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Smith v. Yuba County Sheriff Department

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 14, 2020




         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is an inmate at Deuel Vocational Institution under the authority of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), proceeding pro se with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a request to proceed in forma pauperis filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Plaintiff challenges conditions of his prior confinement at the Yuba County Main Jail. This action is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302(c). For the following reasons, the court grants plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis but finds that the complaint does not state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff will be granted leave to amend.

         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 Nos. 4, 6.[1] 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 over time. 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 Civil Rights Complaint

         A. Legal Standards

         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).

         A district court must construe a pro se pleading liberally to determine if it states a potentially cognizable claim. While detailed factual allegations are not required, “[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 Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         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); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000).

         B. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff was booked into the Yuba County Main Jail on July 3, 2019, ECF No. 1 at 4, where he was allegedly denied items required to practice his Muslim faith. Plaintiff alleges that he spoke with “multiple deputies” who directed him to the inmate request form procedures, but his “two emergency requests” were not answered. Id. at 1. He submitted a grievance form on July 15, 2019 “to be given partial items . . . such as Quran & prayer rug. A Jewish Kosher diet was given. I needed Halal diet.” Id. at 2. “Sergeant Cordray was the supervisor who[] provided partial items” on July 16, 2019. Id. at 3. Plaintiff describes Cordray as a Jail Shift Supervisor and names him as a defendant in this action. Id. at 2.

         Also on July 16, 2019, plaintiff alleges that defendant Captain A. Garza, the Jail Commander, “denied [plaintiff] verbally the right to fully exercise my right to freedom of religion by denying Juma'h (Muslim) Services along with prayer beads, prayer oil, cufi (head cover) and EID (special prayer in Juma'h).” Id. at 3. Garza allegedly told plaintiff that “such events, items and people” presented security risks to the facility and he “refused to comment on paper.” Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff alleges that Garza's response “caused [him] mental & emotional suffering by not being allowed to prayer & pushing me away from religion while providing other religious ...

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