Williams-El v. Cox et al

Filing 15

ORDER - "First Amended" Complaint due by 8/11/2017. (1983 form, 1983 instructions, original complaint, and copy of ECF No. 3 Screening Order attached hereto for distribution to P via LCC law library) Signed by Judge Robert C. Jones on 7/12/2017. (Attachments: # 1 1983 Form, # 2 1983 Instructions, # 3 Complaint Part 1, # 4 Complaint Part 2, # 5 Copy of Screening Order ECF No. 3)(Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - DRM)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 7 8 9 10 11 12 JOHN L. WILLIAMS-EL, ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) JAMES COX, et al., ) ) Defendants. ) ) ___________________________________ ) 3:15-cv-00422-RCJ-WGC SCREENING ORDER 13 Plaintiff, who is a prisoner in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections 14 (“NDOC”), has submitted a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an 15 application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 1, 1-1). The Court now screens Plaintiff’s 16 civil rights complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 17 I. SCREENING STANDARD 18 Federal courts must conduct a preliminary screening on any case in which a prisoner 19 seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 20 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss 21 any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted 22 or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 23 1915A(b)(1)(2). Pro se pleadings, however, must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica 24 Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a 25 plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) the violation of a right secured by the 26 Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by 27 a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 28 In addition to the screening requirements under § 1915A, pursuant to the Prison 1 Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), a federal court must dismiss a prisoner’s claim if “the 2 allegation of poverty is untrue,” or if the action “is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim 3 on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune 4 from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim 5 upon which relief can be granted is provided for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), 6 and the court applies the same standard under § 1915 when reviewing the adequacy of a 7 complaint or an amended complaint. When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915(e), 8 the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with directions as to curing its 9 deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be 10 cured by amendment. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). 11 Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel 12 v. Lab. Corp. Of America, 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). Dismissal for failure to state a 13 claim is proper only if it is clear that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of the 14 claim that would entitle him or her to relief. See Morley v. Walker, 175 F.3d 756, 759 (9th Cir. 15 1999). In making this determination, the court takes as true all allegations of material fact 16 stated in the complaint, and the court construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. 17 See Warshaw v. Xoma Corp., 74 F.3d 955, 957 (9th Cir. 1996). Allegations of a pro se 18 complainant are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. 19 See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). While the standard under Rule 12(b)(6) does not 20 require detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and 21 conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A formulaic recitation 22 of the elements of a cause of action is insufficient. Id. 23 Additionally, a reviewing court should “begin by identifying pleadings [allegations] that, 24 because they are no more than mere conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” 25 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 662, 679 (2009). “While legal conclusions can provide the 26 framework of a complaint, they must be supported with factual allegations.” Id. “When there 27 are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine 28 whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. “Determining whether a 2 1 complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the 2 reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. 3 Finally, all or part of a complaint filed by a prisoner may therefore be dismissed sua 4 sponte if the prisoner’s claim lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes 5 claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g., claims against defendants who 6 are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), 7 as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g., fantastic or delusional scenarios). 8 See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989); see also McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 9 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). 10 II. SCREENING 11 In the complaint, Plaintiff sues multiple defendants for events that took place while 12 Plaintiff was incarcerated at Lovelock Correctional Center (“LCC”). (ECF No. 1-1 at 1). 13 Plaintiff sues Director of NDOC James Cox, Regional Deputy Director McDaniel, Regional 14 Deputy Director Sheryl Foster, Inspector General Pam Delporto, LCC Warden Legrand, 15 Associate Warden Sandie, and Investigator Keener. (Id. at 2-4). Plaintiff alleges one count 16 and seeks monetary and injunctive relief. (Id. at 5, 16). 17 Plaintiff alleges the following: Plaintiff he was a member of the Jackson Avenue Crips, 18 a neighborhood youth group. (Id. at 7). Plaintiff contends this group shared1 no affiliation with 19 the criminal gang “the Crips.” (Id.). Plaintiff asserts that the similarity in name has resulted 20 in NDOC identifying Plaintiff as a member of the criminal “Crip” gang and, consequently, a 21 member of a security threat group (“STG”), pursuant to Administrative Regulation 446. (Id.). 22 Plaintiff has been challenging his STG status since 2007. (Id. at 8). On December 19, 2014, 23 Plaintiff appeared before the STG due process hearing panel at LCC and requested that his 24 STG status be removed. (Id.). The panel denied Plaintiff’s request. (Id.). 25 Plaintiff asserts that he has been subjected to mental and emotional abuse from gang 26 member inmates and contends this abuse demonstrates that he is not a gang member. (Id. 27 28 1 Plaintiff asserts the Jackson Avenue Crips was disbanded in 1999. 3 1 at 9). Plaintiff additionally asserts that his eligibility for parole has been affected by his STG 2 status.2 (Id. at 9). Plaintiff claims his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been 3 violated. 4 Plaintiff asserts that he has been deprived of due process and then outlines the 5 process he has been provided. Plaintiff was given a hearing concerning his status as an STG 6 inmate and his request to have that status removed was denied. (Id. at 8). 10 Prisoners may . . . not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. . . . [T]he fact that prisoners retain rights under the Due Process Clause in no way implies that these rights are not subject to restrictions imposed by the nature of the regime to which they have been lawfully committed. . . . [T]here must be a mutual accommodation between institutional needs and objectives and the provisions of the Constitution that are of general application.” 11 Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974) (citations omitted); see also Sandin v. 12 Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 478 (1995) (“Wolff’s contribution . . . derive[s] . . . from its intricate 13 balancing of prison management concerns with prisoners’ liberty in determining the amount 14 of process due.”). Plaintiff was given process, but disputes the legitimacy of the conclusion 15 of that process. 7 8 9 16 Prisoners have no liberty interest in their classification status. See Moody v. Daggett, 17 429 U.S. 78, 88 n.9 (1976). Further, a prisoner has no constitutional right to enjoy a particular 18 security classification. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 224-25 (1976) (no liberty 19 interest protected by the Due Process Clause is implicated in a prison’s reclassification and 20 transfer decisions). More recently, Sandin held that, under the facts of the case, the prisoner’s 21 “discipline in segregated confinement did not present the type of atypical, significant 22 deprivation in which a State might conceivably create a liberty interest.” 515 U.S. at 486. 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 The Supreme Court has held that a prisoner in state custody cannot use a § 1983 action to challenge “the fact or duration of his confinement,” but instead must seek federal habeas corpus relief or the appropriate state relief. Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 78 (2005). To the extent Plaintiff’s claims question the validity of the denial of parole, they necessarily imply the invalidity of the conviction or sentence and may not proceed. 4 1 Plaintiff contends that his interest is demonstrated in the prison administrative 2 regulation regarding STG designations. (ECF No. 1-1 at 7). In Hewitt v. Helms, the Supreme 3 Court examined whether the language of a state prison regulation was mandatory or 4 discretionary in determining whether it gave rise to a liberty interest. 459 U.S. 460, 471-72 5 (1983). Sandin observed that the Hewitt test had “led to the involvement of federal courts in 6 the day-to-day management of prisons.” 515 U.S. at 482. Such judicial intervention, held the 7 Court, “r[a]n counter to the view expressed in several of [its] cases that federal courts ought 8 to afford appropriate deference and flexibility to state officials trying to manage a volatile 9 environment.” Id. at 483. In Myron v. Terhune, the Ninth Circuit found an administrative code 10 did not create a protected liberty interest. 476 F.3d 716 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Sandin, 515 11 U.S. at 483). 12 Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff fails to state a colorable claim of a Due Process 13 Clause violation. As such, Plaintiff’s complaint, in its entirety, is dismissed with prejudice for 14 failure to state a claim, as amendment would be futile. 15 III. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that a decision on the application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 1) is DENIED as moot. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint (ECF No. 1-1) is dismissed with prejudice in its entirety, for failure to state a claim. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this Court certifies that any in forma pauperis appeal from this order would not be taken “in good faith” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment accordingly. 24 25 DATED: This 12th day of February, 2016. 2016. DATED: This _____ day of February, 26 27 _________________________________ 28 United States District Judge 5 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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