Lily Cassandra Alphonsis v. Century Regional Detention Facility et al

Filing 5


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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 WESTERN DIVISION 11 LILY CASSANDRA ALPHONSIS, ) No. CV 17-03650-ODW (DFM) 12 Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 15 CENTURY REGIONAL DETENTION FACILITY, et al., 16 Defendants. 17 ) ) ) MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ) ) DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH ) LEAVE TO AMEND ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 18 19 I. 20 BACKGROUND 21 On May 15, 2017, Lily Cassandra Alphonsis (“Plaintiff”), a prisoner at 22 Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, California, filed a pro se 23 civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. 1 (“Complaint”). She names as 24 defendants the Century Regional Detention Facility and Sheriff Jim 25 McDonnell in his official capacity only.1 26 27 28 Plaintiff mentions the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the Complaint’s caption, but this appears to be part of her naming Sheriff 1 In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court must 1 2 screen the Complaint to determine whether the action is frivolous or malicious; 3 fails to state a claim on which relief might be granted; or seeks monetary relief 4 against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 5 II. 6 SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS 7 A. Allegations Related to Illness from Food 8 In November 2015, Plaintiff collapsed at dinner. Complaint at 5. 9 “Defendants” had put milk in her food, even though the prison kitchen 10 department knew milk would trigger anaphylactic shock. Id. Later, the 11 “Defendants” gave her creamer which “tore through” her skin. Id. She 12 reported this to the medical department. Id. In late February 2017, “the 13 Defendant” gave Plaintiff a breakfast that made her sick. Id. She was sent to 14 the clinic, and was either told that no doctor was available or saw a doctor 15 who refused to treat her. Id. “The Defendant” removed Plaintiff from the 16 Education Based Incarceration Program and took away credits she had earned 17 toward her release date. Id. at 6. 18 B. 19 Allegations Related to Court Mail On August 25, 2016, Plaintiff handed her California Supreme Court 20 habeas petition to “Deputy Gutierrez.” Id. He sealed the envelope and 21 indicated that he would place it in the mail. Id. Plaintiff contacted the 22 California Supreme Court in mid-September 2016; the clerk confirmed receipt 23 of the envelope but stated that “the documents inside the envelope seemed like 24 a joke, as the documents were some papers that were marked Exhibit,” and 25 that he had returned the envelope to the prison. Id. Plaintiff’s Complaint is 26 hard to understand, but it appears that she claims that the California Supreme 27 28 McDonnell as a defendant. See Complaint at 1, 3. 2 1 Court dismissed her petition because letters from that court were withheld 2 from her. Id. at 6-7. She attaches to the Complaint a summary dismissal of her 3 habeas petition by the California Supreme Court, dated January 18, 2017. Id. 4 at 17. Plaintiff also claims that the “Defendants” interfered with her sending 5 and receiving mail from a Minnesota probate court, in a case where she claims 6 that she and the late musician Prince collaborated on a song. Id. at 7-8. 7 C. Allegations Related to Cellmate 8 In January 2017, “the Defendant” housed Celine Martelleur with 9 Plaintiff. Id. at 8. On February 12, Martelleur, who had been in the news for 10 stalking actress Jodie Foster, hit and scraped herself against the cell wall. Id. 11 Plaintiff tried to alert deputies by pressing an alarm for help, but Martelleur 12 attacked Plaintiff to stop her. Id. After Plaintiff pushed the alarm, Martelleur 13 was removed from the cell. Id. That evening, Plaintiff was sent to solitary 14 confinement and accused of attacking Martelleur. Id. at 8-9. After eleven days, 15 a sergeant reviewed Plaintiff’s side of the story and released her from solitary. 16 Id. at 9. 17 D. 18 Allegations Related to Release Date In March 2017, “one of the defendants Sergeant” looked into Plaintiff’s 19 “minute order” and told her that her release date was incorrect. Id. Plaintiff 20 submitted a grievance, was told by “the defendant’s deputy Afaro” that “the 21 county percentage will kick in whenever it kicks in,” and she was referred to 22 “Senior Vasquez.” Id. Vasquez confirmed that Plaintiff’s sentence calculation 23 was inaccurate, but Plaintiff’s subsequent grievance was ignored. Id. On 24 March 18, “the defendant” handed Plaintiff a warrant that prevented Plaintiff’s 25 release from prison. Id. On March 20, Plaintiff appeared in court and learned 26 that the warrant was related to the incident with Martelleur. Id. After a month, 27 that case was dismissed. Id. Plaintiff again requested a correction of her release 28 date, but her request was ignored. Id. 3 1 2 E. Relief Requested Plaintiff requests the following relief: 3  “Healthy foods” and medical care; 4  The ability to send mail without interference; 5  Enrollment in prison programs and recalculation of her credits toward 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 her release date;  Actual custody credit, including relief from being “sentenced to a crime [she] did not commit”; and  Classification as a non-violent inmate. Id. at 10. III. STANDARD OF REVIEW The Court’s screening of the Complaint under the foregoing statutes is 14 governed by the following standards: A complaint may be dismissed for failure 15 to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) 16 insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police 17 Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether the 18 complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of 19 material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to 20 Plaintiff. Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Since 21 Plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the 22 complaint liberally and afford Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi 23 v. Los Angeles Police Dep’t, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, “the 24 liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff’s factual allegations.” 25 Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). “[A] liberal interpretation 26 of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that 27 were not initially pled.” Bruns v. Nat’l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 28 4 1 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 2 (9th Cir. 1982)). A “plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his 3 ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a 4 formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual 5 allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, 6 on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if 7 doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) 8 (citations omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) 9 (holding that to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must 10 contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that 11 is plausible on its face.’ A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads 12 factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the 13 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” (citation omitted)). If the Court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state 14 15 a claim, the Court may dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez v. 16 Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). The Court should 17 grant leave to amend if it appears possible that the defects in the complaint 18 could be corrected, especially if a plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also 19 Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting that “[a] pro 20 se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint, and some notice 21 of its deficiencies, unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the 22 complaint could not be cured by amendment”). However, if, after careful 23 consideration, it is clear that a complaint cannot be cured by amendment, the 24 Court may dismiss without leave to amend. Cato, 70 F.3d at 1105-06. 25 /// 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// 5 1 IV. 2 DISCUSSION 3 Plaintiff’s Complaint suffers from numerous deficiencies, as detailed 4 below. 5 A. Heck-Barred Claims 6 In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the United States Supreme 7 Court addressed “whether a state prisoner may challenge the constitutionality 8 of his conviction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,” id. at 478, and held: 9 [T]o recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or 10 imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness 11 would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must 12 prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, 13 expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal 14 authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a 15 federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. . . . A claim for 16 damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has 17 not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. 18 Id. at 486-87; see also Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) (holding 19 that Heck doctrine applies regardless of type of relief sought if success in action 20 would necessarily demonstrate invalidity of confinement or its duration). 21 To the extent Plaintiff seeks to challenge her underlying conviction and 22 sentence or the loss of custody credits, such claims are barred by Heck. See 23 Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997) (holding that “claim for 24 declaratory relief and money damages, based on allegations . . . that 25 necessarily imply the invalidity of the punishment imposed,” including 26 deprivation of good-time credits, “is not cognizable under § 1983”); Heck, 512 27 U.S. at 487 (holding that if “a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would 28 necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence . . . the complaint 6 1 must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or 2 sentence has already been invalidated”). 3 B. 4 Lack of Cognizable Legal Theories and Insufficient Facts In order to state a claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must show: (1) the 5 defendants acted under color of law, and (2) their conduct deprived her of a 6 constitutional right. Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir. 1985) 7 (en banc). Plaintiff refers to “human rights” (see, e.g., Complaint at 3) but fails 8 to invoke any cognizable legal theories with respect to her rights under the 9 Constitution. With respect to her food and medical care, and being housed 10 with Martelleur, she may mean to allege deliberate indifference under the 11 Eighth Amendment. If that is the case, she has not stated such a claim. See 12 Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (holding that to establish Eighth 13 Amendment claim that prison authorities provided inadequate medical care, 14 prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence 15 deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, but inadvertent failure to 16 provide adequate medical care, mere negligence or medical malpractice, mere 17 delay in medical care (without more), or difference of opinion over proper 18 medical treatment are insufficient); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 19 (1994) (holding that to violate Eighth Amendment, deprivation alleged must 20 objectively be sufficiently serious and prison official must subjectively have 21 sufficiently culpable state of mind). 22 Plaintiff mentions “discrimination” and the Americans with Disabilities 23 Act (“ADA”) (see Complaint at 6). Title II of the ADA provides that “no 24 qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be 25 excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, 26 programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by 27 any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. To state a claim under Title II of the 28 ADA, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that he is an individual with a disability; (2) 7 1 that he is otherwise qualified to participate in or receive the benefit of some 2 public entity’s services, programs, or activities; (3) that he was either excluded 3 from participation in or denied the benefits of the public entity’s services, 4 programs or activities, or was otherwise discriminated against by the public 5 entity; and (4) that such exclusion, denial of benefits, or discrimination was by 6 reason of the plaintiff’s disability. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th 7 Cir. 2002). Even assuming that Plaintiff’s alleged allergy is a disability, 8 Plaintiff has not alleged anything to suggest that prison officials discriminated 9 against her because of those allergies. 10 Plaintiff does not explain what constitutional right she has to a particular 11 inmate classification. See Hernandez v. Johnston, 833 F.2d 1316, 1318 (9th 12 Cir. 1987) (“Magistrate Burgess correctly concluded that ‘a prisoner has no 13 constitutional right to a particular classification status.’”). 14 As for the alleged interference with and review of Plaintiff’s mail: The 15 “policy of diverting publications through the property room is reasonably 16 related to the prison’s interest in inspecting mail for contraband.” Crofton v. 17 Roe, 170 F.3d 957, 961 (9th Cir. 1999). Prisoners enjoy a First Amendment 18 right to send and receive mail. Witherow v. Paff, 52 F.3d 264, 265 (9th Cir. 19 1995). Temporary delay or isolated incident of delay in mail processing does 20 not violate a prisoner’s First Amendment rights. Crofton, 170 F.3d at 961. 21 Plaintiff alleges that her access to the courts has been interfered with, but her 22 allegations are too conclusory and vague to address. Why could she not obtain 23 copies of her California Supreme Court habeas exhibits and what efforts did 24 she make to obtain them? What letters from the California Supreme Court 25 were withheld from her, and by whom? Why does she believe that her habeas 26 petition was dismissed for failure to respond to these “letters,” rather than for 27 some other reason? Did Plaintiff suffer any prejudice from the delay in 28 receiving letters in her probate case? What legal mail was “withheld” in Case 8 1 No. 16-7927 (C.D. Cal.), and by whom, and what prejudice did she suffer?2 2 See Complaint at 6-7. It is unclear what constitutional right Plaintiff believes was violated with 3 4 respect to her eleven days in solitary confinement following the incident with 5 Martelleur. Her allegations do not suggest that she was placed in solitary 6 confinement for any improper reason such as retaliation, and she was released 7 “immediately” after an investigation. See Complaint at 9. Throughout her Complaint, Plaintiff makes only generalized allegations 8 9 against the “Defendant” or the “Defendants.” Under § 1983, she must 10 demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of 11 her rights. See Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). 12 C. 13 Claims against the Century Regional Detention Facility Section 1983 provides, in relevant part, that “[e]very person who, under 14 color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage . . . subjects . . . 15 any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, 16 or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the 17 party.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “The term ‘persons’ encompasses state and local 18 officials sued in their individual capacities, private individuals, and entities 19 which act under the color of state law and local governmental entities.” Vance 20 v. Cty. of Santa Clara, 928 F. Supp. 993, 995–96 (N.D. Cal. 1996). A local jail 21 is not a proper defendant under § 1983. Id. at 996 (“Naming a municipal 22 department as a defendant is not an appropriate means of pleading a § 1983 23 action against a municipality.”). Thus, to the extent Plaintiff alleges that the 24 “Century Regional Detention Facility” violated her constitutional rights, her 25 Complaint fails to state a claim because this entity is not a “person” under § 26 27 28 This case was dismissed because Plaintiff failed to submit an IFP Request or prepay the filing fees. See Case No. 16-7927 (C.D. Cal.), Dkt. 6. 2 9 1 1983. 2 D. 3 Official Capacity Claims against Sheriff Jim McDonnell An “official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated 4 as a suit against the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). 5 Here, the entity would be Los Angeles County (the “County”). Municipalities 6 are “persons” subject to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where official policy 7 or custom causes a constitutional tort. See Monell v. Dep’t of Social Servs., 8 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). However, the County “may not be sued under § 9 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is only 10 when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its 11 lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent 12 official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible 13 under § 1983.” Id. at 694 (1978). Thus, the County may not be held liable for 14 the alleged actions of its employees or agents unless “the action that is alleged 15 to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, 16 regulation, or decision officially adopted or promulgated by that body’s 17 officers,” or if the alleged constitutional deprivation was “visited pursuant to a 18 governmental ‘custom’ even though such a custom has not received formal 19 approval through the body’s official decisionmaking channels.” Id. at 690-91. 20 Here, Plaintiff has failed to identify any policy statements or regulations 21 of the County, or any officially adopted or promulgated decisions, the 22 execution of which inflicted the alleged injuries. She has also not alleged 23 sufficient facts for the Court to “draw the reasonable inference” that the 24 County has a governmental custom of committing the illegal acts alleged. The 25 Court therefore concludes that Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts for 26 the Court to “draw the reasonable inference” that the County has a custom of 27 engaging in the kind of illegal conduct that Plaintiff alleges occurred here. See 28 Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1996) (“Liability for improper 10 1 custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic incidents; it must be 2 founded upon practices of sufficient duration, frequency and consistency that 3 the conduct has become a traditional method of carrying out policy.”). 4 V. 5 CONCLUSION 6 Because of the pleading deficiencies identified above, the Complaint is 7 subject to dismissal. Because it appears to the Court that some of the 8 Complaint’s deficiencies are capable of being cured by amendment, it is 9 dismissed with leave to amend. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130-31 (holding that 10 pro se litigant must be given leave to amend complaint unless it is absolutely 11 clear that deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment). If Plaintiff still desires 12 to pursue her claims against Defendants, she shall file a First Amended 13 Complaint within thirty-five (35) days of the date of this Order remedying the 14 deficiencies discussed above. Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint should bear 15 the docket number assigned in this case; be labeled “First Amended 16 Complaint”; and be complete in and of itself without reference to the original 17 Complaint or any other pleading, attachment or document. The Clerk is 18 directed to send Plaintiff a blank Central District civil rights complaint form, 19 which Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to utilize. 20 Plaintiff is admonished that, if she fails to timely file a First Amended 21 Complaint, the Court will recommend that this action be dismissed with 22 prejudice for failure to diligently prosecute. 23 24 Dated: June 21, 2017 25 ______________________________ DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK United States Magistrate Judge 26 27 28 11

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