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Walker v. Miller

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 27, 2017

JOHN WALKER, Plaintiff,
SGT. MILLER, et al., Defendants.



         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), proceeding pro se with this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The events giving rise to this action took place while Plaintiff was housed at Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NNCC). Plaintiff filed his original complaint on December 14, 2015, and in the December 22, 2016 screening order, he was allowed to proceed with an Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim against Miller, Case, Scott [Kahler][1], Skulstad, and Meares. (ECF No. 4.) The claim was based on allegations that Plaintiff requested protective segregation three times after a local media report on Plaintiff's alleged crime of lewd activities with a minor over fourteen in California, but the requests were denied because Plaintiff could not identify a specific threat. Then, on December 11, 2013, inmate Stubbs, whom Plaintiff claims has a violent history, complained to Officers Miller and Case about having to work with “that child molester.” This caused Plaintiff to worry and request a shift change, which was denied. The next day, Stubbs attacked Plaintiff in the culinary area where he worked by throwing boiling water and oil on him, causing serious injuries. The claim was dismissed as to Baca and Walsh, finding that Plaintiff failed to state cognizable claims against them because he did not allege they knew Plaintiff requested protective segregation.

         On March 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to join additional parties to the case. (ECF No. 40.) He asked for leave to join Associate Warden Shreckengost and Warden Baca as he claimed that there was a shortage of correctional officers in the culinary area and staffing was the responsibility of these individuals. He also claimed that Baca implemented a policy that forced physically vulnerable prisoners to work in potentially dangerous situations. He further sought to dismiss Skulstad and Scott [Kahler], stating they were not directly responsible for Plaintiff's treatment.

         On March 7, 2017, the court granted Plaintiff's motion to the extent that the court gave him leave to file a motion to amend after the expiration of the deadline to do so. (ECF No. 44.) The court advised Plaintiff that any such motion had to include a proposed amended pleading, and gave him seven days to lodge his motion and proposed amended complaint, and permitted the filing of a response and reply briefs.

         Plaintiff filed his motion and proposed amended complaint. (ECF No. 49.) The court granted the motion and ordered the Clerk to file the amended complaint. (ECF No. 51.) The court ordered Skulstad and Scott [Kahler] dismissed pursuant to Plaintiff's request. (Id.) The court ordered the Attorney General's Office to file a notice advising whether it accepted service for Baca and Shreckengost. (Id.) On April 4, 2017, the Attorney General's Office filed a notice of acceptance of service on behalf of Shreckengost and Baca (and it had previously accepted service for Case, Meares and Miller). (ECF No. 57.) On May 9, 2017, Defendants filed an errata to the notice of acceptance of service, noting that while it previously accepted service on behalf of Baca, this was in error because Baca had been dismissed with prejudice in the original screening order. (ECF No. 69.) They simultaneously filed a motion for clarification noting that the amended complaint failed to remove Skulstad and Scott [Kahler], and argued that the amended complaint included the same claims against Baca that had previously been dismissed with prejudice. (ECF No. 70.)

         The court held a hearing on May 22, 2017, where it discussed the status of Scott [Kahler], Skulstad and Baca. (Minutes at ECF No. 73.) The court ordered that Scott [Kahler] and Skulstad were dismissed. (Id.) The court amended its prior order, and stated that the motion for leave to amend was not granted with respect to Baca, but gave Plaintiff leave to file a supplemental pleading with respect to Baca. (Id.) Defendants were permitted to file a response and Plaintiff was allowed to file a reply. (Id.)

         Plaintiff timely filed his supplemental pleading on June 2, 2017. (ECF No. 74.) Defendants filed their response on June 12, 2017. (ECF No. 75.) Plaintiff has not filed a reply. The court will now address the supplemental pleading.


         A. Standard of Review

         In reviewing the complaint under 12(b)(6) [and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) or 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustee of Rex. Hosp. 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). In addition, allegations in pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and must be liberally construed. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 893 (9th Cir. 2011).

         A complaint must contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “The pleading must contain something more … than … a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id. (citation omitted). At a minimum, a plaintiff should state “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.

         B. Eighth Amendment Failure to Protect

         Under the Eighth Amendment, prison conditions should not “involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain” or be “grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime warranting imprisonment.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Although prison conditions may be, and often are, restrictive and harsh, prison officials “must ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and must ‘take reasonable measures to guarantee ...

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