McLaughlin v. Felker et al

Filing 47

ORDER signed by Chief Judge Robert H. Whaley on 11/15/11 ORDERING defendant's Motion to Dismiss 27 is GRANTED; All pending motions are denied, as moot; Plaintiff is granted leave to file an Amended Complaint. The complaint must be filed within 30 days from the date of this Order. Failure to file an Amended Complaint will result in dismissal of the above-captioned action; The District Court Executive is directed to enter this Order and forward copies to Plaintiff.(Becknal, R)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 MARTIN MCLAUGHLIN, Plaintiff, NO. CV-08-0831-RHW v. T. FELKER, M.D. McDONALD, S. ARMOSKUS, R.K. WONG, R. JOHNSON, C. ADAMS, C.F. BOLLS, K. STAFFORD, G. MARSHALL, PERRY, STATTI, R. MARQUEZ, MINNICK, R. KEMP, D. DANGLER, and C.J. SPIRK, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS Defendants. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 On April 18, 2008, Plaintiff filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is an inmate in the California State Prison, Corcoran, California. Plaintiff contends that his civil rights were violated by prison officials at the High Desert State Prison, in Susanville, California. The Court conducted a preliminary review pursuant to § 1915(A) and ordered that Defendants be served. Defendants now move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. MOTION STANDARD To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), Plaintiff’s complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqubal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). The Court must construe the ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 1 1 complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in 2 Plaintiff’s favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 341-42 (9th Cir. 2010). Although 3 factual allegations contained in the complaint are taken as true, the court need not 4 credit legal conclusions. Maya v. Centex Corp., 658 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2011). 5 To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two 6 essential elements: (1) that a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or 7 laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged deprivation was 8 committed by a person acting under the color of state law. In addition, to state a 9 valid constitutional claim, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury 10 as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant, and he must allege an 11 affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. Rizzo v. 12 Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976). 13 Plaintiff is asserting five claims: (1) retaliation; (2) cruel and unusual 14 punishment; (3) violation of due process; (4) denial of equal protection; and (5) 15 emotional distress. 16 17 BACKGROUND FACTS In addition to his Complaint, Plaintiff filed over fifty pages of exhibits. The 18 following background facts are taken from the Complaint and exhibits. 19 The underlying basis for Plaintiff’s complaint is that he was falsely accused 20 of conspiracy to murder staff. Plaintiff asserts that this was because he had 21 previously filed grievances alleging that the administration and staff at the High 22 Desert State Prison (HDSP) discriminated against Black inmates. 23 During the time in question, Plaintiff was housed in Facility C at HDSP, 24 which had an extensive history of violence between black and white inmate 25 populations. On June 17, 2003, white inmates attacked black inmates on Facility 26 C. Following the riot, Facility C was placed in lockdown. In September, 2003, an 27 incremental unlock process was attempted in order to return the facility to normal 28 program. The unlock proved unsuccessful when the black inmates attacked white ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 2 1 inmates in retaliation. The Facility was again placed in lockdown status, after 2 which the Warden approved a Controlled Release program. The program 3 permitted the controlled release of inmates back into normal program. However, 4 after the interview and classification process of the Controlled Release program 5 was underway and eligible inmates were cleared by the Unite Classification 6 Committee, Facility C was placed in lockdown in order to complete institutional7 wide searches. 8 During this time, Plaintiff filed numerous Inmate Appeals. On July 12, 9 2003, Plaintiff filed an Inmate Appeal in which he asserted that the administration 10 of HDSP and the Facility C staff discriminated against the Black inmates. 11 Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the administration and staff knew about the 12 impending assault by white inmates on black inmates and purposely searched the 13 Black inmates in order to take their weapons so that they could not have them on 14 the yard, and they imposed an “anger management program” and placed Black 15 inmates on lockdown status who were not involved in the Black/White riot that 16 occurred on Facility C, Yard #2. Plaintiff requested that the non-involved Black 17 inmates be returned to normal program without further discrimination by HDSP 18 administration and that there be no reprisals for filing the grievance.1 19 On March 14, 2004, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Director J. Woodford in 20 which he alleged that the administration of HDSP has aided and abetted racial 21 violence and discrimination between inmates. He also asserted that Inmate 22 Appears were being screened out and thrown away to discourage inmates from 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 On August 9, 2004, Associate Warden McDonald responded to his Appeal and informed Plaintiff that his appeal had been partially granted. Facility C would begin a modified release of the Black and White inmates. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 3 1 challenging such issues.2 On June 9, 2004, Plaintiff filed an Appeal in which he 2 asserted that he was being discriminated against because he has not received the 3 privileges afforded inmates in his current housing and classification status. In 4 January, 2005, Plaintiff filed an Appeal in which he alleged that he was being 5 discriminated against because he was not allowed to participate in any of the 6 unlock procedures.3 7 In March, 2005, HDSP was in the final stages of investigating a conspiracy 8 within the inmate population to murder peace officers at the institution. Plaintiff 9 was identified as one of the conspirators and he was placed in administrative 10 segregation in March, 2005, pending the completion of the investigation. He was 11 given a Rules Violation Report (RVR) regarding the allegations. He went before 12 the classification committee numerous times to review his placement. In addition, 13 a hearing on the RVR was held on May 10, 2005. He was found guilty of the 14 charge of Conspiracy to Murder Peace Officers. Chief Disciplinary Officer at 15 HDSP Wong, however, ordered the re-issue and re-hearing on the RVR to clear up 16 17 2 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 On May 19, 2004, Senior Special Agent Scott Moeszinger provided Plaintiff a response stating that his office would not investigate this matter absent tangible evidence of the allegations. Additionally, on June 1, 2004, Plaintiff received a letter from Warden Runnels. 3 On February 24, 2005, Plaintiff received a response in which Chief Deputy Warden explained that Plaintiff’s request to participate in the Controlled Release program was granted, in part. Plaintiff was informed that as soon as the institution returned to normal program, the Facility classification committed would resume reviewing inmates for inclusion in the program based on individual inmate case factors, past disciplinary history, disruptive group activities and determining if the inmate meets established criteria for placement in the program. Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Director’s Level and he received a response on June 1, 2005. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 4 1 any due process issues.4 On October 19, 2005, Plaintiff appeard for a re-hearing 2 on the RVR. He was provided with copies of the RVR, and the confidential 3 information disclosure forms, as well as an investigative assistance to assist him 4 during the hearing. He did not request the presence of witnesses at the hearing. 5 He was found guilty of the offense of Conspiracy to Murder Peace Officer. 6 ANALYSIS 7 1. Retaliation Claim 8 Plaintiff asserts that his placement in administrative segregation on March 9 9, 2005, pending the investigation of his involvement in a conspiracy to assault 10 prison staff, was in retaliation for the previous inmate grievances he filed for racial 11 discrimination. A person suing prison officials under section 1983 for retaliation 12 must allege that he was retaliated against for exercising his constitutional rights 13 and that the retaliatory actions does not advance legitimate penological goals, such 14 as preserving institutional order and discipline. Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 15 816 (9th Cir. 1994). 16 Here, Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged facts to sustain his retaliation 17 claim against Defendants. By Plaintiff’s own account, he was placed in 18 administrative segregation pending investigation of his involvement in a 19 conspiracy to assault HDSP’s staff. He has failed to allege facts showing that his 20 placement in administrative segregation was in retaliation for the inmate 21 grievances he filed. Additionally, he has failed to allege facts that the 22 administrative placement did not advance legitimate penological goals. He fails to 23 allege direct or inferential facts necessary to show retaliation as the motivation for 24 the adjudication of the RVR hearings. Instead, the facts alleged show that 25 Plaintiff’s RVR hearing was conducted in accordance with the California 26 regulations. 27 28 4 Wong noted that there was what appeared to be a typographical error in the documents that created a due process violation. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 5 1 Also, Plaintiff’s complaint does not contain any factual allegations against 2 Defendants Armoskus, McDonald, Stafford, Minnick, Dangler, Spirk, and Kemp. 3 It is unclear from the complaint or the attached exhibits, what role, if any, these 4 defendants played in Plaintiff’s retaliation claim. 5 2. Cruel and Unusual Punishment Claim 6 Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights 7 by placing him in the administrative-segregation. As a matter of law, the 8 placement of an inmate in administrative segregation does not constitute cruel and 9 unusual punishment. See Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1316 (9th 10 Cir. 1995) (holding that “administrative segregation . . . is within the terms of 11 confinement ordinarily contemplated by a sentence.”). As such, Plaintiff’s Eighth 12 Amendment claim is dismissed. 13 3. Due Process Claim 14 Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment 15 rights to due process when he was placed in administrative segregation at HDSP 16 pending investigation by staff of his involvement in a conspiracy to assault staff. 17 As a matter of law, placement in administrative segregation pending investigation 18 of a charge does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth 19 Amendment. See McFarland v Cassady, 779 F.2d 1426, 1427-28 (9th Cir. 1986) 20 (holding that a prisoner is afforded due process with respect to placement in 21 administrative segregation for investigative purposes where he received a hearing 22 regarding charges against him 35 days after being segregated). 23 Moreover, based on the facts alleged in Plaintiff’s complaint, it is clear he 24 was afforded due process and procedural rights to defend himself during the 25 administrative reviews and classification hearings for his segregation placement. 26 See Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1100-01 (9th Cir. 1986) (holding that 27 when prison officials determine whether a prisoner is to be segregated, due 28 process only requires an informal nonadversarial hearing, notice to the prisoner of ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 6 1 the charge against him and a chance for the prisoner to present his or her views). 2 As such, the Court dismisses Plaintiff’s due process claims. 3 4. Equal Protection Claim 4 Plaintiff alleges that he was denied equal protection because of his 5 placement in administrative segregation. Plaintiff fails to allege facts that show 6 that he was intentionally treated differently from other inmates in administrative 7 segregation because of his race or that Defendant’s conduct lacked any rational 8 basis. See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1179-81 (9th Cir. 1999). Moreover, 9 Plaintiff has failed to allege facts showing discriminatory motive on the part of 10 Defendants. As such, his equal protection claims are dismissed. 11 5. Emotional Distress Claim 12 Plaintiff has failed to allege facts showing that prior to filing this lawsuit, he 13 filed a claim with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, in 14 accordance with the California Tort Claims Act. Failure to do so is fatal to his 15 claim for emotional distress damages. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 900 et seq.; Karim16 Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 627 (9th Cir. 1988); State v. 17 Super. Ct., 32 Cal. 4th 1234, 1240, 90 P.3d 116, 120 (2004). 18 19 LEAVE TO AMEND “Dismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to amend is proper only if it 20 is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by 21 amendment.” Weilburg v. Shapiro, 488 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007); Ferdik v. 22 Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir.1992) (“[B]efore dismissing a pro se 23 complaint the district court must provide the litigant with notice of the deficiencies 24 in his complaint in order to ensure that the litigant uses the opportunity to amend 25 effectively.”). 26 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED: 27 1. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 27) is GRANTED. 28 2. All pending motions are denied, as moot. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 7 1 3. Plaintiff is granted leave to file an Amended Complaint. The 2 complaint must be filed within 30 days from the date of this Order. Failure to file 3 an Amended Complaint will result in dismissal of the above-captioned action. 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. The District Court Executive is directed to enter 5 this Order and forward copies to Plaintiff. 6 DATED this 15th day of November, 2011. 7 8 9 s/Robert H. Whaley ROBERT H. WHALEY United States District Judge 10 11 C:\W INDOW S\Temp\notes101AA1\dismiss.wpd 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ~ 8

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