Baker v. Howard, No. 2:19-CV-2617-KJM-DMC-P

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
Writing for the CourtDENNIS M. COTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PartiesTIMOTHY RAY BAKER, Plaintiff, v. J. HOWARD, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 2:19-CV-2617-KJM-DMC-P
Decision Date26 May 2021

TIMOTHY RAY BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
J. HOWARD, et al., Defendants.

No. 2:19-CV-2617-KJM-DMC-P

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

May 26, 2021


ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 25. The Court, on February 10, 2021, granted Plaintiff a 60-day extension of time to reply to Defendants' motion. ECF No. 30. Plaintiff's response was due April 11, 2021. See id. Plaintiff filed an opposition on May 14, 2021. ECF No. 33. Plaintiff filed the opposition out of time and the Court declines to consider it. For the reasons discussed below, the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge recommends that the District Court deny Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court will grant Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint to clarify ambiguities discussed below.

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I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Allegations:

Plaintiff initially brought suit against six defendants. See ECF No. 1 at 1. In the light of the undersigned's prior screening order and findings and recommendations and the District Court's order limiting Plaintiff's claims, this case proceeds against five defendants. See ECF Nos. 14, 18, 31. The five relevant defendants are: (1) J. Howard, (2) J. Frederick, (3) D. Roth, (4) M. Hontz, and (5) A.W. Peterson. The case proceeds on Plaintiff 's First Amendment retaliation claims and Eighth Amendment failure to protect claims. ECF Nos. 1 at 3, 13, 19; 31 at 2.

Howard, an employee of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR),1 allegedly wrote racially biased "informational chronos" falsely stating that Plaintiff was aggressive whenever Plaintiff was in Howard's company.2 ECF No. 1 at 3. Howard noted that she feared for her safety because Plaintiff had a history of assaulting staff and because of Plaintiff's criminal convictions of violent offenses against women. Id. Plaintiff contends that, in alleging Plaintiff was violent against women, Howard meant white women. Id. at 4.

Plaintiff contends that Howard wrote the chronos out of racial animus, dislike of Plaintiff, and out of retaliation for Plaintiff's filing a complaint against her. Id. at 3-5. Plaintiff argues that he has no history of violence against multiple women and was only convicted of violence against one woman. Id. at 3. Plaintiff asserts that he was convicted of attempted murder of his estranged wife. Id. Howard's false chrono instigated a pattern of false safety concerns among female CDCR employees. Id. Consequently, Plaintiff is restricted under unnecessary and arbitrary security precautions in the presence of female staff. See id. at 4. The arbitrary conditions have, in turn, made it difficult for Plaintiff to attend medical appointments and receive sufficient care. Id.

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Plaintiff attaches a copy a chrono to his complaint. Id. at 14. In the chrono, Howard noted that Plaintiff became belligerent when Howard denied restoration of credits. Id. Plaintiff cursed at Howard, saying "Fuck that [b]itch" and "She a racist [b]itch." Id. Plaintiff believed that Howard delayed processing Plaintiff's requests and was disrespectful towards Plaintiff because she is racist. Id. Howard concluded that Plaintiff was paranoid that all white officers were out to get him, abused the appeals system, and spoke disrespectfully to her whenever Plaintiff did not get what he wanted. Id. She expressed fear for her safety because Plaintiff has a history of aggression against women, has mental health problems, and possesses a cane that he could use to harm her. Id.

Plaintiff lodges his second claim against Howard, Roth, Hontz, J. Frederick, and A.W. Peterson. Id. at 6, 13. Hontz is apparently a correctional counselor. See id. at 13. Roth is a correctional officer. See id. Howard, Roth, and Hontz are members of the Institutional Classification Committee (ICC). See id. at 8-13. Plaintiff contends that Howard, Roth, and Hontz denied Plaintiff access to a "program on C Yard" because of the chrono that Howard wrote. Id. at 13. The false security concerns precipitated the denial. Id.

In a declaration that appears to support his second claim, Plaintiff seems to state that Frederick and Peterson were also members of the ICC. See id. at 6. In Plaintiff's view, Defendants all put his health and safety in danger assigning him to B Yard instead of C Yard. See id. B Yard is dangerous, with three murders occurring in a 30-day span. See id. at 6, 16. An inmate allegedly beat another inmate unconscious against Plaintiff's cell door. Id. at 16. B Yard poses an additional danger, in Plaintiff's view, because he is disabled and B Yard houses violent gang members from whom he cannot protect himself. See id. at 16. Defendants assertedly knew of the danger B Yard posed, and they knowingly undertook a campaign of racial discrimination against Plaintiff based on Howard's information chrono. See id. Plaintiff contends that Defendants collectively conspired against him. See id. at 6, 15-17. In implementing the ICC decision transferring him to B Yard, Defendants enforced an arbitrary decision and knowingly disregarded serious risks to his health and safety. Id. at 6, 15-17. Defendants also allegedly misled Plaintiff about the programs available to prisoners assigned to B Yard. Id. at 6.

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Finally, in his third claim, Plaintiff complains that he has not been assigned to any groups, work, or other rehabilitative activities since arriving on B Yard. Id. at 19. Plaintiff repeats his allegation that he lacks access to satisfactory medical care. See id. Plaintiff does not name any specific defendant other than to again allege that Howard racially discriminated against him by issuing fraudulent informational chronos. Id. Ostensibly, Plaintiff contends that the false chrono has limited his access to work, medical care, and rehabilitative activities.3 See id.

B. Plaintiff's Allegations Concerning Administrative Remedies:

Plaintiff submitted his complaint on the Court's standard form for actions under § 1983. See id. at 1. The standard form, for each claim alleged, asks plaintiffs four questions about administrative remedies (e.g., grievance procedures available to prisoners). See id. at 3, 13, 19. Those questions inquire whether administrative remedies are available at the relevant penal institution; whether the plaintiff submitted a request for administrative relief for a given claim; whether the plaintiff appealed the request to the high lest of administrative review; and, if the plaintiff did not request administrative relief or appeal a request to the highest level of review, why they did not do so. See id.

For each of his three claims, Plaintiff notes that his prison—California State Prison, Sacramento (CSP-SAC)—provides administrative remedies for inmates. See id. Plaintiff indicates that he submitted a request for administrative relief for each of his three claims. See id. He writes that the requests are pending. Id. He did not, however, appeal them to the highest level. Id. Presumably, his initial requests were denied. See id.

Plaintiff contends that he could not complete the administrative relief process. Id. He writes that he fears for his life, health, and safety. Id. Finally, he notes that the appeal process is pending and too arduous to complete. Id.

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C. Defendant's Allegations Concerning Administrative Remedies:

Defendants note, correctly, that Plaintiff filed a motion requesting leave to file this action without exhausting his pending administrative remedies. ECF Nos. 3; 25 at 8. Plaintiff noted that he feared for his safety because of his assignment to B Yard. ECF Bo. 3 at 1. He argued that his health and safety were in danger in the light of his allegations—racial animus, harassment, bias, discrimination, etc. Id. Plaintiff requested a temporary restraining order. Id. at 2. This Court denied the motion as unnecessary, noting that Plaintiff did not require permission to file his complaint. ECF No. 15. The Court, however, stated that its authorization to file a complaint did not constitute satisfaction or waiver of Plaintiff's obligations to exhaust administrative remedies. Id. at 2.

II. STANARD OF REVIEW

In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all allegations of material fact in the complaint as true. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). The Court must also construe the alleged facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Benavidez v. County of San Diego, 993 F.3d 1134, 1144 (9th Cir. 2021). Legally conclusory statements not supported by actual factual allegations need not be accepted. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see Litmon v. Harris, 768 F.3d 1237, 1241 (9th Cir. 2014).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555-56. The complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for...

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