Sessoms v. Carnero et al

Filing 4

ORDER OF DISMISSAL. Signed by Judge William Alsup on 3/31/14. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service)(dt, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/1/2014)

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1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 TIO DINERO SESSOMS, Plaintiff, 9 ORDER OF DISMISSAL v. 11 For the Northern District of California 10 United States District Court No. C 14-0926 WHA (PR) S. CARNERO; L. MATSUNO; RANDY GROUNDS. 12 Defendants. 13 / 14 INTRODUCTION 15 Plaintiff, a California prisoner at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”), filed this pro se 16 17 civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. He is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis 18 in a separate order. Based on a review of the complaint (dkt. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915, it 19 is dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim for relief. ANALYSIS 20 21 A. STANDARD OF REVIEW 22 Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek 23 redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. 24 § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims 25 which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek 26 monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. at 1915A(b)(1),(2). Pro 27 se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 28 (9th Cir. 1990). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the 1 claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the 2 statement need only '"give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim is and the grounds 3 upon which it rests."'" Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). 4 Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a 5 plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than 6 labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not 7 do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative 8 level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A 9 complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 B. 12 LEGAL CLAIMS Plaintiff alleges that a letter he mailed to a medical expert that he wanted to consult 13 about his pending civil rights case, Sessoms v. Thornton, et al., No. C 13-0714 WHA (PR), was 14 returned to him by the United States Postal Service. When he received the returned letter, he 15 found that someone had also written false and derogatory marks about plaintiff on the envelope. 16 Plaintiff requested that defendants, SVSP employees, investigate and determine who wrote on 17 the envelope. Defendants are not alleged to have written on the envelope, but rather to have 18 failed to conduct an adequate investigation or identify the person who did. 19 Plaintiff claims that defendants violated his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment 20 right by not identifying the person who wrote on his envelope. Prisoners enjoy a First 21 Amendment right to send and receive mail, see Witherow v. Paff, 52 F.3d 264, 265 (9th Cir. 22 1995), but defendants’ alleged failure to identify the person who wrote on the envelope cause 23 the mail to be returned, nor indeed did the writing itself. As such, defendants did not interfere 24 with his sending or receiving mail. Defendants’ failure to identify the person who wrote on the 25 envelope also does not violate due process. Due process violations occur when officials do 26 things that “shock the conscious” or create prison “conditions so severe as to affect the sentence 27 imposed in an unexpected manner.” See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995) 28 (procedural due process); Porter v. Osborn, 952 F.3d 1131, 1137 (9th Cir. 2008) (substantive 2 1 due process). Not identifying someone who wrote mean things on plaintiff’s envelope does not 2 rise close to such a level. Similarly, the failure to identify the envelope writer is not a 3 sufficiently “serious deprivation” to be considered cruel and unusual punishment under the 4 Eighth Amendment. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-34 (1994) (Eighth Amendment 5 protects against deprivations of basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, 6 sanitation, medical care and personal safety). 7 Plaintiff also claims that defendants’ conduct violates his constitutional rights to access 8 the courts and to be free from retaliation because the letter he sought medical expertise for his 9 pending civil rights case. Defendants did not obstruct his access to the courts because they did not obstruct the mail in any way. In addition, there is no allegation that not having his letter 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 delivered to the potential medical expert caused him “actual injury,” i.e. prevented him from 12 pursuing his medical claims in his currently pending civil rights case. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 13 U.S. 343, 350-55 (1996). Nor is there any actionable retaliation claim because plaintiff alleges 14 that defendants failed to identify the envelope writer in order to protect his identity, not because 15 of plaintiff’s prior lawsuit or other constitutionally protected speech. See Huskey v. City of San 16 Jose, 204 F.3d 893, 899 (9th Cir. 2000) (retaliation claim consists of adverse action caused by 17 protected speech). 18 Plaintiff’s complaint that defendants have not identified the person who wrote 19 derogatory things about him on his returned mail, even if true, does not rise to the level of a 20 constitutional violation. Accordingly, it does not state a cognizable claim for relief under 21 Section 1983. 22 23 24 CONCLUSION For the reasons set out above, this action is DISMISSED for failure to state a cognizable claim for relief. 25 The clerk shall enter judgment and close the file. 26 IT IS SO ORDERED. 27 Dated: March 28 31 , 2014. WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 3

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