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Gonzalez v. Laxalt

United States District Court, D. Nevada

November 19, 2019

Raul E. Gonzalez, Plaintiff
A.G. Adam Laxalt, et al., Defendants



         Plaintiff Raul E. Gonzalez brings this civil-rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that his Fourteenth Amendment due-process and equal-protection rights were violated during his incarceration at High Desert State Prison (HDSP). Because Gonzalez applies to proceed in forma pauperis, [1] I screen his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Though Gonzalez has demonstrated that he qualifies for pauper status, I find that he cannot plead a due-process claim and has not pled an equal-protection claim, so I grant the application to proceed in forma pauperis but dismiss the complaint in its entirety without leave to amend.

         I. Screening standard

         Federal courts must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity.[2] In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, or that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.[3] All or part of the complaint may be dismissed sua sponte if the prisoner's claims lack an arguable basis in law or fact. This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable, like 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 or fantastic or delusional scenarios.[4]

         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.[5] In making this determination, the court takes all allegations of material fact as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.[6] Allegations of a pro se complainant are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, [7] but a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and conclusions.[8] “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported with factual allegations.”[9] “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.”[10]

         II. Screening Gonzalez's complaint

         Gonzalez sues multiple defendants for events that took place while Gonzalez was incarcerated at HDSP.[11] Gonzalez sues Defendants Warden Brian Williams, NDOC Director James Dzurenda, Attorney General Adam Laxalt, Attorney General Aaron Ford, and Associate Warden Jennifer Nash.[12] He alleges one count and seeks monetary damages.[13]

         In his complaint, Gonzalez alleges the following: Gonzalez was sentenced on May 7, 2007, when NRS § 209.4465(7) was in effect.[14] The NDOC sent Gonzalez to the parole board prematurely in 2014 due to his aggregated sentences.[15] The parole board instructed the NDOC to recalculate Gonzalez's parole date to sometime in 2016 but the NDOC failed to bring Gonzalez before the parole board in 2016.[16] Gonzalez complained to Williams but Williams failed to respond.[17] Gonzalez submitted a grievance to Nash but she denied his request as untimely.[18] Dzurenda ignored Gonzalez's notice.[19] Laxalt and Ford were required to inform the NDOC of the good time credit requirement under NRS § 209.4465(7).[20] Gonzalez alleges that this conduct violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.[21]

         Gonzalez is challenging the defendants' failure to apply good-time credits to Gonzalez's minimum sentence and parole-eligibility date as directed by NRS § 209.4465(7). NRS § 209.4465(7) permits good-time credits to be applied to a prisoner's minimum sentence in certain circumstances, making an inmate eligible for parole sooner than he would have been without the credits.[22] Because Gonzalez's lawsuit involves his parole-eligibility date and not his underlying conviction or overall sentence, a § 1983 action is the proper vehicle to raise such a challenge.[23]So I proceed to consider whether Gonzalez has pled any viable § 1983 claim.

         A. Gonzalez cannot state a due-process claim because the law does not deem the violation of state parole-eligibility requirements to be a due-process violation.

         In order to state a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, a plaintiff must adequately allege that he was denied a specified liberty interest and that he was deprived of that liberty interest without the constitutionally required procedures.[24] But, in Nevada, state prisoners do not have a liberty interest in parole or parole eligibility.[25] Additionally, allegations that a defendant violated state law are not sufficient to state a claim for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's due-process clause.[26]

         I find that Gonzalez fails to state a colorable due process claim based on the allegations that the defendants violated NRS § 209.4465(7)(b) and deprived him of an earlier parole-eligibility date. Gonzalez cannot establish a liberty interest in his parole eligibility date, and the failure to properly apply NRS § 209.4465(7) constitutes an error of state law and the law does not recognize such an error as a valid basis for a due-process claim. So I dismiss Gonzalez's due-process claim with prejudice because it fails as a matter of law and amendment would be futile.

         B. Gonzalez has pled no facts to suggest an equal-protection violation.

         The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires all similarly situated persons be treated equally under the law.[27] In order to state an equal protection claim, a plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating that defendants acted with the intent and purpose to discriminate against him based upon membership in a legally recognized protected class, or that defendants purposefully treated him differently than similarly situated individuals without any rational basis for the disparate treatment.[28] Gonzalez fails to state a colorable equal-protection claim because he makes no allegations to support such a claim. Accordingly, I dismiss the equal-protection claim without prejudice. And because Gonzalez's allegations do not even hint at an equal-protection issue, I find no basis to grant leave to amend.


         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the application to proceed in forma pauperis without having to prepay the filing fee [ECF No. 1] is GRANTED.[29] Plaintiff need not pay an initial installment fee, prepay fees or costs or provide security for fees or costs, but he is still required to pay the full $350 filing fee under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915 as ...

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