Miller v. Ghilarducci

Decision Date18 October 2017
Docket NumberCase No. 1:17-cv-00448-SKO (PC)
PartiesJARROD JOSEPH MILLER, Plaintiff, v. GHILARDUCCI, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California


A. Background

Plaintiff, Jarrod Joseph Miller, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As discussed below, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim upon which relief may be granted and the Complaint is DISMISSED with leave to file a first amended complaint.

B. Screening Requirement and Standard

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

C. Pleading Requirements
1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512.

Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true, but legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557.

While "plaintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . . ," Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se prisoners are still construed liberally and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations," Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989), "a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled," Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982), and courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" is not sufficient, and "facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" fall short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

If he chooses to file a first amended complaint, Plaintiff should make it as concise as possible in no more than twenty-five (25) pages. Plaintiff should state which of his constitutional rights he believes were violated by each Defendant and the facts that support each contention. Plaintiff need not and should not cite legal authority for his claims in a first amended complaint. If Plaintiff files a first amended complaint, his factual allegations will be screened under the legal standards and authorities set forth in this order.

2. Linkage Requirement

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

Plaintiff names, but fails to link, Warden Stu Sherman, the Director and Deputy Director, and the California Secretary of State to any of his factual allegations.1 Plaintiff must clearly identify which Defendant(s) he believes are responsible for each violation of his constitutional rights and the supporting factual basis, as his Complaint must place each Defendant on notice of Plaintiff's claims against him or her. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004).

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility ("RJD") in San Diego, California; however, his allegations are based on circumstances that allegedly occurred at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility ("SATF"), in Corcoran, California. Plaintiff names the following prison staff as Defendants: Sergeant Jeffrey Ghilarducci; Warden Stu Sherman; the current Director and Deputy Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"); the current California Secretary of State; Wardens from 2012 to 2015 at High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"); Director or Deputy Director of the CDCR from 2012 to 2015; and California Secretary of State from 2012 to 2015.

Plaintiff alleges that the "random" frisk policy used during chow time at SATF is unconstitutional and that Sgt. Ghilarducci violated his rights by searching him on December 20, 2016 and December 21, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that as he was leaving the chow hall on December 20, 2016, Sgt. Ghilarducci said "come here." Plaintiff walked over to Sgt. Ghilarducci and asked "why?" Sgt. Ghilarducci told Plaintiff not to ask why, and immediately "started putting his hands all over" Plaintiff's body. A second officer closed the door to the chow hall while a third officer approached Plaintiff and began yelling and cussing at him. Plaintiff alleges he was told they were conducting random searches, they intended to search him again the next day, and told him that he had "better not say a word about it." The next morning, three officers surrounded Plaintiff and one frisked him while Sgt. Ghilarducci watched from approximately ten feet away.

Plaintiff alleges that the second search was not random since Plaintiff was told it was going to happen. Plaintiff alleges that since his incarceration in 2012, he has been continuously subjected to a "suspicionless" random search policy during and after chow time. Plaintiff alleges that harmless food is labeled contraband and inmates are frisked after leaving the chow hall for any food that an inmate may want to take back to his cell -- despite the fact that inmates are allowed to have food in their cells. Plaintiff alleges that such frisking is not required as inmates are under constant observation while eating in the chow hall. Plaintiff alleges that these searches are conducted to allow officers to randomly touch people during and after meal time. Plaintifffeels as though he has been molested by the frisks. Plaintiff states he is not incarcerated because of "anything related to contraband" and he has never been found to have contraband. Plaintiff contends that indigent inmates who must eat in the chow hall are subjected to frisking, while inmates who receive food via quarterly packages or are able to buy food through a purchase window in the chow hall building are not frisked.

Plaintiff alleges that these incidents and the general policy that allows random frisking as inmates leave the chow hall violates a number of his civil rights. As discussed in detail below, Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable claims. Since Plaintiff may be able to cure some of the defects in his pleading, he is provided the applicable legal standards for his stated claims and an opportunity to file a first amended complaint.

B. Legal Standards

1. Body Searches

a. Fourth Amendment

Plaintiff alleges that the searches to which he was subjected on December 20, 2016, and December 21, 2016, violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. However, the Fourth Amendment prohibits only unreasonable searches. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 558, 99 S.Ct. 1861 (1979); Byrd v. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, 629 F.3d 1135, 1140 (9th Cir. 2011); Michenfelder v. Sumner, 860 F.2d 328, 332 (9th Cir. 1988). The Supreme Court has stated that "[e]ven if a warrant is not...

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