Elliott Jerome Santos v. Eric C. Taylor et al

Filing 16

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT 1 WITH LEAVE TO AMEND by Magistrate Judge Alexander F. MacKinnon: Any First Amended Complaint due 30 days after the date of this Order. (See document for details). (Attachments: # 1 CV-66 CV Rights Complaint Form, # 2 Form CV-09 Notc of Dismissal) (ib)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 ELLIOTT JEROME SANTOS, 12 13 14 15 Plaintiff, v. Case No. CV 17-07260 FMO (AFM) ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND ERIC C. TAYLOR, et al., Defendants. 16 17 18 Plaintiff, a detainee at the Twin Tower Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, 19 California, filed a Complaint in this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 20 § 1983 in the Southern District of California. On September 29, 2017, the case was 21 transferred to the Central District, where venue is proper. (ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff 22 subsequently was granted leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee. 23 (ECF No. 14.) The Complaint arises from plaintiff’s arrest on December 14, 2015. 24 (ECF No. 1 at 3.) On the title page of the Complaint, plaintiff lists as defendants 25 Eric C. Taylor, Michael Gargiulo, Dana Flaum, and Jaenelle Mims, but he does not 26 name any defendants in the body of the Complaint. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff purports to 27 allege his first claim pursuant to the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Bail Clause, 28 and he alleges that he posted bond four times. (Id. at 3.) In his second claim, 1 plaintiff purports to allege a claim pursuant to the Sixth Amendment pertaining to a 2 unspecified court proceeding and the ineffective assistance of unspecified “legal 3 counsel.” (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 7.) 4 In accordance with the terms of the “Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995” 5 (“PLRA”), the Court has screened the Complaint prior to ordering service for 6 purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to 7 state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a 8 defendant who is immune from such relief. 9 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). The Court’s screening of the pleading under 10 the foregoing statutes is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be 11 dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of 12 a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. 13 See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); see also 14 Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 2015) (when determining whether 15 a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under the PLRA, the 16 court applies the same standard as applied in a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 17 12(b)(6)). In determining whether the pleading states a claim on which relief may 18 be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the 19 light most favorable to plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 20 (9th Cir. 1989). However, the “tenet that a court must accept as true all of the 21 allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft 22 v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Nor is the Court “bound to accept as true a 23 legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Wood v. Moss, 134 S. Ct. 2056, 24 2065 n.5 (2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Rather, a court first “discounts 25 conclusory statements, which are not entitled to the presumption of truth, before 26 determining whether a claim is plausible.” Salameh v. Tarsadia Hotel, 726 F.3d 27 1124, 1129 (9th Cir. 2013). Then, “dismissal is appropriate where the plaintiff 28 failed to allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 2 See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1 Yagman v. Garcetti, 852 F.3d 859, 863 (9th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks 2 omitted, emphasis added). 3 Further, since plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the 4 allegations of the pleading liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any 5 doubt. See Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010); see also Alvarez v. 6 Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1158 (9th Cir. 2008) (because plaintiff was proceeding pro se, 7 “the district court was required to ‘afford [him] the benefit of any doubt’ in 8 ascertaining what claims he ‘raised in his complaint’”) (alteration in original). 9 However, the Supreme Court has held that “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the 10 ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, 11 and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . 12 Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative 13 level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if 14 doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) 15 (internal citations omitted, alteration in original); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 16 (To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient 17 factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its 18 face.’ . . . A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content 19 that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for 20 the misconduct alleged.” (internal citation omitted)). 21 In addition, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) states: 22 23 24 25 A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction . . .; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief. 26 27 (Emphasis added). Further, Rule 8(d)(1) provides: “Each allegation must be 28 simple, concise, and direct. No technical form is required.” Although the Court 3 1 must construe a pro se plaintiff’s pleadings liberally, a plaintiff nonetheless must 2 allege a minimum factual and legal basis for each claim that is sufficient to give 3 each defendant fair notice of what plaintiff’s claims are and the grounds upon 4 which they rest. See, e.g., Brazil v. United States Dep’t of the Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 5 199 (9th Cir. 1995); McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991) (a 6 complaint must give defendants fair notice of the claims against them). 7 plaintiff fails to clearly and concisely set forth factual allegations sufficient to 8 provide defendants with notice of which defendant is being sued on which theory 9 and what relief is being sought against them, the pleading fails to comply with Rule 10 8. See, e.g., McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177-79 (9th Cir. 1996); Nevijel v. 11 Northcoast Life Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 671, 674 (9th Cir. 1981). 12 “substantive plausibility” if a plaintiff alleges “simply, concisely, and directly [the] 13 events” that entitle him to damages. Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct. 346, 347 14 (2014). 15 dismissal of a pleading that applies even if the claims are not found to be wholly 16 without merit. See McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1179; Nevijel, 651 F.2d at 673. If a A claim has Failure to comply with Rule 8 constitutes an independent basis for 17 Following careful review of the Complaint, the Court finds that it fails to 18 comply with Rule 8 because it fails to state a short and plain statement of each 19 claim that is sufficient to give each defendant fair notice of what plaintiff’s claims 20 are and the grounds upon which they rest. In addition, its allegations appear 21 insufficient to state any claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, the 22 Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend. See Rosati, 791 F.3d at 1039 (“A 23 district court should not dismiss a pro se complaint without leave to amend unless it 24 is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by 25 amendment.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). 26 If plaintiff desires to pursue this action, he is ORDERED to file a First 27 Amended Complaint no later than thirty (30) days after the date of this Order, 28 remedying the deficiencies discussed below. Further, plaintiff is admonished 4 1 that, if he fails to timely file a First Amended Complaint, or fails to remedy the 2 deficiencies of this pleading as discussed herein, the Court will recommend that this 3 action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice.1 ************ 4 5 First, irrespective of his pro se status, if plaintiff wishes to proceed with this 6 action, plaintiff must comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the 7 Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Central District of 8 California. See, e.g., Briones v. Riviera Hotel & Casino, 116 F.3d 379, 382 (9th 9 Cir. 1997) (“pro se litigants are not excused from following court rules”); L.R. 1-3. 10 Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 10, the body of a complaint must include all defendants 11 listed in the caption of the pleading. Here, the caption of plaintiff’s Complaint lists 12 several defendants, but the Complaint fails to name any defendant. 13 In addition, plaintiff purports to allege his first claim pursuant to the Eighth 14 Amendment, and he appears to allege that he posted bail four times for one case. 15 Plaintiff, however, does not clearly allege any dates on which he posted any bail, 16 nor does he specify what charges his bail pertained to. Further, to the extent that 17 plaintiff is purporting to allege that his bail was excessive, plaintiff fails to allege 18 that any specific individual was responsible for setting an allegedly excessive bail. In determining whether the Excessive Bail Clause has been violated, the 19 20 1 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Plaintiff is advised that this Court’s determination herein that the allegations in the Complaint are insufficient to state a particular claim should not be seen as dispositive of that claim. Accordingly, although this Court believes that you have failed to plead sufficient factual matter in your pleading, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, you are not required to omit any claim or defendant in order to pursue this action. However, if you decide to pursue a claim in a First Amended Complaint that this Court has found to be insufficient, then this Court, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636, ultimately may submit to the assigned district judge a recommendation that such claim be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim, subject to your right at that time to file Objections with the district judge as provided in the Local Rules Governing Duties of Magistrate Judges. 5 1 Court looks to the “valid state interests bail is intended to serve for a particular 2 individual and judge[s] whether bail conditions are excessive for the purpose of 3 achieving those interests.” Galen v. County of Los Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 660 (9th 4 Cir. 2007). In order to prevail on an excessive bail claim, plaintiff must show that a 5 judicial officer set his “bail for purposes unauthorized by California law,” or that 6 the amount of bail set was “excessive in light of the valid purposes for which it was 7 set.” Id. at 661. In addition, to hold a non-judicial individual responsible for an 8 allegedly excessive bail amount, plaintiff must set forth factual allegations showing 9 that the individual defendant “deliberately or recklessly misled” a judicial officer in 10 connection with setting the bail. Id. at 663-64. Here, plaintiff’s Complaint fails to 11 set forth any factual allegations concerning the purpose for which any bail was set, 12 or what individual was responsible for setting the bail. In order to state a federal 13 civil rights claim against any defendant, plaintiff must meet the minimal 14 requirement of Rule 8 that a pleading set forth sufficient factual allegations to allow 15 each defendant to discern what he or she is being sued for. See McHenry, 84 F.3d 16 at 1177; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“[f]actual allegations must be enough 17 to raise a right to relief above the speculative level”). In order to proceed on any 18 excessive bail claim, plaintiff should allege “simply, concisely, and directly [the] 19 events” that entitle him to damages against a defendant. Johnson, 135 S. Ct. at 347. 20 In plaintiff’s second claim, plaintiff purports to raise a claim against his 21 “legal counsel” pursuant to the Sixth Amendment, but plaintiff appears to presently 22 be detained at a correctional facility. To the extent that plaintiff is seeking to 23 overturn a criminal conviction, a petition for habeas corpus is a prisoner’s sole 24 judicial remedy when attacking “the validity of the fact or length of . . . 25 confinement.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489-90 (1973); Young v. Kenny, 26 907 F.2d 874, 875 (9th Cir. 1990). Thus, plaintiff may not use a civil rights action 27 to challenge the validity of a conviction or incarceration. Such relief only is 28 available in a habeas corpus action. In addition, to the extent that plaintiff is 6 1 attempting to use a civil rights action to seek monetary damages for an allegedly 2 unlawful conviction where success would necessarily implicate the fact or duration 3 of his conviction, his claims are not cognizable under § 1983 unless and until 4 plaintiff can show that “the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct 5 appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized 6 to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of 7 a writ of habeas corpus.” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Under 8 Heck, if a judgment in favor of a plaintiff on a civil rights action necessarily will 9 imply the invalidity of his or her conviction or sentence, the complaint must be 10 dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence 11 already has been invalidated. Id.; see also Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 525 12 (2011) (“Where the prisoner’s claim would not ‘necessarily spell speedier release,’ 13 however, suit may be brought under § 1983.”). Accordingly, “Heck prohibits the 14 use of § 1983 to attack the validity of a conviction, because a recovery in the 15 damages action would necessarily imply that the conviction was wrongfully 16 obtained.” Furnace v. Giurbino, 838 F.3d 1019, 1027 (9th Cir. 2016). Here, to the 17 extent the Court can discern any potential claim, it appears that any claim plaintiff 18 may be raising pursuant to the Sixth Amendment should be raised in a habeas 19 action and not in a civil rights action. 20 Accordingly, plaintiff’s Complaint both violates Rule 8 and fails to state a 21 claim pursuant to the Sixth or Eighth Amendment because it does not set forth any 22 specific factual allegations that any specific defendant took any action, participated 23 in the action of another, or failed to take any action that he or she was required to 24 do that deprived plaintiff of any right guaranteed under the Constitution or a federal 25 statute. In order to state a federal civil rights claim against a particular defendant, 26 plaintiff must allege that a specific defendant, while acting under color of state law, 27 deprived him of a right guaranteed under the Constitution or a federal statute. See 28 West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 7 “A person deprives another ‘of a 1 constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative 2 act, participates in another’s affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is 3 legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which [the plaintiff 4 complains].’” Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988) (quoting Johnson 5 v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978) (emphasis and alteration in original)). 6 As the Supreme Court has made clear, plaintiff must plead “more than labels and 7 conclusions” to show that a person named as a defendant is liable for plaintiff’s 8 alleged constitutional violations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If plaintiff wishes to 9 pursue a federal civil rights claim against any specific individual, plaintiff should 10 set forth factual allegations raising a reasonable inference that each such defendant 11 caused a specific constitutional violation. 12 For these reasons, it is altogether unclear to the Court what federal civil 13 rights claims plaintiff is purporting to raise in the Complaint and what the legal and 14 factual basis of each of plaintiff’s civil rights claims may be. The Court is mindful 15 that, because plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of 16 the pleading liberally and must afford him the benefit of any doubt. See, e.g., 17 Alvarez, 518 F.3d at 1158. That said, the Supreme Court has made clear that the 18 Court has “no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants.” Pliler v. 19 Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); see also Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th 20 Cir. 1987) (“courts should not have to serve as advocates for pro se litigants”). 21 Although plaintiff need not set forth detailed factual allegations, he must plead 22 “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the 23 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting 24 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56). In its present form, it would be extremely difficult 25 for any defendant to discern what specific facts or legal theories apply to the 26 potential claim against him or her, and, as a result, it would be extremely difficult 27 for each defendant to formulate applicable defenses. 28 The Court therefore finds that the Complaint fails to comply with Rule 8 and 8 1 fails to state a claim against any named defendant. ************ 2 3 If plaintiff still desires to pursue this action, he is ORDERED to file a 4 First Amended Complaint no later than thirty (30) days after the date of this 5 Order, remedying the pleading deficiencies discussed above. 6 Amended Complaint should bear the docket number assigned in this case; be 7 labeled “First Amended Complaint”; and be complete in and of itself without 8 reference to the original Complaint, or any other pleading, attachment, or 9 document. The First 10 The clerk is directed to send plaintiff a blank Central District civil rights 11 complaint form, which plaintiff is encouraged to utilize. Plaintiff is admonished 12 that he must sign and date the civil rights complaint form, and he must use the 13 space provided in the form to set forth all of the claims that he wishes to assert in a 14 First Amended Complaint. 15 In addition, if plaintiff no longer wishes to pursue this action, he may request 16 a voluntary dismissal of the action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17 41(a). The clerk also is directed to attach a Notice of Dismissal form for plaintiff’s 18 convenience. 19 Plaintiff is further admonished that, if he fails to timely file a First 20 Amended Complaint, or fails to remedy the deficiencies of this pleading as 21 discussed herein, the Court will recommend that the action be dismissed with 22 prejudice on the grounds set forth above and for failure to diligently 23 prosecute. 24 IT IS SO ORDERED. 25 DATED: November 28, 2017 26 27 28 ____________________________________ ALEXANDER F. MacKINNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 9

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