Rocha v. Merced County Sheriff's Department

Filing 8

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT And Granting Plaintiff LEAVE To File An AMENDED Complaint, Amended Complaint Due In Thirty Days, signed by Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin on 11/4/2014. First Amended Complaint due by 12/8/2014. (Fahrney, E)

Download PDF
1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 2 3 4 5 6 7 JASON J. ROCHA, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 Case No. 1:13 cv 01047 GSA PC vs. MERCED CO. SHERFIFF‟S DEPT., et al., ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT Defendants 11 AMENDED COMPLAINT DUE IN THIRTY DAYS 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 I. Screening Requirement Plaintiff is a former Merced County Jail inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).1 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a 19 governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). 20 The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are 21 legally “frivolous or malicious,” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or 22 that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. 23 § 1915A(b)(1),(2). “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been 24 paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or 25 26 27 1 28 Plaintiff filed a consent to proceed before a magistrate judge on July 29, 2013 (ECF No. 5). 1 1 2 appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 3 “Rule 8(a)‟s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited 4 exceptions,” none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 5 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain “a 6 short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. 7 Civ. P. 8(a). “Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff‟s 8 claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, “the 9 liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff‟s factual allegations.” Neitze v. Williams, 10 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). “[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not 11 supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled.” Bruns v. Nat‟l Credit Union 12 Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 13 (9th Cir. 1982)). 14 II. 15 Plaintiff’s Claims Plaintiff, currently an inmate in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail, brings this civil 16 rights action against the Merced County Sheriff‟s Department and Does 1-10. This lawsuit 17 stems from events that occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the Merced County Jail.2 Plaintiff 18 sets forth claims of deliberate indifference, racial discrimination and deprivation of personal 19 property. 20 Plaintiff alleges that, at some point, he was housed in a dormitory type housing area. The 21 housing area was equipped with a panic button that was used to summon emergency assistance. 22 Plaintiff alleges that he was the target of a “group assault.” Some time between the start of the 23 24 25 2 26 27 28 Plaintiff does not indicate whether he was a pretrial detainee or serving a sentence of confinement while housed at the Merced County Jail. Because Plaintiff claims deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the Court will presume he was serving a sentence of confinement pursuant to a judgment of conviction. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff shall inform the Court of his status while housed at the Merced County Jail. 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 assault and Plaintiff‟s loss of consciousness, he pushed the button. There was no response. Jail staff heard the noise, and deputies responded. Plaintiff was taken to medical and treated. Approximately seven hours later, Plaintiff was returned to the same unit. Plaintiff advised the deputies that the same inmates that attacked him were in there. Plaintiff, who is white, was attacked by black and hispanic inmates. Plaintiff also lost items of his personal property when we was removed from the unit for medical assistance. Plaintiff later learned that the panic alarm did not work. A. Deliberate Indifference The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates, which has been interpreted to include a duty to protect prisoners. 11 Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994); Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th 12 Cir. 2005). A prisoner seeking relief for an Eighth Amendment violation must show that the 13 officials acted with deliberate indifference to the threat of serious harm or injury to an inmate. 14 Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002). “Deliberate indifference” has 15 both subjective and objective components. A prison official must “be aware of facts from which 16 the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists and . . . must also draw 17 the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Liability may follow only if a prison official “knows 18 that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take 19 reasonable measures to abate it.” Id. at 847. 20 Here, Plaintiff fails to allege facts from which an inference could be drawn that any of the 21 named defendants knew of a specific harm to Plaintiff and disregarded that harm. To state a 22 claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant acted under color of state 23 law and (2) the defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. 24 Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). “A person deprives 25 another of a constitutional right, where that person „does an affirmative act, participates in 26 another‟s affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally required to do 27 that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.‟” Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 988 28 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). “[T]he „requisite causal connection can be established not only by some kind of direct, personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion a series of acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.‟” Id. (quoting Johnson at 743-44). Plaintiff has not specifically identified any individual defendant, nor has Plaintiff alleged any facts indicating that any individual knew of and disregarded a risk to Plaintiff‟s safety. Plaintiff has not alleged any facts to support an allegation that any individual defendant knew before the attack that Plaintiff faced any danger. Nor has Plaintiff alleged any facts, other than differing racial ethnicities, to suggest that housing Plaintiff in a unit with inmates of other races placed him in particular danger. In order to hold individual defendant liable, Plaintiff must allege facts indicating that each defendant was aware of a specific harm to 12 Plaintiff, and acted with deliberate indifference to that harm. Plaintiff has failed to do so here. 13 The complaint should therefore be dismissed. Plaintiff will, however, be granted leave to file an 14 amended complaint. 15 Plaintiff need not, however, set forth legal arguments in support of his claims. In order to 16 hold an individual defendant liable, Plaintiff must name the individual defendant, describe where 17 that defendant is employed and in what capacity, and explain how that defendant acted under 18 color of state law. Plaintiff should state clearly, in his or her own words, what happened. 19 Plaintiff must describe what each defendant, by name, did to violate the particular right described 20 by Plaintiff. Plaintiff has failed to do so here. 21 B. 22 The Equal Protection Clause requires that persons who are similarly situated be treated Racial Discrimination 23 alike. City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985); Shakur v. 24 Schiriro, 514 F.3d 878, 891 (9th Cir. 2008). A plaintiff may establish an equal protection claim 25 by showing that the plaintiff was intentionally discriminated against on the basis of plaintiff‟s 26 membership in a protected class. Comm. Concerning Cmty. Improvement v. City of Modesto, 27 583 F.3d 960, 702-03 (9th Cir. 2009); Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1082 (9th Cir. 2003), or 28 4 1 2 3 that similarly situated individuals were intentionally treated differently without a rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose, Engquist v. Oregon Dept. of Agr., 553 U.S. 591, 60102 (2008); Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000); Lazy Y Ranch Ltd. v. 4 Behrens, 546 F.3d 580, 592 (9th Cir. 2008); North Pacifica LLC v. City of Pacifica, 526 F.3d 478, 5 486 (9th Cir. 2008). 6 7 individual were treated differently without a rational relationship to a legitimate state interest, or that he was a member of a protected class. This claim should therefore be dismissed. 8 C. 9 10 11 Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts indicating that similarly situated Property Prisoners have a protected interest in their personal property. Hansen v. May, 502 F.2d 728, 730 (9th Cir. 1974). However, while an authorized, intentional deprivation of property is actionable under the Due Process Clause, see Hudson v. Palmer,468 U.S. 517, 532, n.13 12 (1984)(citing Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 435-36 (1982)); Quick v. Jones, 754 13 F.2d 1521, 1524 (9th Cir. 1985), “[a]n unauthorized intentional deprivation of property by a state 14 employee does not constitute a violation of the procedural requirements of the Due Process 15 Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a meaningful post-deprivation remedy for the loss is 16 available.” Hudson, 468 U.S. at 533. 17 Here, the allegations clearly indicate that the deprivation of property was unauthorized. 18 California law provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy for any property deprivations. See 19 Ca. Gov‟t Code §§ 810-895; Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816-17 (9th Cir. 1994). This claim 20 should therefore be dismissed. 21 III. 22 Conclusion and Order The Court has screened Plaintiff‟s complaint and finds that it does not state any claims 23 upon which relief may be granted under section 1983. The Court will provide Plaintiff with the 24 opportunity to file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this 25 order. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff is cautioned that he 26 may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended 27 complaint. George, 507 F.3d at 607 (no “buckshot” complaints). 28 5 1 2 Plaintiff‟s amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff‟s constitutional or other federal 3 rights, Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 987-88. Although accepted as true, the “[f]actual allegations must 4 be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. 5 6 7 Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554 (2007) (citations omitted). Finally, Plaintiff is advised that an amended complaint supercedes the original complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 8 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be “complete in itself without reference to the prior or superceded 9 pleading,” Local Rule 15-220. Plaintiff is warned that “[a]ll causes of action alleged in an 10 11 12 original complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived.” King, 814 F.2d at 567 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth, 114 F.3d at 1474. 13 Accordingly, based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that: 14 1. 15 Plaintiff‟s complaint is dismissed, with leave to amend, for failure to state a claim; 16 2. The Clerk‟s Office shall send to Plaintiff a complaint form; 17 3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file 18 19 an amended complaint; 4. Plaintiff may not add any new, unrelated claims to this action via his amended 20 complaint and any attempt to do so will result in an order striking the amended 21 complaint; and 22 23 5. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint, the Court will dismiss this action, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim. 24 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 27 28 Dated: /s/ Gary S. Austin 6 November 4, 2014 1 2 UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?