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Rodriguez v. Nevada Board of Parole

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 5, 2019

RAUL M. RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NEVADA BOARD OF PAROLE, et al., Defendants.

          SCREENING ORDER

          GLORIA M. NAVARRO, CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff, who is a prisoner in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”), has submitted a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis.[1] (ECF No. 1, 1-1). The Court now screens Plaintiff's civil rights complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         I. SCREENING STANDARD

         Federal courts must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings, however, must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, 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).

         In addition to the screening requirements under § 1915A, pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), a federal court must dismiss a prisoner's claim if “the allegation of poverty is untrue” or if the action “is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is provided for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the court applies the same standard under § 1915 when reviewing the adequacy of a complaint or an amended complaint. When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915(e), 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. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Lab. Corp. of America, 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper only if it is clear that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle him or her to relief. See Morley v. Walker, 175 F.3d 756, 759 (9th Cir. 1999). In making this determination, the court takes as true all allegations of material fact stated in the complaint, and the court construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warshaw v. Xoma Corp., 74 F.3d 955, 957 (9th Cir. 1996). Allegations of a pro se complainant are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). While the standard under Rule 12(b)(6) does not require detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action is insufficient. Id.

         Additionally, a reviewing court should “begin by identifying pleadings [allegations] that, because they are no more than mere conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported with factual allegations.” Id. “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         Finally, all or part of a complaint filed by a prisoner may therefore be dismissed sua sponte if the prisoner's claims lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g., claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g., fantastic or delusional scenarios). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989); see also McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).

         II. SCREENING OF COMPLAINT

         In his complaint, Plaintiff sues multiple defendants for events that took place while he was incarcerated by the NDOC. (ECF No. 1-1 at 1). He sues the Nevada Board of Parole (“the Board”), the State of Nevada, Tony Corda, Susan Jackson, Adam Endel, Michael Keeler, Connie Bisbee, Ed Gray, and Maurice Silva. (Id. at 1-4). Plaintiff alleges two counts and seeks monetary damages, immediate release on parole, an order that the Nevada Legislature change Nevada laws to parole inmates at the bottom of their sentencing ranges, and a declaration that Nevada's parole laws are unconstitutional. (Id. at 6, 10).

         A. Count I

         Count I alleges the following: The Board of Parole's reliance on immutable characteristics, such as the seriousness of the offense, to deny parole violates due process. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5). The Board failed to follow its own internal guidelines when assessing applicable aggravating and mitigating factors. (Id. at 6.) The Board relied on three reasons relating to Plaintiff's history of obstructing police officers to apply mitigating factors. (Id.) Because these offenses were misdemeanor offenses, not felonies, the reasons for denial of parole are “fabricated.” (Id.) In addition, the internal guidelines state that, if a person is now serving a sentence of life for murder or sexual assault, the aggravating factor should not apply as the person already has committed the most serious crime. (Id.) Based on this language, the aggravating factor should not have been applied to him. (Id.) This is an arbitrary and capricious exercise of discretion, which is contrary to the evidence and rules of law. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that this violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. (Id.)

         1. Heck/Wilkinson Bar

         In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Supreme Court held that “in order to recover damages for [an] allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 486-87. “A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been . . . invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983.” Id. at 487. “Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated.” Id. As a result, the Supreme Court has held that “a state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter the ...


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