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McFarlin v. Drew

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 22, 2017

DREW et al., Defendants.


          ROBERT C. JONES United States District Judge

         This is a prisoner civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court now screens the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.


         Plaintiff has sued Defendants Correctional Officer Drew, Caseworker Irvin, Sergeant Clark, Lieutenant Hartman, and Correctional Officer Avila1 for events that occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Northern Nevada Correctional Center (“NNCC”). (See Compl., ECF No. 1-1). Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of October 5, 2015, while working as a porter in Unit 7A, he approached Drew and asked if he could give a book to one of the inmates in the unit. (Id. 4). Drew responded by asking whether the inmate was a “Mex” or a “Buck, ” derogatory comments directed at the inmates he had eaten breakfast with that morning-a Hawaiian native and a Cuban native. (Id. at 3-4). Plaintiff replied, “I don't know what race he [is].” (Id.). Drew asked again, and Plaintiff responded in the same way. (Id. 4). Drew became angry and told him he could not give the book to the inmate. (Id. at 3). About 30 minutes later, Drew called Plaintiff out of the janitorial closet, told Plaintiff where to stand, and asked again what Plaintiff was going to do with the book. (Id. 3-4). Plaintiff pointed toward an inmate and said he was going to give the book to that inmate. (Id.). Drew responded by grabbing Plaintiff's hand and throwing Plaintiff down. (Id.). Drew then charged Plaintiff with staff assault and placed him in administrative segregation. (Id.). Drew falsified the report of the incident by saying that Plaintiff backhanded him, elbowed him, used a mop against him, and attempted to hit him several times. (Id.). Defendant Clark reviewed video of the incident, concluded that Drew's report was “all lies, ” and dismissed the charges. (Id. 4). Yet Clark added charges of disobedience and hindrance of staff and would not let Plaintiff talk or defend himself. (Id. 2). While Plaintiff was in administrative segregation, Drew “tormented” him. (Id.). Plaintiff asked other staff for help and filed emergency grievances, but they were all denied. (Id. 4). Plaintiff spent 22 days in administrative segregation and “lost time.” (Id. 3).


         District courts must screen cases in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or its officers or employees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). A court must identify any cognizable claims and must dismiss claims that are frivolous, malicious, insufficiently pled, or directed against immune defendants. See Id. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). Pleading standards are governed by Rule 12(b)(6). Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012). When a court dismisses a complaint upon screening, the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. IFP Motion

         The Court denies the Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1) as moot because Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated. Plaintiff must file an application to proceed in forma pauperis by a non-prisoner within thirty (30) days from the date of this order or pay the full filing fee of $400.

         B. Complaint

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated; and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         1. Count I - Due Process

         “Prisoners may . . . claim the protections of the Due Process Clause [and] may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). Still, because prisoners have already been convicted, “the full panoply of rights due a defendant in [criminal] proceedings does not apply. [Rather], there must be mutual accommodation between institutional needs and objectives and the provisions of the Constitution that are of general application.” Id. (citations omitted). When a prisoner faces disciplinary charges, prison officials must provide the prisoner with: (1) a written statement at least twenty-four hours before the disciplinary hearing that includes the charges, a description of the evidence against the prisoner, and an explanation for the disciplinary action taken; (2) an opportunity to present documentary evidence and call witnesses, unless calling witnesses would interfere with institutional security; and (3) legal assistance where the charges are complex or the inmate is illiterate. See Id. at 563-70.

         However, no Wolff-type due process protections apply unless the result of the hearing is a punishment that impairs a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest as defined in Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). Under Sandin, segregation within prison does not in and of itself constitute a deprivation of a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest. E.g., Luken v. Scott, 71 F.3d 192, 193 (5th Cir. 1997); Rimmer-Bey v. Brown, 62 F.3d 789, 790-91 (6th Cir. 1995). Although Sandin concerned administrative segregation, it applies with equal force to disciplinary segregation, because the State's motivation is not relevant to the antecedent inquiry: whether the result of the segregation deprives the prisoner of a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest. If the answer to that antecedent question is “no, ” then no procedures at all are constitutionally “due, ” and a due process claim necessarily fails. Just as a prison cannot avoid the strictures of the Due Process Clause simply by labeling segregation as “protective” or “administrative, ” a prisoner cannot invoke the Clause simply by characterizing segregation as “disciplinary” or “punitive.” No matter how a prisoner's segregation (or other deprivation) is labeled by the prison ...

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