Quiroga v. Graves

Decision Date15 March 2018
Docket Number1:16-cv-00234-DAD-GSA-PC
PartiesMONICO J. QUIROGA III, Plaintiff, v. SERGEANT GRAVES, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California




Plaintiff Monico J. Quiroga III ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On February 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action. (ECF No. 1.) On November 29, 2016, the court dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim, with leave to amend. (ECF No. 20.) On December 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 21.)

On September 29, 2017, the court dismissed the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, with leave to amend. (ECF No. 33.) On October 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint, which is now before the court for screening. (ECF No. 34.)


The in forma pauperis statute provides that "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).

"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. P. 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. P. 8(a)(2). "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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)), 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). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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)).

Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962,969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.


Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. At the time of the events at issue in the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Kern County Sheriff's Detention Facility in Bakersfield, California. Plaintiff names as defendants Sergeant (Sgt.) Brenda Graves, Corporal (Corp.) Oscar Fuentes, and Gause (Classification) (collectively, "Defendants").

Plaintiff's allegations follow. On January 9, 2016, while Plaintiff was being held as a pretrial detainee, defendants Sgt. Graves, Corp. Fuentes, and Gause entered F-1 housing and instructed the inmates to stand against the wall, patted them down, and sent them to the recreation yard. Defendants then searched the unit.

On their way back in, Sgt. Graves told the inmates to line up in front of their cell doors. Plaintiff was on the top tier, cell 107, second floor. Someone yelled at the inmates to enter their cells. As they began to comply a fight broke out on the bottom tier between two inmates who were about fifteen yards below Plaintiff. Defendant Graves was between Plaintiff and the incident on the bottom tier. She (Graves) yelled, "Lock it up!," and as Plaintiff was closing his cell door with his back turned, defendant Gause fired a round from his pepper ball gun. (ECF No. 34 at 5.) Plaintiff heard a second round that hit the railing of the top tier. The first round hit the outside of Plaintiff's closed door. Plaintiff believes that defendant Gause fired the first round, and defendant Graves fired the second round. Plaintiff was not a threat to anyone, not involved in the incident, and his back was to them. Plaintiff was also on the second tier.

Plaintiff believes defendants Gause and Graves fired pepper balls at him out of retaliation for Plaintiff filing a petition or inmate grievances because Plaintiff was moved two to three hours later and housed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), isolation cell D-610, without any write-up or hearing. Plaintiff was escorted by defendant Fuentes and housed in a cell with blood, urine, and feces on the floor and walls, and vomit on the bed. Plaintiff was denied a dinner tray.

Due to the timing and the involvement of defendants Gause and Fuentes, Plaintiff believes he was placed in Ad-Seg out of retaliation for filing civil suit 1:15-cv-01697-AWI-MJS, and 9th Circuit case 17-15329, concerning another time when Plaintiff was investigated, isolated in Ad-Seg, falsely labeled a Mano Negra Mafioso member, and placed "in harm's way from real Security Threat Groups." (ECF No. 34 at 6.)

On January 9, 2016, Plaintiff submitted an inmate grievance and received a response stating that although he was not involved in the altercation, he was being investigated for causing a disturbance. Due to the condition of the cell, Plaintiff caught a cold and asked to receive Hepatitis and HIV blood tests.

On January 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second grievance. Plaintiff's cell was searched and he was released from Ad-Seg without any hearing or write-up.

Plaintiff requests monetary damages.


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

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, 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.

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. "Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Crowley v. Nevada ex rel. Nevada Sec'y of State, 678 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94, 109 S.Ct. 1865 (1989)) (internal quotation marks omitted). To state a claim, Plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating the existence of a link, or causal connection, between each defendant's actions or omissions and a violation of his federal rights.Lemire v. California Dep't of Corr. and Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062, 1074-75 (9th Cir. 2013); Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-08 (9th Cir. 2011).

A. Due Process Claim - Fourteenth Amendment

When a detainee challenges some aspect of his pretrial detention that is not alleged to violate any express guarantee of the Constitution, the issue to be decided is the detainee's right under the Due Process Clause to be free from punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 533 (1979). While the Due Process Clause protects pretrial detainees from punishment, not every disability imposed during pretrial detention constitutes "punishment" in the constitutional sense. Id. at 537. Even if a restriction or condition may be viewed as having a punitive effect on a pretrial detainee, it is nonetheless constitutional if (1) there was no express intent to punish, (2) the restriction or condition is rationally connected to an alternative purpose, and (3) the restriction or condition is not excessive in relation to the alternative purpose. Id. at 538-39. Among the legitimate objectives recognized by the Supreme Court are ensuring a detainee's presence at trial and maintaining safety, internal order, and security within the institution. Id. at 540. In such a circumstance, governmental restrictions are permissible. United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 748 (1987) (holding that the pretrial detention contemplated by the Bail Reform Act is regulatory in nature, and does not constitute punishment before trial in violation of the Due Process Clause).

A pretrial detainee may not be subjected to disciplinary action without a due process hearing to determine whether he has in fact violated a jail rule. Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 524 (9th Cir. 1996); see also Bell, 441 U.S. at 535 (Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause protects detainees from punishment prior to conviction); Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 564-565 (1974) (setting forth due process requirements for hearing prior to disciplinary action). Wolff requires that jail...

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