Juniel v. Sherman et al

Filing 11

ORDER DISMISSING ACTION With Prejudice for Failure and Inability to State a Cognizable Claim signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 3/3/2017. CASE CLOSED. (Jessen, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 RICHARD JUNIEL, 10 11 12 Case No. 1:16-cv-00513-SKO (PC) Plaintiff, ORDER DISMISSING ACTION WITH PREJUDICE FOR FAILURE AND INABILITY TO STATE A COGNIZABLE CLAIM v. SHERMAN, et al., (Doc. 1) 13 Defendants. 14 15 INTRODUCTION 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 A. Background Plaintiff, Richard Juniel, is a state prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As discussed in greater detail below, Plaintiff fails and is unable to state a cognizable claim under section 1983, such that this action is DISMISSED. B. 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, malicious, 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); 28 U.S.C. 1 1 § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). If an action is dismissed on one of these three basis, a strike is imposed 2 per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed 3 as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and has 4 not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury does not qualify to proceed in forma 5 pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Richey v. Dahne, 807 F.3d 1201, 1208 (9th Cir. 2015). 6 Section 1983 “provides a cause of action for the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or 7 immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. 8 Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of 9 substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred 10 11 elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) the 12 violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the alleged 13 violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 14 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987). 15 C. Summary of the First Amended Complaint 16 Plaintiff complains of acts that occurred when he was transferred from California 17 Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (“SATF”) in Corcoran, California to California State Prison 18 in Sacramento, California (“CSP-Sac”). Plaintiff names the following SATF employees as 19 defendants: Correctional Officer Kyle Rening; Sergeant D. Crane; and Associate Warden J. 20 Collins. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages totaling $1,350 for property that was lost when he was 21 transferred from SATF to CSP-Sac in March of 2015. 22 Plaintiff alleges that, on March 6, 2015, C/O Rening inventoried Plaintiff’s personal 23 property as Plaintiff was to be placed in a crisis bed. (Doc. 1, p. 3.) On March 20, 2015, Plaintiff 24 was transferred from SATF to CSP-Sac. (Id.) Because his personal property was not transferred 25 with him, Plaintiff filed an inmate appeal on March 22, 2015. (Id.) On July 7, 2015, Plaintiff 26 received a small portion of his property, but almost half of his personal property was missing. 27 (Id., p. 4.) On July 20, 2015, he received a response to his inmate appeal which acknowledged 28 that, because of staff negligence, Plaintiff’s fan, CD player, and TV were missing or lost. (Id.) 2 1 Plaintiff was offered a TV, CD player, and fan. (Id.) Since they were all inoperable, Plaintiff 2 refused to accept them in place of his missing items. Plaintiff pursued his inmate appeal on his 3 missing property through every level of review, but they were all rejected for one reason or 4 another. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that, though he has a mental health disability and reading grade 5 point level of 1.3, prison staff “never attempted to achieve effective communication” with him 6 during the appeal process. (Id., at p. 5.) 7 As discussed in greater detail below, Plaintiff cannot and is not able to state a cognizable 8 under section 1983 based on this incident. This action is, therefore, properly dismissed with 9 prejudice. 10 D. 11 Pleading Requirements 1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) 12 "Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited 13 exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 14 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain "a short and plain 15 statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). 16 "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and 17 the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. Violations of Rule 8, at both ends of the spectrum, warrant dismissal. A violation occurs 18 19 when a pleading says too little -- the baseline threshold of factual and legal allegations required 20 was the central issue in the Iqbal line of cases. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 21 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). The Rule is also violated, though, when a pleading says too much. 22 Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1058 (9th Cir.2011) (“[W]e 23 have never held -- and we know of no authority supporting the proposition -- that a pleading may 24 be of unlimited length and opacity. Our cases instruct otherwise.”) (citing cases); see also 25 McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179–80 (9th Cir.1996) (affirming a dismissal under Rule 8, 26 and recognizing that “[p]rolix, confusing complaints such as the ones plaintiffs filed in this case 27 impose unfair burdens on litigants and judges”). 28 // 3 Detailed factual allegations are not required, but A[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a 1 2 cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.@ Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 3 678, quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth 4 Asufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to >state a claim that is plausible on its face.=@ Iqbal, 5 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true, but 6 legal conclusions are not. Iqbal. at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 7 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557. While Aplaintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . . ,@ Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 8 9 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se prisoners are still construed liberally 10 and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). 11 However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations," Neitze 12 v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989), "a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may 13 not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled," Bruns v. Nat'l Credit 14 Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 15 268 (9th Cir. 1982), and courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, Doe I v. Wal- 16 Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation 17 omitted). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and 18 “facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability” fall short of satisfying the 19 plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. Further, “repeated and knowing violations of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)’s ‘short 20 21 and plain statement’ requirement are strikes as ‘fail[ures] to state a claim,’ 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), 22 when the opportunity to correct the pleadings has been afforded and there has been no 23 modification within a reasonable time.” Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106, 1108-09 (9th Cir. 24 2013). 25 26 2. Linkage Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional or 27 other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 28 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); 4 1 Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). “Section 1983 is not itself a source of 2 substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere 3 conferred.” Crowley v. Nevada ex rel. Nevada Sec’y of State, 678 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 2012) 4 (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94, 109 S.Ct. 1865 (1989)) (internal quotation 5 marks omitted). To state a claim, Plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating the existence of a link, 6 or causal connection, between each defendant’s actions or omissions and a violation of his federal 7 rights. Lemire v. California Dep’t of Corr. and Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062, 1074-75 (9th Cir. 2013); 8 Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-08 (9th Cir. 2011). 9 Plaintiff’s allegations must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the 10 deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the 11 presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 12 at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility 13 of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 14 F.3d at 969. Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are still entitled to have their 15 pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 16 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). 17 C/O Rening is the only named Defendant that Plaintiff mentions in his factual allegations. 18 Although it is apparent from Plaintiff’s exhibits that both of the other Defendants were involved 19 in the review and handling of Plaintiff’s inmate appeal, this is insufficient to link them to 20 Plaintiff’s allegations under section 1983. DISCUSSION 21 22 23 24 25 A. Plaintiff's Claims 1. Due Process a. Loss of Personal Property The Due Process Clause protects prisoners from being deprived of property without due 26 process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). Prisoners have a protected 27 interest in their personal property. Hansen v. May, 502 F.2d 728, 730 (9th Cir. 1974). However, 28 while an authorized, intentional deprivation of property is actionable under the Due Process 5 1 Clause, see Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 532, n.13 (1984) (citing Logan v. Zimmerman Brush 2 Co., 455 U.S. 422 (1982)); Quick v. Jones, 754 F.2d 1521, 1524 (9th Cir. 1985), neither negligent 3 nor unauthorized intentional deprivations of property by a state employee Aconstitute a violation 4 of the procedural requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a 5 meaningful post-deprivation remedy for the loss is available,@ Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 6 533 (1984). California law provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy for the unauthorized 7 taking (whether intentional or negligent) of an inmate’s personal property. Barnett v. Centoni, 31 8 F.3d 813, 816-17 (9th Cir. 1994)(citing Cal. Gov’t Code §§810-895). 9 Plaintiff’s allegations clearly state that C/O Rening’s loss or misplacement of his property 10 was not authorized. If it had been authorized, Plaintiff would not have been offered replacement 11 items. Since the loss of his property was unauthorized, California law provides an adequate 12 remedy for Plaintiff’s loss and he may not pursue a due process claim under section 1983. 13 b. Inmate Appeals 14 The Due Process Clause protects prisoners from being deprived of liberty without due 15 process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). To state a cause of action for 16 deprivation of due process, a plaintiff must first establish the existence of a liberty interest for 17 which the protection is sought. AStates may under certain circumstances create liberty interests 18 which are protected by the Due Process Clause.@ Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 (1995). 19 Liberty interests created by state law are generally limited to freedom from restraint which 20 Aimposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of 21 prison life.@ Id. 22 "[I]nmates lack a separate constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance 23 procedure." Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003) (no liberty interest in 24 processing of appeals because no entitlement to a specific grievance procedure), citing Mann v. 25 Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988). A[A prison] grievance procedure is a procedural right 26 only, it does not confer any substantive right upon the inmates.@ Azeez v. DeRobertis, 568 F. 27 Supp. 8, 10 (N.D. Ill. 1982) accord Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993); see 28 also Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. 2001) (existence of grievance procedure 6 1 confers no liberty interest on prisoner). AHence, it does not give rise to a protected liberty interest 2 requiring the procedural protections envisioned by the Fourteenth Amendment.@ Azeez v. 3 DeRobertis, 568 F. Supp. at 10; Spencer v. Moore, 638 F. Supp. 315, 316 (E.D. Mo. 1986). 4 Actions in reviewing prisoner=s administrative appeal generally cannot serve as the basis 5 for liability under section 1983. Buckley, 997 F.2d at 495. The argument that anyone who knows 6 about a violation of the Constitution, and fails to cure it, has violated the Constitution himself is 7 not correct. AOnly persons who cause or participate in the violations are responsible. Ruling 8 against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation.@ 9 Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 656-57 (7th Cir. 2005) accord George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 10 609-10 (7th Cir. 2007); Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 851-52 (7th Cir. 1999); Vance v. Peters, 11 97 F.3d 987, 992-93 (7th Cir. 1996). 12 Thus, Plaintiff is unable to state a cognizable against prison personnel for their 13 involvement in the processing and the decisions made on his inmate appeal concerning his 14 missing property. 15 ORDER 16 17 18 19 Plaintiff has failed and is unable to state a cognizable claim under section 1983 against any of the named Defendants based on the loss of his personal property. Leave to amend would be futile and need not be granted as the defects in his pleading are not capable of being cured through amendment. Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212-13 (9th Cir. 2012). 20 21 Accordingly, it is HEREBY ORDERED that this entire action is DISMISSED with prejudice. 22 23 24 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: March 3, 2017 /s/ Sheila K. Oberto UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 26 27 28 7 .

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