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Woods v. Nevada Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 13, 2020

NYUTU K. WOODS, Plaintiff,
v.
NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, BRIAN WILLIAMS and JERRY HOWELL, Defendants.

          SCREENING ORDER

          ANDREW P. GORDON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Nyutu Woods, who is a prisoner in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), has submitted a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 1, 1-1. The matter of the filing fee shall be temporarily deferred. Based on the information regarding Woods's financial status, I find that Woods is not able to pay an initial installment payment toward the full filing fee. Woods will, however, be required to make monthly payments toward the full $350.00 filing fee when he has funds available. I now screen Woods's civil rights complaint under 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, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires a federal court to 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 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

         Woods sues the NDOC and Wardens Brian Williams and Jerry Howell. ECF No. 1-1 at 1. He alleges two counts and seeks monetary damages. Id. at 5, 9.

         Count I alleges the following: Woods is serving a sentence of three-to-twenty years. Id. at 4. Warden Williams violated Woods's rights by not deducting 20 days per month from his minimum sentence as he alleges is required by NRS § 209.4465(1). Id. at 3, 4. He alleges that he is approaching his fifth year on this sentence, but if he had been given the correct time credits, he would not have been incarcerated 1277 days illegally and unconstitutionally; this causes him mental, physical, and emotional distress and deprives him of his life and liberty. Id. at 4. He alleges this conduct violates his Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment rights. Id.

         Count II alleges Warden Howell has similarly violated Woods's rights by not deducting 20 days per month from his minimum sentence. Id. at 5. Thus, he has served 1277 days unjustly, which has taken a toll on his health. Id. Woods concludes that this is a violation of his life, liberty, due process of law, and cruel and unusual punishment. Id. He alleges that this conduct violates his Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment rights. Id.

         A. Fifth Amendment Claims

         The Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause applies to the federal government, not the States, while the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause applies to the states. See Castillo v. McFadden, 399 F.3d 993, 1002 n.5 (9th Cir. 2005). Because Woods is suing state employees not federal employees, the Fifth Amendment does not apply. ...


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