Sumpter Lovelle Porter v. Lancaster State Prison et al

Filing 15

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND by Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal. The Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend. If Plaintiff still wishes to pursue this action, he is granted thirty (30) days from the dat e of this Memorandum and Order within which to file a First Amended Complaint. Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to utilize the standard civil rights complaint form when filing any amended complaint, a copy of which is attached. Plaintiff is further a dvised that if he no longer wishes to pursue this action, he may voluntarily dismiss it by filing a Notice of Dismissal in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1). A form Notice of Dismissal is attached for Plaintiff's convenience. (See document for further details). (Attachments: # 1 Civil Rights Complaint Form, # 2 Notice of Dismissal Form) (mr)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 SUMPTER LOVELLE PORTER, Plaintiff, 12 13 14 Case No. CV 18-0107 CJC (SS) MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER v. DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LANCASTER STATE PRISON, et al., LEAVE TO AMEND Defendants. 15 16 17 18 I. 19 INTRODUCTION 20 21 On January 5, 2018, Sumpter Lovelle Porter (“Plaintiff”), a 22 California state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights 23 complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 24 Dkt. No. 1). 25 initial screening of complaints in civil actions where a prisoner 26 seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee. 27 § 1915A(a). This Court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portion 28 thereof, (“Complaint” or “Compl.,” Congress mandates that district courts perform an before service of process if the 28 U.S.C. complaint (1) is 1 frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which 2 relief can be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant 3 who is immune from such relief. 4 also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) 5 (en banc). For the reasons stated below, the Complaint is DISMISSED 6 with leave to amend.1 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1-2); see 7 8 II. 9 ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT 10 11 Plaintiff sues (1) California State Prison-Los Angeles County 12 at Lancaster (“CSP-LAC”); 13 Warden 14 (5) Correctional Officer Cortez; and (6) “Medical Staff & Mental 15 Health Worker & Doctors.” 16 whether he is attempting to sue the individual defendants in their 17 individual or official capacity. Lewandowski; (2) (4) Warden Asuncion2; Correctional (Compl. at 1). (3) Officer Associate Jones; Plaintiff does not state 18 19 20 21 22 23 The Complaint is captioned as a “Declaration of Sumpter L. Porter” and is signed by Plaintiff under penalty of perjury. A magistrate judge may dismiss a complaint with leave to amend without the approval of a district judge. See McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). 1 The Complaint identifies the Warden’s last name as “Suncion.” The Court takes judicial notice that Debbie Asuncion is the Warden of CSP-LAC, as reflected on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) website, and will refer to her by that name. See LAC.html; see also In re Yahoo Mail Litig., 7 F. Supp. 3d 1016, 1024 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (court may take judicial notice of information on “publicly accessible websites” not subject to reasonable dispute). 2 24 25 26 27 28 (Id. 2 1 at 1-3 (continuous 2 exhibits the declarations of five other CSP-LAC inmates who state, 3 also under penalty of perjury, that the statements in Plaintiff’s 4 declaration are “true and correct,” (id. at 4-8), and several 5 documents, 6 request forms, inventory sheets, and an Administrative Segregation 7 Unit (“Ad Seg”) Placement Notice. including pagination)). prison The grievances, Complaint health attaches care as services (Id. at 9-24). 8 9 Although very brief, the Complaint is not entirely clear. 10 Plaintiff appears to allege that he was placed in Ad Seg on October 11 10, 2017. (Id. at 2). On December 6, 2017, Plaintiff was assaulted 12 by unidentified “prison guards” and wrongfully placed on suicide 13 watch by “medical staff” for a 24-hour hold. 14 Plaintiff was on suicide watch, property was taken from his cell 15 but was not inventoried. (Id. at 2-3). When Plaintiff was released 16 from suicide watch and returned to his cell, he noticed that a 17 number of items were missing.3 18 \\ 19 \\ 20 \\ 21 \\ (Id.). While (Id. at 3). 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Plaintiff does not identify what the missing property was in the body of the Complaint, but a grievance dated December 11, 2017 attached as an exhibit to the Complaint states that the “stolen property” includes, among other things, an address book, headphones, legal work, prayer oil, glasses, two bags of coffee, two bars of soap, two deodorants, one toothpaste, thirty stamps, a canteen worth 25 dollars, and a full set of dentures. (Id. at 11). The same grievance also appears to complain that when Plaintiff was taken to suicide watch, staff broke his prayer beads, cut off his “thermal top and bottom,” and removed his knee brace. (Id.). 3 3 1 III. 2 DISCUSSION 3 4 Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the 5 Complaint due to pleading defects. 6 a pro se litigant leave to amend his defective complaint unless 7 “it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint 8 could not be cured by amendment.” Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 9 1212 and (9th Cir. 2012) (citation However, the Court must grant internal quotation marks 10 omitted). For the reasons discussed below, it is not “absolutely 11 clear” that at least some of the defects of Plaintiff’s Complaint 12 could not be cured by amendment. 13 DISMISSED with leave to amend. The Complaint is therefore 14 15 A. The Complaint Violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 16 17 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a 18 complaint contain “‘a short and plain statement of the claim 19 showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,’ in order to ‘give 20 the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the 21 grounds upon which it rests.’” 22 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)). 23 may be violated when a pleading “says too little,” and “when a 24 pleading says too much.” 25 Cir. 2013) (emphasis in original). 26 little. 27 \\ 28 \\ Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, Rule 8 Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106, 1108 (9th 4 Here, the Complaint says too 1 To state a claim under § 1983, “a plaintiff must allege the 2 violation of a right secured by the Constitution . . . committed 3 by a person acting under color of state law.” 4 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The Complaint violates Rule 8 because Plaintiff 5 does not clearly identify the nature of each of the legal claims 6 he is bringing, the specific facts giving rise to each claim, or 7 the specific Defendant or Defendants against whom each claim is 8 brought. 9 respond to the Complaint. West v. Atkins, 487 Without more specific information, Defendants cannot See Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. 10 Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1058 (9th Cir. 2011) (a 11 complaint violates Rule 8 if a defendant would have difficulty 12 understanding and responding to the complaint). 13 14 Moreover, because Plaintiff’s verification of his Complaint 15 under oath is sufficient to attest to the truth of the matters 16 asserted, the declarations by other inmates are unnecessary. 17 addition, because Plaintiff is not required to provide evidence 18 supporting his claims at this stage of the litigation, the exhibits 19 attached to the Complaint are similarly unnecessary. 20 Complaint must state what relief Plaintiff is seeking by this 21 action. 22 amend. In Finally, the Accordingly, the Complaint is dismissed, with leave to 23 24 B. CSP-LAC Is An Improper Defendant 25 26 The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for money damages against 27 states and their agencies under section 1983. 28 496 U.S. 356, 365 (1990); Brown v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr., 554 F.3d 5 See Howlett v. Rose, 1 747, 752 (9th Cir. 2009) (“California has not waived its Eleventh 2 Amendment immunity with respect to claims brought under § 1983 in 3 federal court.”); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 4 1989) (dismissal of civil rights action “as to the Department of 5 Prisons was proper” because “[t]he Nevada Department of Prisons, 6 as a state agency, clearly was immune from suit under the Eleventh 7 Amendment”). 8 to Eleventh Amendment immunity and CSP-LAC is an improper Defendant 9 in this suit. Because the CDCR is a state agency, it is entitled However, a plaintiff may seek monetary damages under 10 section 1983 from state employees in their individual capacity. 11 See Adler v. Lewis, 675 F.2d 1085, 1098 (9th Cir. 1982) (“State 12 officials must be sued in their individual capacity in an action 13 for monetary damages.”). 14 15 16 C. Plaintiff Fails To State A Claim Against The Individual Defendants 17 18 To establish a civil rights violation, a plaintiff must show 19 either the defendant’s direct, personal participation in the 20 constitutional violation, or some sufficient causal connection 21 between the defendant’s conduct and the alleged violation. 22 Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-06 (9th Cir. 2011). See 23 24 1. The Warden And Associate Warden 25 26 Government officials may not be held liable under section 1983 27 simply because 28 conduct. their subordinates engaged in unconstitutional See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). 6 Where 1 a plaintiff names a supervisor as a defendant but does not allege 2 that the supervisor directly participated in the constitutional 3 violation, a “sufficient causal connection” to the violation may 4 be shown where the supervisor “set ‘in motion a series of acts by 5 others, or knowingly refused to terminate [such acts], which he 6 knew or reasonably should have known, would cause others to inflict 7 the constitutional injury.’” 8 903, 907 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Larez v. City of Los Angeles, 9 946 F.2d 630, 646 (9th Cir. 1991)); see also Preschooler II v. 10 Clark County Bd. of Trustees, 479 F.3d 1175, 1183 (9th Cir. 2007) 11 (a supervisor may be held accountable only “for his own culpable 12 action or inaction in the training, supervision, or control of his 13 subordinates, 14 deprivations of which the complaint is made, or for conduct that 15 showed 16 others”). a for reckless his or Levine v. City of Alameda, 525 F.3d acquiescence callous in the indifference to constitutional the rights of 17 18 Plaintiff names the Warden and Associate Warden as Defendants, 19 but the Complaint does not include any allegation stating what 20 Plaintiff 21 constitutional right that was violated by their purported actions. 22 The Warden and Associate Warden are not liable under section 1983 23 simply because they run CSP-LAC and Plaintiff believes that someone 24 at the prison violated his rights. 25 against the Warden and Associate Warden are dismissed, with leave 26 to amend. 27 claims without a legal and factual basis. believes they did or did not do, or identify any Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims Plaintiff is expressly cautioned that he must not allege 28 7 1 2. Correctional Officers Jones And Cortez 2 3 The caption of the Complaint names Correctional Officers Jones 4 and Cortez as Defendants. However, there are no factual 5 allegations in the body of the Complaint stating what Plaintiff 6 believes Jones and Cortez did (or did not do), or explaining why 7 their actions violated his civil rights. 8 allegations, Plaintiff has not plausibly pled that these Defendants 9 were personally involved in violating his rights or that their 10 actions had any causal connection to the purported constitutional 11 violations. 12 Cortez are dismissed with leave to amend. Without more specific Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims against Jones and 13 14 3. Unnamed Health Care Providers 15 16 Plaintiff also sues “Medical Staff & Mental Health Worker & 17 Doctor,” none of whom he identifies by name. 18 not favor actions against “unknown” defendants. 19 Thompson, 177 F.3d 1160, 1163 (9th Cir. 1999). However, a plaintiff 20 may 21 defendants is not known before filing the complaint. 22 Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). 23 a court gives the plaintiff “the opportunity through discovery to 24 identify unknown defendants, unless it is clear that discovery 25 would not uncover the identities.” Id. A plaintiff must diligently 26 pursue discovery to learn the identity of unnamed defendants. sue unnamed defendants when 27 28 8 the Generally, courts do identity Wakefield v. of the alleged Gillespie v. If that is the case, 1 Here, however, the claims against the unnamed Defendants must 2 be dismissed because the Complaint fails to state what each of 3 these 4 Plaintiff’s rights. 5 Defendant, Plaintiff must identify each Doe Defendant as “Doe No. 6 1, Doe No. 2,” etc., in the body of the Complaint and show how each 7 Defendant individually participated in the alleged constitutional 8 violations, whether or not Plaintiff knows the Defendant’s name. 9 Accordingly, the Complaint must be dismissed, with leave to amend. Defendants did in their individual capacity to violate To state a claim against more than one unnamed 10 11 12 D. Plaintiff Fails To State A Claim Relating To His Placement On Suicide Watch 13 14 As noted above, the Complaint attempts to sue various unnamed 15 health care providers and alleges that medical staff “made the 16 wrong call” by placing him on suicide watch. 17 is unclear whether Plaintiff is attempting to allege that that his 18 24-hour 19 Amendment due process rights or his Eighth Amendment right to be 20 free from cruel and unusual punishment. 21 constitutional basis, these claims fail. placement on suicide watch (Compl. at 2). violated his It Fourteenth Whatever the intended 22 23 1. Fourteenth Amendment 24 25 The Due Process Clause protects prisoners from deprivation of 26 life, liberty or property without due process of law. Serra v. 27 Lappin, 600 F.3d 1191, 1196 (9th Cir. 2010); Wolff v. McDonnell, 28 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). However, “lawfully incarcerated persons 9 1 retain only a narrow range of protected liberty interests.” Hewitt 2 v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 467 (1983). “‘[A]s long as the conditions 3 or degree of confinement to which the prisoner is subjected is 4 within the sentence imposed upon him and is not otherwise violative 5 of the Constitution, the Due Process Clause does not in itself 6 subject an inmate’s treatment by prison authorities to judicial 7 oversight.’” 8 2013) (quoting Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 242 (1976)). Chappell v. Mandeville, 706 F.3d 1052, 1063 (9th Cir. 9 10 The Due Process clause does not directly confer a liberty 11 interest in 12 conditions. 13 Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 224–25 (1976)); Anderson v. County 14 of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1315 (9th Cir. 1995) (“[T]here is no liberty 15 interest in remaining in the general population.”). 16 inmate 17 confinement “imposes an atypical and significant hardship . . . in 18 relation to the ordinary incidents of prisoner life.” 19 Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995); Chappell, 706 F.3d at 1064 20 (quoting same). may avoiding a transfer to more adverse confinement Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005) (citing possess a state-created liberty However, an interest when his Sandin v. 21 22 To determine whether 23 significant 24 challenged 25 inmates in administrative segregation and protective custody,’ and 26 thus comported with the prison’s discretionary authority; 2) the 27 duration of the condition, and the degree of restraint imposed; 28 and 3) whether the state’s action will invariably affect the hardship, condition the a restraint court ‘mirrored considers those 10 is an atypical and “1) whether the conditions imposed upon 1 duration of the prisoner’s sentence.” 2 850, 861 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Sandin, 515 U.S. at 486-87). 3 example, the Supreme Court has determined that while “[m]any of 4 the restrictions on a prisoner’s freedom of action [at a mental 5 health care facility] might not constitute the deprivation of a 6 liberty interest retained by a prisoner, . . . the stigmatizing 7 consequences of a transfer to a mental hospital for involuntary 8 psychiatric treatment, coupled with the subjection of the prisoner 9 to mandatory behavior modification treatment for mental illness, 10 constitute the kind of 11 procedural protections.” Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d deprivations of liberty that For requires Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 494 (1980). 12 13 To the extent that Plaintiff is attempting to assert a due 14 process claim arising from his 24-hour placement on suicide watch, 15 the claim fails. 16 were while he was on suicide watch, how the conditions differed 17 from the general population, why they constituted an “atypical and 18 significant hardship,” and whether he was subjected to mandatory, 19 involuntary treatment while under observation. 20 Complaint must be dismissed, with leave to amend. 21 Sherman, 2017 WL 1549937, at *6 (E.D. Cal. May 1, 2017); (prisoner- 22 plaintiff’s allegation that he was “placed on a 24-hour suicide 23 watch 24 requirements necessary to state a conditions of confinement claim 25 under 26 1342368, at *8 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 5, 2010) (plaintiff failed to state 27 due process claim arising from placement on suicide watch where he 28 did not describe the conditions at the medical facility or explain without the Due Plaintiff does not explain what the conditions blankets Process or clothes Clause”); 11 does Jacobs not v. Accordingly, the See Trujillo v. meet the Sullivan, extreme 2010 WL 1 how being placed on suicide watch was an atypical and significant 2 hardship). 3 4 2. Eighth Amendment 5 6 It is also possible that Plaintiff may be attempting to claim 7 that his placement on suicide watch constituted cruel and unusual 8 punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. 9 suffering on prisoners that is “totally Infliction of without penological 10 justification” violates the Eighth Amendment. 11 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981). 12 infliction of pain . . . constitutes cruel and unusual punishment 13 forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.” 14 312, 319 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 15 The punishment must constitute “shocking and barbarous treatment.” 16 Grummett v. Rushen, 779 F.2d 491, 494 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985). Only Rhodes v. Chapman, “the unnecessary and wanton Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 17 18 The Complaint vaguely alleges that Plaintiff’s placement on 19 suicide watch caused “harm and pain,” but fails to describe what 20 that harm and pain were, or explain why the placement constituted 21 shocking and barbarous treatment. Accordingly, the Complaint fails 22 to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, and must be dismissed, 23 with leave to amend. 24 \\ 25 \\ 26 \\ 27 \\ 28 \\ 12 1 IV. 2 CONCLUSION 3 4 For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is dismissed with 5 leave to amend. If Plaintiff still wishes to pursue this action, 6 he is granted thirty (30) days from the date of this Memorandum 7 and Order within which to file a First Amended Complaint. 8 amended complaint, the Plaintiff shall cure the defects described 9 above. Plaintiff shall not include new defendants In any or new 10 allegations that are not reasonably related to the claims asserted 11 in the original complaint. 12 shall be complete in itself and shall bear both the designation 13 “First Amended Complaint” and the case number assigned to this 14 action. 15 complaint in this matter. The First Amended Complaint, if any, It shall not refer in any manner to any previously filed 16 17 In any amended complaint, Plaintiff should confine his 18 allegations to those operative facts supporting each of his claims. 19 Plaintiff 20 Procedure 8(a), all that is required is a “short and plain statement 21 of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” 22 Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to utilize the standard civil 23 rights complaint form when filing any amended complaint, a copy of 24 which is attached. 25 identify the nature of each separate legal claim and make clear 26 what specific factual allegations support each of his separate 27 claims. 28 concise and to omit irrelevant details. is advised that pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil In any amended complaint, Plaintiff should Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to keep his statements 13 It is not necessary for 1 Plaintiff to cite case law, include legal argument, or attach 2 exhibits at this stage of the litigation. Plaintiff is also advised 3 to omit any claims for which he lacks a sufficient factual basis. 4 5 Plaintiff is explicitly cautioned that failure to timely file 6 a First Amended Complaint or failure to correct the deficiencies 7 described above, will result in a recommendation that this action 8 be dismissed with prejudice for failure to prosecute and obey court 9 orders pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). 10 Plaintiff is further advised that if he no longer wishes to pursue 11 this action, he may 12 Dismissal in accordance 13 41(a)(1). A form Notice of Dismissal is attached for Plaintiff’s 14 convenience. voluntarily dismiss it by filing a Notice of with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 16 DATED: March 13, 2018 /S/ __________ SUZANNE H. SEGAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 14

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