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Anderson v. Kernan

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 13, 2020

HECTOR ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT KERNAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ADD A DEFENDANT AND MOTION TO STAND ON COMPLAINT; ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL; ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO FILE A RESPONSE (DOCS. 1, 20, 21)

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff has filed complaint asserting constitutional claims against governmental employees and/or entities.[1] (Doc. 1.) Generally, the Court is required to screen complaints brought by inmates seeking relief against a governmental entity or an 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). “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         I. Pleading Standard

         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)), and courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, ” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Prisoners may bring § 1983 claims against individuals acting “under color of state law.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2)(B)(ii). Under § 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). 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, Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted), but nevertheless, the mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting the plausibility standard, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff's claims arose while he was incarcerated at Sierra Conservation Center (“SCC”) in Jamestown, California. He brings this action against Scott Kernan, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and H. Anglea, Warden of SCC. Plaintiff sues both defendants in their official and individual capacities. He seeks damages only.

         Plaintiff's allegations may be fairly summarized as follows:

         On May 17, 2018, a large-scale riot involving over 300 inmates occurred at SCC. When the alarm sounded, plaintiff immediately complied with procedures by getting down and staying down until given permission to move. While he was down, however, some inmates attacked plaintiff from behind, taking advantage of plaintiff's defenseless position. As a result, plaintiff suffered severe injuries. The riot was ultimately quelled using 11 OC Blast Grenades, 12 CN Grenades, 3 40mm Baton Rounds, 4 40mm Direct Impact Rounds, and multiple MK-9 OC deployments. In addition, a state of emergency was announced in Tuolumne County because of the number of emergency personnel that arrived at SCC to help quell the riot.

         Plaintiff accuses the defendants of deliberate indifference to the safety of inmates based on the repeated instances of mass riots at SCC, including one involving over 350 inmates in August 2017 and multiple riots in July and August 2018, one of which resulted in the death of an inmate. Plaintiff also claims that SCC fails to employ enough guards such that often there are violent incidents to which staff members take too long to respond. He blames the unsafe conditions at SCC on “overcrowding, too much inmate movement, and not enough staff, escape routs [sic] or safety zones….”

         Secretary Kernan is named because he “is responsible for creating, approving, implementing, enforcing, or in some other way possessing responsibility for the continued operation of CDCR safety policies the directing of which holds him accountable for a constitutional violation.” Compl. ¶ 10. Warden Anglea is named because she “is responsible for creating, approving, implementing, enforcing, or in some other way possessing responsibility for the continued operation of facility safety policies the wardenry [sic] of which holds her accountable for a constitutional deprivation.” Id. ¶ 12.

         III. Discussion

         A. Official v. Individual Capacity Claims

         In this damages action, plaintiff sues the defendants in their individual and official capacities. But plaintiff may not bring a suit for damages against defendants in their official capacities. “The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages in federal court against a state, its agencies, and state officials in their official capacities.” Aholelei v. Dept. of Public Safety, 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). However, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits seeking damages against state officials in their personal capacities, Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 30 (1991); Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 491 (9th Cir. 2003), or suits for declaratory or injunctive relief brought against state officials in their ...


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