Williams v. Santiago

Filing 11

ORDER DISMISSING CASE for Failure to State a Claim 10 , signed by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng on 4/7/17: Clerk to Close Case. (CASE CLOSED)(Hellings, J)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 15 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 16 17 MICHAEL B. WILLIAMS, 18 Plaintiff, 19 20 21 CASE NO. 1:16-cv-01065-MJS (PC) ORDER DISMISSING CASE FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM v. (ECF NO. 10) JESSICA SANTIAGO, CLERK TO CLOSE CASE Defendant. 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Plaintiff is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 1 Plaintiff initiated this action on July 25, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) On November 1, 2016, 2 the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint with leave to amend. (ECF No. 7.) On February 3 13, 2017, the Court screened Plaintiff’s first amended complaint (“FAC”) and found it 4 again stated no cognizable claims. (ECF No. 9.) Plaintiff was granted thirty days to 5 amend. (Id.) His March 1, 2017 second amended complaint (“SAC”) is now before the 6 Court for screening. (ECF No. 10.) He has consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. 7 (ECF No. 3.) No other party has appeared. 8 I. Screening Requirement 9 The in forma pauperis statute provides, “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any 10 portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if 11 the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which 12 relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 13 II. Pleading Standard 14 Section 1983 “provides a cause of action for the deprivation of any rights, 15 privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” 16 Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). 17 Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for 18 vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 19 (1989). 20 To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: 21 (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and 22 (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state 23 law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Ketchum v. Alameda Cnty., 811 F.2d 24 1243, 1245 (9th Cir. 1987). 25 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that 26 the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations 27 are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, 28 2 1 supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 2 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). 3 Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief 4 that is plausible on its face.” Id. Facial plausibility demands more than the mere 5 possibility that a defendant committed misconduct and, while factual allegations are 6 accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. at 677-78. 7 III. Plaintiff’s Allegations 8 Plaintiff is detained at Coalinga State Hospital (“CSH”). Plaintiff’s SAC names 9 Jessica Santiago “et al.” as Defendants in the caption of his complaint. Plaintiff does not 10 expressly name the other Defendants. He also does not set forth the facts giving rise to 11 his claims. Rather, Plaintiff intersperses his factual allegations with legal arguments 12 asserting that his original complaint was improperly dismissed. 13 An amended complaint supersedes the prior complaint, and should be complete 14 in and of itself. Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 907 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2012). The 15 following factual allegations are therefore drawn solely from Plaintiff’s SAC. The facts 16 contained within Plaintiff’s prior complaints are therefore not repeated herein. 17 undersigned has, however, reviewed them and concluded that consideration of them 18 would not, In any event, change the outcome of this case.) (The 19 On April 5, 2016, Defendant Santiago, a former Unit 6 supervisor, placed 20 Plaintiff’s access hall card on medical hold as punishment and in retaliation for Plaintiff 21 exercising his “Fifth Amendment” right to refuse medication. Plaintiff refused his 22 medications because they caused adverse side effects. Santiago did not conduct a 23 disciplinary hearing before deactivating the access card. Plaintiff was thus denied: 1) 24 written notice of the charges against him; 2) 24 hours advanced notice of the April 5 25 “hearing” during which Santiago disabled the card; 3) a written statement by Santiago 26 stating her reasons for disabling the card; 4) the right to call witnesses; and 5) staff 27 28 3 1 assistance to defend his case. Santiago acted alone when she determined that Plaintiff 2 was guilty of not taking his medications and placed his access card on medical hold. 3 On February 17, 2017 (after the instant case was filed), Dr. Chand threatened to 4 falsely report that Plaintiff was not competent to make his own medical decisions in 5 refusing to take his blood pressure medications. The threat was in retaliation for 6 Plaintiff’s continued refusal to take other heart-related medications prescribed by Dr. 7 Nguyen. 8 9 10 Plaintiff alleges retaliation and the violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments. IV. Analysis 11 Plaintiff’s first two complaints were dismissed for failure to state a claim. For the 12 reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s SAC will also be dismissed. Further leave to amend 13 would be futile and will be denied. Reconsideration of the Dismissal of Plaintiff’s FAC 14 A. 15 Plaintiff requests that the dismissal of his FAC be “set aside,” since, as Plaintiff 16 argues, this Court erred in dismissing his FAC for failure to state a claim. The Court 17 construes Plaintiff’s request as a motion for reconsideration. 18 “A motion for reconsideration should not be granted, absent highly unusual 19 circumstances, unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, 20 committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law,” Marlyn 21 Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos Pharma GmbH & Co., 571 F.3d 873, 880 (9th Cir. 2009). 22 “A motion for reconsideration may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence 23 for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised in earlier litigation.” Id. 24 Furthermore, “‘[a] party seeking reconsideration must show more than a disagreement 25 with the Court’s decision, and ‘recapitulation . . .’” of that which was already considered 26 by the court in rendering its decision. U.S. v. Westlands Water Dist., 134 F.Supp.2d 27 1111, 1131 (E.D. Cal. 2001) (quoting Bermingham v. Sony Corp. of Am., Inc., 820 F. 28 4 1 Supp. 834, 856 (D. N.J. 1992)). Similarly, Local Rule 230(j) requires that a party seeking 2 reconsideration show that “new or different facts or circumstances are claimed to exist 3 which did not exist or were not shown upon such prior motion, or what other grounds 4 exist for the motion . . . .” 5 Here, Plaintiff believes the Court overreached its authority by resolving genuine 6 issues of fact in Defendants’ favor, and dismissing Plaintiff’s claims based on their 7 supposed frivolity. (Id.) Plaintiff relies on the Supreme Court case of Denton v. 8 Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992), in support. 9 Denton involved a district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s multiple civil rights 10 complaints under the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), which allows the 11 court to dismiss a case filed by a litigant proceeding in forma pauperis if it determines the 12 action is frivolous or malicious. Id. at 27. All of the complaints alleged that Plaintiff had 13 been drugged and raped numerous times by inmates and prison officers at several 14 different institutions. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of three of the cases. The circuit 15 court reversed and remanded, concluding that dismissal of a complaint as factually 16 frivolous was appropriate only where the allegations conflicted with judicially noticeable 17 facts. Id. at 30. On review, the United States Supreme Court held that the circuit court 18 incorrectly limited the power granted the court to dismiss a frivolous case under § 19 1915(d). Id. at 31. The Supreme Court, relying on a standard set forth in its decision in 20 Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989), stated that a finding of factual frivolousness “is 21 appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly 22 incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict 23 them, but a complaint cannot be dismissed simply because the court finds the 24 allegations to be improbable or unlikely.” Denton, 504 U.S. at 25–26. 25 Here, the Court did not dismiss Plaintiff’s FAC because the allegations were 26 improbable or unlikely. Rather, the Court determined that even assuming Plaintiff’s 27 allegations were true, they failed to demonstrate that a constitutional violation had 28 5 1 occurred. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Plaintiff’s reliance on Denton is thus misplaced. As 2 Plaintiff has not pointed to any new or different facts or circumstances necessitating 3 reconsideration of the Court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s FAC, his request is denied. In any 4 event, Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his claims in a SAC. 5 6 B. Substantive Claims 1. Fifth Amendment 7 Plaintiff states he has a Fifth Amendment right to refuse unwanted medical 8 treatment. As Plaintiff was previously advised, the right to refuse medical treatment 9 arises from the Fourteenth Amendment. (ECF No. 7 at 6.) Plaintiff was advised of the 10 pleading standards for such a claim yet failed to raise them in his SAC. To the extent 11 Plaintiff believes his right to refuse medical treatment was violated, that claim will be 12 dismissed without leave to amend. 13 2. Procedural Due Process 14 In order to establish that his procedural due process rights were violated, Plaintiff 15 must allege the existence of a protected liberty interest that was subject to interference 16 by the state. Kentucky Dept. of Corr. v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 460 (1990). A liberty 17 interest may arise from the Constitution itself, or from an expectation or interest created 18 by state laws or policies. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556-58 (1974). 19 The liberty interest at stake here is Plaintiff’s interest in not being punished 20 without due process. See Rhoden v. Carona, No. SACV 08-00420 JHN (SS), 2010 WL 21 4449711, at *21 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2010). Not all potential deprivations require the 22 same level of procedural protections; “the requirements of due process are flexible and 23 call for such protections as the particular situation demands.” Id. (citing Wilkinson v. 24 Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 224 (2005). To Plaintiff, the deactivation of his access card 25 constituted punishment; Plaintiff thus believes he was entitled to the full panoply of Wolff 26 protections prior this deactivation. 27 28 6 1 Plaintiff was directed to plead more facts detailing the “hearing” he was subjected 2 to prior to the deactivation of his access card, as the Court could not determine what 3 process Plaintiff was entitled to and what process was denied. Plaintiff’s SAC is slightly 4 more detailed; Plaintiff reports he was denied: (1) written notice of the charges against 5 him; (2) 24 hours advance notice of the “hearing”; (3) a written statement by the fact- 6 finder outlining her reasons for the disciplinary action; (4) the right to call witnesses; (5) 7 and legal assistance. 8 Plaintiff claims he was punished after he was found “guilty” of a disciplinary 9 violation. However, it is clear that what Plaintiff deems a deprivation of a liberty interest 10 without due process was more likely an administrative measure taken in the interest of 11 institutional order and security: Plaintiff refused to take his medication, therefore 12 Defendant placed his access card on a medical hold, preventing Plaintiff from leaving his 13 unit without staff supervision. Such a de minimis loss of privileges is not the sort of 14 deprivation to which the Wolff procedural rights attach. Rhoden, 2010 WL 4449711, at 15 *22 (citing Senty-Haugen v. Goodno, 462 F.3d 876, 886 n. 7 (8th Cir. 2006) (holding that 16 depriving a civil detainee of privileges such as canteen access and computer privileges 17 does not implicate the Constitution). Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim will be 18 dismissed without leave to amend. 19 3. Retaliation 20 Plaintiff claims he was retaliated against for refusing medical treatment. He was 21 previously advised of the pleading standards for a retaliation claim. (ECF No. 9 at 6-7.) 22 Nonetheless, he submits only the conclusory allegation that he was “retaliated” against. 23 This claim will be dismissed without leave to amend. 24 VI. 25 Conclusion and Order Plaintiff’s second amended complaint fails to state any cognizable claims. Further 26 leave to amend would be futile and will be denied. 27 Accordingly, it is HEREBY ORDERED that: 28 7 1 1. Plaintiff’s request for reconsideration of the Court’s order dismissing Plaintiff’s 2 3 FAC is DENIED; 2. Plaintiff’s SAC (ECF No. 10) is DISMISSED, with prejudice, for failure to state 4 5 a claim; 3. The Clerk’s Office shall terminate all pending motions and CLOSE this case. 6 7 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 7, 2017 /s/ 9 Michael J. Seng UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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