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Brown v. Arnold

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 26, 2019

E. ARNOLD, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Plaintiff requests leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Since plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), his request will be granted. Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 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 for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison 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).

         I. Screening Requirement

         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). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

         In order 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.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-557 (2007). In other words, “[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). Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief has 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, 93-94 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

         II. Allegations in the Complaint

         Plaintiff's original complaint was filed on April 25, 2019. ECF No. 1. However, before the court could screen this complaint, plaintiff filed a motion to amend along with a proposed first amended complaint. ECF Nos. 10-11. The court will grant plaintiff's motion to amend and proceed to screen the first amended complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1) (amendments of pleadings).

         Plaintiff alleges that, while an inmate at California State Prison in Solano (“CSP-Solano”), his right to due process was violated during an administrative disciplinary hearing at which he lost 150 days of good time credit. ECF No. 11 at 5, 15-16. Plaintiff also alleges that his First Amendment right of access to the courts has been denied because his administrative grievances concerning this disciplinary conviction were improperly screened out. ECF No. 11 at 10-15. He names the warden of CSP-Solano as well as an appeals coordinator at the prison as defendants in this action. As a remedy for these asserted violations, plaintiff requests that his disciplinary appeal be reinstated and that the disciplinary conviction itself be removed from his record along with the loss of his good time credits.

         III. Legal Standards

         When a state prisoner challenges the legality of his custody and the relief he seeks is the determination of his entitlement to an earlier or immediate release, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus which plaintiff would seek under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). Also, to the extent plaintiff seeks damages, plaintiff is informed he cannot proceed on a §1983 claim for damages if the claim implies the invalidity of his conviction or sentence. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994); see also Foster v. Kassulke, 898 F.2d 1144, 1148 (6th Cir. 1990) (emphasizing that § 1983 should not be “used to make an end run around habeas corpus procedures”). The rule in Heck applies to suits that would necessarily imply the invalidity of a disciplinary hearing that results in a prisoner's sentence being extended due to the loss of good time credits. Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997). The Heck rule applies to bar suits that both challenge the erroneous results in disciplinary hearings, and also to bar suits that challenge the procedures used in prison disciplinary hearings. Id. at 646.

         Prisoners do have a right under the First Amendment to file grievances complaining about prison officials' misconduct. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567 (9th Cir. 2005). However, that does not require any specific grievance procedure to be adopted by prison officials. See Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003).

         IV. ...

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