Fred Erin Dennison v. Sheriff John McMahon

Filing 4

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Dismissing Complaint with Leave to Amend by Magistrate Judge John D. Early. The Complaint as currently alleged fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and is subject to dismissal. Because it appears that the defic iency can be cured by amendment, dismissal will be with leave to amend. Accordingly, if Plaintiff still desires to pursue his claim, he must file a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order, remedying the deficiency discussed. Plaintiff is admonished that if he fails to timely file a timely FAC this action may be dismissed with prejudice for failure to diligently prosecute and for the reasons discussed in this Order. (Attachments: # 1 blank First Amended Complaint form, # 2 blank Dismissal form) (ig)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 EASTERN DIVISION 11 FRED ERIN DENNISON, Plaintiff, 12 13 14 15 16 Case No. EDCV 17-02032-PSG (JDE) MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DIMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND v. SHERIFF JOHN McMAHON, Defendants. 17 18 I. 19 BACKGROUND 20 On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff Fred Erin Dennison (“Plaintiff”), who is 21 apparently in pre-trial detention at the West Valley Detention Center located in 22 Rancho Cucamonga, California (the “Jail”), filed this pro se civil rights action 23 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983). Dkt. 1 (“Complaint”). The 24 Complaint alleges that Plaintiff’s cell lacked a functioning light fixture for 25 more than 50 days, and as a result, Plaintiff, who is representing himself on 26 state court charges and has documented vision problems, has been forced to 27 delay his criminal case. See Complaint at p. 5 (CM/ECF pagination). Plaintiff 28 alleges that defendant Sheriff John McMahon (“Defendant McMahon”) was 1 personally aware of the problem and “refused to have Jail staff repair [the] cell 2 light even though [Plaintiff] informed him that [Plaintiff is] a certified pro per 3 inmate and . . . [has] serious vision problems.” Id. Plaintiff sues Defendant 4 McMahon solely in his “official capacity.” Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff seeks 5 “monetary compensation” as a result of the alleged civil rights violation. Id. at 6 p. 6. 7 In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court must 8 screen the Complaint to determine whether the action is frivolous or malicious, 9 fails to state a claim on which relief might be granted, or seeks money damages 10 against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 11 II. 12 STANDARD OF REVIEW 13 A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a 14 claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient 15 facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 16 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether the complaint states 17 a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be 18 taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Love v. 19 United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Further, since Plaintiff is 20 appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the complaint 21 liberally and afford him the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los 22 Angeles Police Dep’t, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, “the liberal 23 pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff’s factual allegations.” Neitzke 24 v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). “[A] liberal interpretation of a civil 25 rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not 26 initially pled.” Bruns v. Nat’l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th 27 Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). 28 Moreover, with respect to Plaintiff’s pleading burden, the Supreme Court has 2 1 held that “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to 2 relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of 3 the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be 4 enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the 5 assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in 6 fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations 7 omitted, alteration in original); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 8 (2009) (to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must 9 contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that 10 is plausible on its face.’ A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads 11 factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the 12 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” (internal citation omitted)). 13 If the Court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state 14 a claim, the Court has discretion to dismiss with or without leave to amend. 15 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Leave to 16 amend should be granted if it appears possible that the defects in the complaint 17 could be corrected, especially if a plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also 18 Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting that “[a] pro 19 se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint, and some notice 20 of its deficiencies, unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the 21 complaint could not be cured by amendment”) (citing Noll v. Carlson, 809 22 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987)). However, if, after careful consideration, it is 23 clear that a complaint cannot be cured by amendment, the Court may dismiss 24 without leave to amend. Cato, 70 F.3d at 1105-06; see, e.g., Chaset v. 25 Fleer/Skybox Int’l, 300 F.3d 1083, 1088 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that “there is 26 no need to prolong the litigation by permitting further amendment” where the 27 “basic flaw” in the pleading cannot be cured by amendment); Lipton v. 28 Pathogenesis Corp., 284 F.3d 1027, 1039 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that 3 1 “[b]ecause any amendment would be futile, there was no need to prolong the 2 litigation by permitting further amendment.”). 3 III. 4 DISCUSSION 5 Section 1983 provides a method by which individuals can sue for 6 violations of their federal rights. Cortez v. County of Los Angeles, 294 F.3d 7 1186, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must 8 allege that the violation was committed by a “person” acting under the color of 9 State law. Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). The 10 other requisite element is that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the 11 United States was violated. Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 12 1185 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)). 13 An “official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated 14 as a suit against the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); 15 see also Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985); Larez v. City of Los 16 Angeles, 946 F.2d 630, 646 (9th Cir. 1991). Such a suit “is not a suit against 17 the official personally, for the real party in interest is the entity.” Graham, 18 473 U.S. at 166 (emphasis in original). 19 In Payne v. McDermott, 683 F. App’x 643, 645 (9th Cir. 2017), the 20 Ninth Circuit affirmed a summary judgment of an official capacity claim 21 against a sheriff-jailer by a pretrial detainee, finding that the official capacity 22 suit was in reality an action against the government entity, and the plaintiff 23 had not demonstrated that the challenged conduct resulted from a government 24 policy or practice. Id. (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 25 (1978) (municipalities are liable for violations of civil rights under Section 1983 26 if violations result from the execution of a government's policy or custom)). 27 Based upon the foregoing authorities, Plaintiff’s claims against 28 Defendant McMahon in his official capacity is properly treated as a claim 4 1 against the government entity he represents. Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient 2 facts to state a claim for municipality liability under Monell; as a result, the 3 Complaint, as it alleges only an official capacity suit against Defendant 4 McMahon, fails to state a claim and is subject to dismissal. 5 With respect to whether the Complaint otherwise substantively states a 6 claim, the Court notes that the Ninth Circuit has held that “[a]dequate lighting 7 is one of the fundamental attributes of ‘adequate shelter’ required by the Eighth 8 Amendment.” Hoptowit v. Spellman, 753 F.2d 779, 784 (9th Cir. 1985). 9 Although a pretrial detainee’s claim for unconstitutional conditions of 10 confinement are analyzed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth 11 Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment, the same standards apply. 12 Simmons v. Navajo County, 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010). 13 IV. 14 CONCLUSION 15 The Complaint as currently alleged fails to state a claim upon which 16 relief may be granted and is subject to dismissal. Because it appears that the 17 deficiency can be cured by amendment, dismissal will be with leave to amend. 18 Accordingly, if Plaintiff still desires to pursue his claim, he must file a 19 First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) within thirty (30) days of the date of this 20 Order, remedying the deficiency discussed above. Specifically, if Plaintiff 21 wishes to pursue a claim for damages against Defendant John McMahon 22 individually, he must specify that the action is brought against the defendant in 23 his individual capacity. 24 The FAC should bear the docket number assigned in this case; be labeled 25 “First Amended Complaint”; and be complete in and of itself without 26 reference to the prior complaints or any other pleading, attachment or 27 document. The Clerk is directed to send Plaintiff a blank Central District civil 28 rights complaint form, which Plaintiff is encouraged to use. In the event 5 1 Plaintiff no longer wishes to pursue this action, the Clerk is also directed to 2 send Plaintiff a blank Central District Request for Dismissal form, which 3 Plaintiff may use to dismiss the action if he wishes. 4 Plaintiff is admonished that if he fails to timely file a timely FAC this 5 action may be dismissed with prejudice for failure to diligently prosecute 6 and for the reasons discussed in this Order. 7 8 Dated: October 18, 2017 __ 9 10 ______________________________ JOHN D. EARLY United States Magistrate Judge 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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