nurse or assistant.” Id.

         The complaint seeks the following relief: “To be reviewed and true assessment of placement without any dangerment, harm for me as Active General Population Inmate;” “to have ALL medical needs and attentions needs forthcoming completed;” and $100, 000 in damages “for the wrong of CDCR, stress, depression, hardship.” ECF No. 12 at 6.

         The complaint identifies the following defendants: CHCF Warden Martel, CHCF CC II (Correctional Counselor II) Frazier and “other state employees of [CHCF], ” including “4 Janes Does” and “4 John Does.” Id. at 2.

         C. The Complaint's Defects

         1. Constitutional Claims for Injunctive Relief are Moot

         With the possible statutory exceptions noted below (concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act), plaintiff's institutional transfers prior to filing his complaint renders moot any constitutional claim for injunctive relief at CMF and CHCF. Plaintiff has no standing to seek injunctive relief regarding practices at a facility in which he is no longer held. “When an inmate challenges prison conditions at a particular correctional facility, but has been transferred from the facility and has no reasonable expectation of returning, his claim is moot.” Pride v. Correa, 719 F.3d 1130, 1138 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing Johnson v. Moore, 948 F.2d 517, 519 (9th Cir. 1991)). An inmate's claims for prospective injunctive and declaratory relief are moot when he “no longer is subjected to [the allegedly unconstitutional] ...

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