Manuel Reyna Chavez v. County Jail of San Bernardino et al
ORDER DISMISSING SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND by Magistrate Judge Kenly Kiya Kato, re Amended Complaint 18 Within 14 days of the date of this order, or by April 22, 2015, Plaintiff may file a Third Amended Complaint to attempt to cure the deficiencies discussed above. The Clerk of Court is directed to mail Plaintiff a blank Central District civil rights complaint form to use for filing the ThirdAmended Complaint, and a copy of Plaintiffs deficient Second Amended Complaint. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Rights Form, # 2 2nd Amended Complaint) (dts)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
11 MANUEL REYNA CHAVEZ,
Case No. EDCV 14-02378-MMM (KK)
ORDER DISMISSING SECOND
AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH
LEAVE TO AMEND
COUNTY JAIL OF SAN BERNARDINO)
This is a pro se inmate civil rights case. On April 7, 2015, Plaintiff Manuel
Reyna Chavez (“Plaintiff”) filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). For the
reasons that follow, the Court hereby orders it dismissed with leave to amend.
On November 18, 2014, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis,
lodged a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Complaint”). ECF
1-1. The Complaint alleged Plaintiff was the victim of excessive force, in violation
of the Eighth Amendment, by three individual defendant San Bernardino Sheriff
Deputies – [FNU] Sanchez, [FNU] Reynoso, and [FNU] Ungureanu – while an
1 inmate at the West Valley Detention Center. Id. at 3-5. The Complaint also named
2 San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon, who was alleged to be “the head sheriff of
3 S.B.S.D. that’s accountable, liable, and responsible for these ‘3 deputies’ actions
4 and misconduct.” Id. at 3. The Complaint sued all four defendants in both their
5 individual and official capacities. Although not clear, the Complaint appeared to
6 also name the County Jail of San Bernardino as a defendant. On November 21,
7 2014, the Court dismissed the Complaint with leave to amend. ECF 2. Among
8 other things, the Court found the Complaint failed to state a claim against any entity
9 defendant or any defendant in his official capacity, and failed to state a claim
10 against Sheriff McMahon in his individual capacity, as well. Id. at 3-6. The Court,
11 however, ordered dismissal with leave to amend. Id. at 6-7.
On December 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint. ECF 8.
13 The First Amended Complaint named seven defendants: (1) the County of San
14 Bernardino, (2) San Bernardino County Jail, (3) the Head Sheriff of West Valley
15 Detention Center, (4) Captain Jeff Rose of the San Bernardino County Jail, (5)
16 Deputy Sanchez, (6) Deputy Reynoso, and (7) Deputy Ungureanu. Id. at 3-4. All
17 defendants were sued in both their individual and official capacities. Id. at 1-6. On
18 January 8, 2015, the Court dismissed the First Amended Complaint with leave to
19 amend. ECF 9. The Court found the First Amended Complaint failed to state
20 viable official capacity claims against the individual defendants and municipal
21 liability claims against the County of San Bernardino and San Bernardino County
22 Jail. Id. at 3-5. The Court also found Plaintiff failed to state viable individual
23 capacity claims against defendants Reynoso, Head Sheriff of West Valley Detention
24 Center, and Captain Jeff Rose. Id. at 5-6.
On April 7, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant SAC, again asserting the same
26 central Eighth Amendment claim. ECF 18. The SAC names three defendants: (1)
1 Deputy Ungureanu; (2) Deputy Reynoso; and (3) Deputy Sanchez. Id. at 3. As in
2 his prior complaints, Plaintiff checks boxes on the third page of the SAC indicating
3 he sues all three defendants in their individual and official capacities. Id.
While Plaintiff has addressed the First Amended Complaint’s deficiencies
5 with respect to defendants County of San Bernardino, San Bernardino County Jail,
6 Head Sheriff of West Valley Detention Center, and Captain Jeff Rose, the Court
7 finds the SAC is still subject to dismissal because of its failure to: (1) allege
8 plausible official capacity claims against all three named defendants; and (2) allege
9 a plausible individual capacity claim against defendant Reynoso. However,
10 dismissal will be with leave to amend.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 obligates the court to review
14 complaints filed by all persons proceeding in forma pauperis, and by all prisoners
15 seeking redress from government entities. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A.
16 Under these provisions, the court may sua sponte dismiss, “at any time,” any
17 prisoner civil rights action and all other in forma pauperis complaints that are
18 frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek damages from defendants who
19 are immune. Id., see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000)
20 (en banc).
The dismissal for failure to state a claim “can be based on the lack of a
22 cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable
23 legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.
24 1990). In making such a determination, a complaint’s allegations must be accepted
25 as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Love v. United
26 States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1990). Further, because Plaintiff is appearing
1 pro se, the court must construe the allegations of the complaint liberally and must
2 afford Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep’t, 839
3 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). But the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to
4 raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
5 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). Thus, a complaint must
6 contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at
7 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads enough factual
8 content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
9 liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct.
10 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009).
The Complaint Fails to State a Claim Against the Defendants in Their
In order to state a claim for a civil rights violation under 42 U.S.C. section
16 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a particular defendant, acting under color of state
17 law, deprived plaintiff of a right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution or a federal
18 statute. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S. Ct. 2250, 101
19 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1988).
Suits against governmental officers in their official capacities are subject to
21 the same requirements as Monell claims against local government entities. See
22 Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166, 105 S. Ct. 3099, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114 (1985)
23 (“[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit
24 against the entity of which an officer is an agent.”) (internal citation omitted); see
25 also Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Serv. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S. Ct.
26 2018, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978). Indeed, despite naming individual governmental
1 officials, “[o]fficial-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent only another way of
2 pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.’” Graham, 473
3 U.S. at 166 (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 691). Hence, as with claims against local
4 governments under Monell, to impose liability against officials acting in their
5 official capacity, “the entity’s ‘policy or custom’ must have played a part in the
6 violation of federal law.” Id. (internal citations omitted); Gibson v. Cnty. of
7 Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1185 (9th Cir. 2002) (describing “two routes” to municipal
8 liability: (1) where municipality’s official policy, regulation, or decision violated
9 plaintiff’s rights, or (2) alternatively where municipality failed to act under
10 circumstances showing its deliberate indifference to plaintiff’s rights). Under
11 certain circumstances, a single act, when carried out by a municipal “policymaker,”
12 may also give rise to Monell liability, even in the absence of a municipal policy or
13 custom. See Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483-84, 106 S. Ct. 1292,
14 89 L. Ed. 2d 452 (1986) (“[Section 1983] municipal liability may be imposed for a
15 single decision by municipal policymakers under appropriate circumstances.”).
An unwritten custom may give rise to Monell liability when it becomes “so
17 ‘persistent and widespread’ that it constitutes a ‘permanent and well settled
18 [municipal] policy.’” Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting
19 Monell, 436 U.S. at 691); see Thomas v. Baca, 514 F. Supp. 2d 1201, 1212 (C.D.
20 Cal. 2007) (“A custom is a ‘longstanding practice . . . which constitutes the standard
21 operating procedure of the local government entity.’”) (quoting Menotti v. City of
22 Seattle, 409 F.3d 1113, 1151 (9th Cir. 2005)). “Isolated or sporadic incidents” are
23 insufficient to establish an improper municipal custom. Trevino, 99 F.3d at 918
24 (“Liability for improper custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic
25 incidents; it must be founded upon practices of sufficient duration, frequency and
26 consistency that the conduct has become a traditional method of carrying out
1 policy.”) (internal citations omitted).
Here, the SAC has failed to correct the deficiencies identified by the Court in its
3 previous orders. Plaintiff has again failed to show the alleged misconduct by
4 defendants Ungureanu, Reynoso, and Sanchez was committed pursuant to any official
5 government policy or custom.
Rather, the alleged misconduct Plaintiff complains of
6 was committed by individual officers not acting pursuant to any identifiable
7 governmental policy or custom. Furthermore, Plaintiff does not allege that any of the
8 individual defendants was a municipal “policymaker,” such that a single act by such
9 officials would give rise to Monell liability. Because of the lack of an identifiable
10 policy or custom involved in the constitutional violation Plaintiff complains of,
11 Plaintiff fails to state a claim under Monell against the three individual defendants in
12 their official capacities.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s official capacity claims against the three defendants
14 must be dismissed. If Plaintiff wishes to proceed against any of these defendants in
15 their official capacities, he must (1) specify an unconstitutional policy or custom, (2)
16 allege facts supporting the existence of that policy or custom, and (3) explain how that
17 policy or custom was the “moving force” behind his injury. Alternatively, Plaintiff
18 may simply not check the boxes on the third page of his complaint labeled “official
19 capacity” and proceed solely on his individual capacity claims against the three
The SAC Fails to State a Claim Against Deputy Reynoso in His Individual
The SAC alleges Deputy Reynoso is liable for civil rights violations because he
24 “threatened” Plaintiff’s life by stating “if [Plaintiff] didn’t shut the F— up! He was
25 going to push [Plaintiff’s] glasses into [his] face” and the “glasses are going to become
26 [Plaintiff]s eyeballs.” SAC at 3. As the Court noted when dismissing Plaintiff’s First
1 Amended Complaint, allegations of verbal harassment and embarrassment fail to state
2 a cognizable claim under section 1983. Rutledge v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 660 F.2d
3 1345, 1353 (9th Cir. 1981). Allegations of mere threats are also not cognizable under
4 section 1983. See Gaut v. Sunn, 810 F.2d 923, 925 (9th Cir. 1987). Thus, the SAC
5 fails to state a claim against Deputy Reynoso in his individual capacity.
If Plaintiff wishes to proceed against defendant Reynoso, he must allege facts
7 showing Reynoso’s involvement in a constitutional violation. Alternatively, Plaintiff
8 may simply omit Reynoso from any future amended complaint.
LEAVE TO FILE A THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT
For the foregoing reasons, the SAC is subject to dismissal. As the court is
12 unable to determine whether amendment would be futile, leave to amend is granted.
13 See Lucas v. Dep’t of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam).
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED THAT:
Within 14 days of the date of this order, or by April 22, 2015, Plaintiff
may file a Third Amended Complaint to attempt to cure the deficiencies
discussed above. The Clerk of Court is directed to mail Plaintiff a blank
Central District civil rights complaint form to use for filing the Third
Amended Complaint, and a copy of Plaintiff’s deficient Second Amended
If Plaintiff chooses to file a Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff must
clearly designate on the face of the document that it is the “Third
Amended Complaint,” it must bear the docket number assigned to this
case, and it must be retyped or rewritten in its entirety, preferably on the
court-approved form. The Third Amended Complaint must be complete
in and of itself, without reference to the original complaint or any other
pleading, attachment or document.
An amended complaint supersedes the preceding complaint. Ferdik v. Bonzelet,
3 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). After amendment, the court will treat all
4 preceding complaints as nonexistent. Id. Because the court grants Plaintiff leave to
5 amend as to all his claims raised here, any claim that was raised in a preceding
6 complaint is waived if it is not raised again in the Third Amended Complaint. Lacey
7 v. Maricopa Cnty., 693 F.3d 896, 928 (9th Cir. 2012).
Because any Third Amended Complaint will be plaintiff’s third opportunity to
9 amend his complaint to rectify pleading deficiencies, the Court advises plaintiff that
10 it will not be disposed toward another dismissal without prejudice and with leave to
11 amend. “[A] district court’s discretion over amendments is especially broad ‘where
12 the court has already given a plaintiff one or more opportunities to amend his
13 complaint.’” Ismail v. County of Orange, 917 F. Supp. 2d 1060, 1066 (C.D. Cal. 2012)
14 (Valerie Baker Fairbank, J.) (quoting DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183,
15 186 n.3 (9th Cir. 1987)); see also Zavala v. Bartnik, 348 F. App’x 211, 213 (9th Cir.
16 2009) (“Dismissal with prejudice was proper because Zavala was given two prior
17 opportunities to amend his complaint in order to correct the deficiencies identified by
18 the district court but failed to do so.”).
Plaintiff is admonished he has failed to remedy the deficiencies identified
2 by the Court in its Order dismissing his First Amended Complaint. If Plaintiff
3 again fails to comply with the Court’s instructions, the Court may recommend
4 this action be dismissed with prejudice.
8 DATED: April 8, 2015
HON. KENLY KIYA KATO
United States Magistrate Judge
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