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Cruz v. Gutierrez

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 2, 2020

GUILLERMO TRUJILLO CRUZ, Plaintiff,
v.
GUTIERREZ, Defendant.

          ORDER OF SERVICE

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Kern Valley State Prison filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Pelican Bay State Prison (“PBSP”) officer Gutierrez. His complaint is now before the Court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. He has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or from an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the Court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Complaint

         The complaint makes the following allegations. Plaintiff filed staff complaints against PBSP Officers Showers, Jarvis, Tincher, and Kumbat for sexually harassing him. On January 19, 2019, named defendant PBSP Officer Gutierrez retaliated against plaintiff for filing these complaints by sexually harassing plaintiff. Specifically, while conducting a clothed body search of plaintiff, Officer Gutierrez cupped and grasped plaintiff's genitals in order to intentionally inflict pain. Officer Gutierrez then ran his right hand in a karate-chop style between plaintiff's buttocks, causing unpleasant and offensive touching and humiliation. Afterwards, Officer Gutierrez stated that he felt nothing between plaintiff's legs and that the patdown search was done “for the white girls, ” referring to the officers against whom plaintiff had filed staff complaints. Dkt. No. 1.

         A prisoner may state an Eighth Amendment claim under Section 1983 for sexual harassment if the alleged sexual harassment was sufficiently harmful, i.e., a departure from “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society, ” and the defendant acted with intent to harm the prisoner. See Thomas v. District of Columbia, 887 F.Supp. 1, 3-4 (D.D.C. 1995) (citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6, 8 (1992)) (internal quotations and citation omitted). When prison officials maliciously and sadistically use force to cause harm, contemporary standards of decency are always violated, see Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9, and no lasting physical injury is required to state a cause of action, Schwenk v. Hartford, 204 F.3d 1187, 1196 (9th Cir. 2000). Sexual assault, coercion and harassment certainly may violate contemporary standards of decency and cause physical and psychological harm. See Jordan v. Gardner, 986 F.2d 1521, 1525-31 (9th Cir.1993) (en banc). Liberally construed, the complaint's allegations that, during a clothed body search, Officer Gutierrez cupped and grasped plaintiff's genitals and ran his right hand in a karate-chop style between plaintiff's buttocks in order to intentionally inflict pain state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim.

         The complaint also states a cognizable First Amendment retaliation claim. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005) (“Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) because of (3) that prisoner's protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate's exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate correctional goal.”) (footnote omitted).

         C. Motion of Ex Parte of Default

         Plaintiff has also filed a pleading titled “Motion of Ex Parte of Default.” Dkt. No. 1 at 1. In this pleading, plaintiff states that he seeks “ex parte of default” against North Kern State Prison law librarian Armendadez because, on July 9, 2019, Ms. Armendadez denied him pleading paper and manila envelopes. Id. Plaintiff requests that the Court provide him with legal supplies as requested. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that he has been denied his right to email civil rights actions, to mail legal ...


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