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Sutton v. Ruiz

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 28, 2014

JASON

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 40). This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, alleges that Defendant violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by naming him as the source of information that resulted in another inmate being issued a serious infraction. According to Plaintiff, this disclosure caused him to be labeled a "snitch, " which in turn has caused him to be harassed and threatened by other inmates. Plaintiff also asserts a state law claim for violations of Washington's Public Records Act arising from Defendant's failure to redact his name from the infraction report.

Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's constitutional claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and on qualified immunity grounds. Defendant also moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Public Records Act claim for failure to state a claim.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim with leave to amend. Since Plaintiff's claim for violations of the Washington Public Records Act fails as a matter of law, that claim will be dismissed with prejudice.

FACTS[1]

Plaintiff Jason "J. Lee" Sutton ("Plaintiff") was, at all times relevant to this lawsuit, a prisoner residing at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. On or about September 17, 2011, Plaintiff observed a fellow inmate enter another inmate's cell "in a manner that suggested that there may possibly [have been] a fight in progress, or possibly something worse going-on [sic]." Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 5, ¶ 1. After taking some time to consider what he had observed, Plaintiff reported his observations to corrections officer Defendant Ramon Ruiz ("Defendant"). Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 5-6, ¶¶ 2-6. Defendant thanked Plaintiff for reporting his concerns and summoned other officers to investigate. Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 6, ¶ 7.

An initial "security check" of the cell in question revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 5-6, ¶ 8-9. A few minutes later, however, Defendant caught inmate Howard Richardson ("Richardson") leaving a cell assigned to inmate Travis Newell ("Newell") as Plaintiff and his unit departed for the recreation yard. Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 6, ¶ 10. Defendant issued Richardson a "serious infraction" for having been found in another inmate's cell. Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 6, ¶ 11. The infraction report served on Richardson listed Plaintiff as the source of the tip which led to Richardson being caught. Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 7, ¶¶ 12-13. Specifically, the report states:

On 9/17/11 at approximately 1820 hours, [inmate] Sutton, Jason... notified myself [Defendant Ruiz] while working in the Control Booth in Rainer unit, that he thought he saw another inmate entering RA209 after mainline and to keep an eye open to catch him at the yard gate.
At that point, I contacted the floor officers to conduct a tier check, nothing was found during this tier check. I then ran a yard gate, when I opened the cell door in RA209 inmate Richardson, Howard came out of RA209 where inmate Newell, Travis lives. [Inmate] Richardson lives in RA211. [Inmate] Richardson was placed in restraints and escorted to the holding cell[.]

ECF No. 25-1.

Richardson and Newell subsequently "repeated this damaging evidence to other Prisoners' [sic] as well, thereby intending to cause the Plaintiff physical harm, or other forms' [sic] of exploitation." Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 7, ¶ 17. Plaintiff asserts that, as a result of Defendant's conduct, he is now "in a situation in which he is subject to constant teasing, bullying, harassment, and the possible threats' [sic] to his physical well being [sic], due to being Outed, 'and Exposed[.]'" Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 8, ¶ 18. He further asserts that he "is suffering from the daily fear(s) of possible physical harm to his person, which cannot justify, or serve to promote a penological purpose." Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 at 8, ¶ 20.

DISCUSSION

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim tests the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's claims. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). To withstand dismissal, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "Naked assertion[s], " "labels and conclusions, " or "formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555, 557. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While a plaintiff need not establish a probability of success on the merits, he or she must demonstrate "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

A complaint must also contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This standard "does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In assessing whether Rule 8(a)(2) has been satisfied, a court must first identify the elements of the plaintiff's claim(s) and then determine whether those elements could be proven on the facts pled. The court should generally draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, see Sheppard v. David Evans and Assocs., 694 F.3d ...


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