Beamon v. Arizona Department of Corrections et al

Filing 14

ORDER (Service Packet), Defendants Fernandez, Smith-Whitson, and Ryan are dismissed without prejudice; Count Two of the Second Amended Complaint is dismissed without prejudice; Defendant Matthews must answer Count One; Plaintiff's Motion for Ap pointment of Counsel 11 is denied without prejudice; the Clerk must send Plaintiff a service packet including the Second Amended Complaint 12 , this Order, and both summons and request for waiver forms for Defendant Matthews; Plaintiff must complete and return the service packet to the Clerk within 21 days; this matter is referred to Magistrate Judge Michelle H Burns for all pretrial proceedings. Signed by Senior Judge Stephen M McNamee on 10/28/14. (REW)

Download PDF
1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 William Beamon, 10 11 12 13 No. CV 13-2570-PHX-SMM (MHB) Plaintiff, vs. ORDER Arizona Department of Corrections, et al., 14 15 Defendants. 16 17 On December 17, 2013, Plaintiff William Beamon, who is confined in the Arizona 18 State Prison Complex-Florence (“ASPC-Florence”), filed a pro se civil rights Complaint 19 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In an 20 April 22, 2014 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed but dismissed the 21 Complaint with leave to amend. 22 Complaint, which was also dismissed with leave to amend on July 30, 2014. On August 23 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 12) and a Motion to 24 Appoint Counsel (Doc. 11). The Court will order Defendant Matthews to answer Count 25 One of the Second Amended Complaint and will dismiss the remaining claims and 26 Defendants without prejudice. The Motion to Appoint Counsel will be denied. 27 28 TEMPSREF On May 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed his First Amended 1 I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints 2 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief 3 against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 4 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff 5 has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon 6 which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is 7 immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)–(2). 8 A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 9 pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 10 does not demand detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the- 11 defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” 12 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 13 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 14 “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a 15 claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 16 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual 17 content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable 18 for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible 19 claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw 20 on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff’s 21 specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must 22 assess whether there are other “more likely explanations” for a defendant’s conduct. Id. 23 at 681. 24 But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, 25 courts must “continue to construe pro se filings liberally.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 26 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A “complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] ‘must be held to less 27 stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Id. (quoting Erickson v. 28 Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)). TERMPSREF -2- 1 II. Second Amended Complaint 2 In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts two causes of action against 3 Charles L. Ryan, Warden Smith-Whitson, “COII Fernandez,” and “Trinity Staff Member 4 Matthews.” Both counts arise out of an incident alleged to have occurred in the kitchen 5 at ASPC-Florence. On December 1, 2013, according to Plaintiff, Defendant Matthews 6 directed Plaintiff to take a food tray into the walk in freezer in the prison kitchen. After 7 Plaintiff entered the freezer, Defendant Matthews “intentionally and deliberately” closed 8 and padlocked the door behind Plaintiff, locking him in the freezer. When he discovered 9 what had happened, Plaintiff “frantically depressed the release latch several times and 10 began pounding on the door” to alert Defendant Matthews or Defendant Fernandez, who 11 was on security watch. Plaintiff ultimately was released from the freezer after he pressed 12 a panic button, although it is unclear from the Second Amended Complaint who let him 13 out. 14 Defendant Matthews that Matthews had “clearly violated” Arizona Department of 15 Corrections (“ADOC”) policy by “holding [Plaintiff] hostage in the padlocked freezer.” 16 However, according to Plaintiff, Defendant Fernandez “later change[d] his story to cover 17 up the incident to protect Matthews.” Plaintiff alleges that, upon exiting the freezer, he heard Defendant Fernandez tell 18 Plaintiff claims that Defendant Matthews’s conduct took place “under the direct 19 security watch” of Defendant Fernandez, who was, in turn, being “overseen” by 20 Defendants Smith-Whitson and Ryan. 21 psychological damage as a result of Defendant Matthews’s conduct, and that he was 22 diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) several days after the incident. 23 According to the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff is currently being medicated for 24 PTSD, a condition he claims is the direct result of the incident in the freezer. Plaintiff also asserts that he suffered 25 In Count One of the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a cause of 26 action under the Eighth Amendment, claiming that Defendants’ conduct resulted in a 27 denial of basic necessities. In Count Two, he asserts a claim for threat to safety and cites 28 TERMPSREF -3- 1 the Fourteenth Amendment. As relief, Plaintiff seeks $8.5 million in damages and 2 requests that criminal charges be filed against Defendant Matthews. 3 III. Failure to State a Claim 4 To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the conduct 5 complained of was committed by a person acting under the color of state law; and (2) that 6 the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a federal constitutional or statutory right. Wood v. 7 Ostrander, 879 F.2d 583, 587 (9th Cir. 1989). In addition, to state a valid constitutional 8 claim, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of 9 a particular defendant, and he must allege an affirmative link between the injury and the 10 conduct of that defendant. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976). 11 A. 12 In Count One, Plaintiff alleges a claim for denial of basic necessities. To state 13 such a claim, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant’s acts or omissions have deprived 14 him of “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities” and that the defendant acted 15 with deliberate indifference to an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Allen v. 16 Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir.1994) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832- 17 33 (1994); see Estate of Ford v. Ramirez–Palmer, 301 F.3d 1043, 1049–50 (9th Cir. 18 2002). That is, a plaintiff must allege a constitutional deprivation that is objectively 19 “sufficiently serious” to result in the denial of “the minimal civilized measure of life’s 20 necessities.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Whether conditions of confinement rise to the 21 level of a constitutional violation may depend, in part, on the duration of an inmate's 22 exposure to those conditions. Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1089, 1091 (9th Cir.1996) 23 (citing Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 686–87 (1978)). Count One 24 Plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient to state a claim against Defendants 25 Fernandez, Smith-Whitson, or Ryan. Because there is no respondeat superior liability 26 under § 1983, a defendant’s position as the supervisor of persons who allegedly violated 27 plaintiff’s constitutional rights will not impose liability. Monell v. N.Y. Dep’t of Soc. 28 Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) TERMPSREF -4- 1 (citation omitted). Rather, a defendant will only be held liable in his individual capacity 2 if he “participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act 3 to prevent them.” Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). And for an 4 individual to be held liable in his official capacity, a plaintiff must allege that the official 5 acted as a result of a policy, practice, or custom. See Cortez v. County of Los Angeles, 6 294 F.3d 1186, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). 7 Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant Fernandez participated in, directed, or 8 knew of Defendant Matthews’s conduct. Nor has he alleged that his constitutional rights 9 were violated as a result of a policy, practice, or custom that was promulgated, endorsed, 10 or condoned by Fernandez. On the contrary, Fernandez is alleged to have “appeared 11 agitated” when Plaintiff emerged from the freezer. He is also alleged to have told 12 Defendant Matthews that Matthews’s conduct was a clear violation of ADOC policy. 13 Therefore, given the absence of any allegation that Defendant Fernandez knew what 14 Defendant Matthews was intending and deliberately disregarded any potential risk to 15 Plaintiff, Count One of the Second Amended Complaint does not state a viable claim for 16 relief against Defendant Fernandez. 17 Likewise, the sole allegation against Defendant Smith-Whitson and Defendant 18 Ryan is that each has authority over staff in the jails. As noted above, in order to be held 19 liable in his or her official capacity, a defendant must be alleged to have acted as a result 20 of a policy, practice, or custom of the county or department causing injury. The Second 21 Amended Complaint contains no such allegations against Defendants Smith-Whitson and 22 Ryan; accordingly, Count Two will be dismissed as against these Defendants. 23 B. 24 In Count Two, Plaintiff re-alleges facts identical to those in Count One, but claims 25 a Fourteenth Amendment violation. A pretrial detainee’s claim for unconstitutional 26 conditions of confinement arises from the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause 27 where a convicted prisoner’s claim arises from the Eighth Amendment prohibition 28 against cruel and unusual punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 and n.16 TERMPSREF Count Two -5- 1 (1979). Nevertheless, the same standards are applied, requiring proof that the defendant 2 acted with deliberate indifference. See Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 3 1998). Accordingly, there is no legal difference between an Eighth and Fourteenth 4 Amendment conditions of confinement claim. Because Plaintiff’s allegations in Count 5 Two are factually identical to Count One, the Court will dismiss Count Two as 6 duplicative. 7 IV. Claims for Which an Answer Will be Required 8 Liberally construed, the allegations contained in Count One are sufficient to state a 9 claim against Defendant Matthews, and he will be required to file a response to this 10 portion of the Second Amended Complaint. 11 V. Motion to Appoint Counsel 12 Plaintiff has also filed a motion to appoint counsel. There is no constitutional 13 right to the appointment of counsel in a civil case. See Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. 14 of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 269 (9th Cir. 1982). In proceedings in forma pauperis, the court 15 may request an attorney to represent any person unable to afford one. 28 U.S.C. § 16 1915(e)(1). Appointment of counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) is required only when 17 “exceptional circumstances” are present. Terrell v. Brewer, 935 F.2d 1015, 1017 (9th 18 Cir. 1991). 19 evaluation of the likelihood of success on the merits as well as the ability of Plaintiff to 20 articulate his claims pro se in light of the complexity of the legal issue involved. Id. 21 “Neither of these factors is dispositive and both must be viewed together before reaching 22 a decision.” Id. (quoting Wilborn v. Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir. 1986)). A determination with respect to exceptional circumstances requires an 23 Having considered both elements, it does not appear at this time that exceptional 24 circumstances are present that would require the appointment of counsel in this case. 25 Thus, the Court will deny without prejudice Plaintiff’s Motions to Appoint Counsel. 26 .... 27 .... 28 .... TERMPSREF -6- 1 VI. Warnings 2 A. 3 Plaintiff must pay the unpaid balance of the filing fee within 120 days of his 4 release. Also, within 30 days of his release, he must either (1) notify the Court that he 5 intends to pay the balance or (2) show good cause, in writing, why he cannot. Failure to 6 comply may result in dismissal of this action. Release 7 B. 8 Plaintiff must file and serve a notice of a change of address in accordance with 9 Rule 83.3(d) of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff must not include a motion 10 for other relief with a notice of change of address. Failure to comply may result in 11 dismissal of this action. Address Changes 12 C. 13 Plaintiff must serve Defendants, or counsel if an appearance has been entered, a 14 copy of every document that he files. Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(a). Each filing must include a 15 certificate stating that a copy of the filing was served. Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(d). Also, 16 Plaintiff must submit an additional copy of every filing for use by the Court. See LRCiv 17 5.4. Failure to comply may result in the filing being stricken without further notice to 18 Plaintiff. 19 D. 20 If Plaintiff fails to timely comply with every provision of this Order, including 21 these warnings, the Court may dismiss this action without further notice. See Ferdik v. 22 Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1260-61 (9th Cir. 1992) (a district court may dismiss an action 23 for failure to comply with any order of the Court). 24 IT IS ORDERED: 25 (1) 26 (2) 28 Possible Dismissal prejudice. 27 Copies prejudice. TERMPSREF Defendants Fernandez, Smith-Whitson, and Ryan are dismissed without Count Two of the Second Amended Complaint is dismissed without -7- 1 (3) Defendant Matthews must answer Count One. 2 (4) Plaintiff’s Motion for Appointment of Counsel is denied without prejudice. 3 (5) The Clerk of Court must send Plaintiff a service packet including the 4 Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 12), this Order, and both summons and request for 5 waiver forms for Defendant Matthews. 6 (6) Plaintiff must complete and return the service packet to the Clerk of Court 7 within 21 days of the date of filing of this Order. The United States Marshal will not 8 provide service of process if Plaintiff fails to comply with this Order. 9 (7) If Plaintiff does not either obtain a waiver of service of the summons or 10 complete service of the Summons and Second Amended Complaint on Defendant within 11 120 days of the filing of the Complaint or within 60 days of the filing of this Order, 12 whichever is later, the action may be dismissed. 13 16.2(b)(2)(B)(i). 14 (8) 15 Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m); LRCiv The United States Marshal must retain the Summons, a copy of the Second Amended Complaint, and a copy of this Order for future use. 16 (9) The United States Marshal must notify Defendant of the commencement of 17 this action and request waiver of service of the summons pursuant to Rule 4(d) of the 18 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The notice to Defendant must include a copy of this 19 Order. 20 summons. If a waiver of service of summons is returned as undeliverable or is not 21 returned by Defendant within 30 days from the date the request for waiver was sent 22 by the Marshal, the Marshal must: 23 The Marshal must immediately file signed waivers of service of the (a) personally serve copies of the Summons, Second Amended 24 Complaint, and this Order upon Defendant pursuant to Rule 4(e)(2) of the Federal 25 Rules of Civil Procedure; and 26 (b) within 10 days after personal service is effected, file the return of 27 service for Defendant, along with evidence of the attempt to secure a waiver of 28 service of the summons and of the costs subsequently incurred in effecting service TERMPSREF -8- 1 upon Defendant. The costs of service must be enumerated on the return of service 2 form (USM-285) and must include the costs incurred by the Marshal for 3 photocopying additional copies of the Summons, Second Amended Complaint, or 4 this Order and for preparing new process receipt and return forms (USM-285), if 5 required. Costs of service will be taxed against the personally served Defendant 6 pursuant to Rule 4(d)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, unless otherwise 7 ordered by the Court. 8 (10) 9 10 11 If Defendant agrees to waive service of the Summons and Second Amended Complaint, Defendant must return the signed waiver forms to the United States Marshal, not the Plaintiff. (11) Defendant must answer the Second Amended Complaint or otherwise 12 respond by appropriate motion within the time provided by the applicable provisions of 13 Rule 12(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 14 (12) This matter is referred to Magistrate Judge Michelle H. Burns pursuant to 15 Rules 72.1 and 72.2 of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure for all pretrial proceedings as 16 authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). 17 DATED this 28th day of October, 2014. 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 TERMPSREF -9-

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?