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Mickelson v. Baca

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 15, 2017

ISIDRO BACA, et al., Defendants.


         This Report and Recommendation is made to the Honorable Robert C. Jones, United States District Judge. The action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and LR IB 1-4. Before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 27). Plaintiff opposed (ECF No. 35), and defendants replied (ECF No. 36). For the reasons stated below, the court recommends that defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 27) be granted.


         Kelly Mickelson (“plaintiff”) is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”), and currently housed at Northern Nevada Correctional Center (“NNCC”) in Carson City, Nevada. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff brings several civil rights claims against NDOC and NNCC officials.

         On April 11, 2016, the District Court screened plaintiff's complaint and determined that he could proceed with his Count I and II claims as one combined claim related to Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement. (ECF No. 4 at 11.) All other claims and parties were dismissed. (See id.)

         According to the complaint, the alleged events giving rise to plaintiff's claim are as follows. In October 2014, defendants Murguia and Moyle ordered defendants Coffin, McColl, Blevins, and Brooks to keep the lights in plaintiff's unit on at all times. (ECF No. 5 at 10.) Plaintiff's unit has eight skylights that are approximately 30-inches by 48-inches that permit adequate natural light. (Id.) Plaintiff's unit has 83 florescent lights with two 30-inch bulbs each, totaling 166 bulbs. (Id.) When correctional officers only turn on 30 lights (60 bulbs), it is still brighter inside the unit than it is outside in the middle of the day. (Id.) Plaintiff's unit is one of two that houses all level one inmates. (Id.) All of these level one inmates have jobs and there is no other place to house level one workers. (Id.) Plaintiff cannot live in any other unit without losing his job and his level one status. (Id. at 13.)

         During the day, defendants Beitler and Brooks only turn on 30 lights. (Id. at 10.) Skulstad will turn on additional lights in the control bubble if she feels there is not enough lighting in the unit. (Id.) Nevada Administrative Code (“NAC”) 211.310 provides that each cell, dayroom, and dormitory room must be provided with natural or artificial light of at least 20 foot-candles at desk level and in areas used for personal grooming. (Id.) Defendants have exceeded the 20 foot-candle lighting. (Id.) Plaintiff wears his sunglasses inside his unit to help with the brightness. (Id. at 13.) Defendant Beitler also wears his sunglasses inside because it is so bright. (Id.)

         Defendant Baca has entered the unit when all lights were off and did not order anyone to turn them back on. (Id. at 11.) Defendants Murguia and Moyle claim that the lights have to be on pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”). (Id.) Defendants Murguia, Moyle, Jane Doe #1 (NDOC PREA Investigator), and John Doe #1 (NDOC PREA Investigator) refuse to produce information on the PREA lighting standard. (Id. at 11-12.) Plaintiff alleges that Reynolds made a comment to Foster that light diffusers were installed, but plaintiff believes this to be untrue. (Id. at 12.)

         On April 4, 2015, defendants ordered the unit to have 24-hour lighting. (Id. at 14.) The unit does not require extra lighting at night because the bathrooms and showers are lit all night. (Id.) Plaintiff's unit is the only unit in the entire institution that has its lights on all day and all night. (Id.)

         Plaintiff suffers from migraines and watery eyes when he is exposed to bright lights. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff alleges that defendants know plaintiff has been treated by medical for issues caused by the excessive lights. (Id.) Plaintiff has been prescribed acetaminophen for his symptoms caused by the excessive lighting. (Id.)

         The court stayed the case for ninety days to allow for an early mediation conference between plaintiff and defendants. (ECF No. 4.) The parties were ultimately unable to settle, and this court issued an in forma pauperis order commencing litigation. (ECF No. 17.) On January 19, 2017, defendants filed their motion to dismiss on the basis of res judicata. (ECF No. 27.) This report and recommendation follows.


         Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is provided for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The ruling is a question of law. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 580 (9th Cir. 1983). The court is to grant dismissal when the complaint fails to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face[, ]” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), or fails to articulate a cognizable legal theory, Taylor v. Yee, 780 F.3d 928, 935 (9th Cir. 2015). When analyzing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), courts accept as true all well-pled factual allegations, set aside legal conclusions, and verify that the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). While detailed factual allegations are not necessary, the complaint must offer more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and include sufficient facts “to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively, ” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). In conducting the dismissal analysis, the complaint is construed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Chubb Custom Ins. Co. v. Space Sys./Loral Inc., 710 F.3d 946, 956 (9th Cir. 2013). Moreover, the court takes particular care when reviewing the pleadings of a pro se party, for a more forgiving standard applies to litigants not represented by counsel. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 341-42 (9th Cir. 2010).


         A. Eighth Amendment Conditions of ...

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