Washington v. Fresno County Sheriff et al

Filing 6

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS Recommending Dismissal Without Leave to Amend re 1 signed by Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin on 6/24/2015. Objections to F&R due by 7/27/2015. (Martinez, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 ANTHONIA WASHINGTON, 11 Plaintiff, 12 v. 13 14 FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF; and FRESNO COUNTY JAIL, 15 Case No. 1:15-cv-00854-LJO-GSA FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND (ECF No. 1) Defendants. 16 17 18 19 20 I. INTRODUCTION Plaintiff Anthonia Washington (“Plaintiff”), appearing pro se, filed a Complaint (the “Complaint”) on June 5, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Fresno County Jail and Sheriff (“Defendants”), who are currently holding 21 22 Plaintiff’s brother, Perry Washington. Id. This Complaint follows the dismissal of Plaintiff from 23 Perry Washington et al. v. Fresno County Sheriff, Case No. 1:14-cv-00129-AWI-SAB, in which 24 Plaintiff was a party (along with Perry Washington) asserting, among other claims, a substantially 25 similar claim against the same Defendants. Case No. 1:14-cv-00129-AWI-SAB is currently 26 pending and proceeding without Plaintiff. The Court has screened the Plaintiff’s most recent 27 Complaint and recommends that it be DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. 28 1 1 II. 2 3 4 LEGAL STANDARD Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct a review of a complaint to determine whether it “state[s] a claim on which relief may be granted,” is “frivolous or malicious,” or “seek[s] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If 5 6 the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, it must be dismissed. Id. Leave to 7 amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by 8 amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). 9 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 10 pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 11 required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 12 13 14 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set 15 forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.’” 16 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations 17 are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Id. at 678. 18 19 In determining whether a complaint states an actionable claim, the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 20 21 (1976), construe pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick v. 22 Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff’s favor. Jenkins 23 v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “must be held to less 24 stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 25 (9th Cir. 2010) (holding that pro se complaints should continue to be liberally construed after 26 Iqbal). 27 /// 28 2 1 III. 2 3 PLAINTIFF’S ALLEGATIONS The Complaint concerns Plaintiff’s attempts to assist her brother, Perry Washington, in his currently pending case in federal court. Plaintiff alleges that she is assisting Mr. Washington in 4 challenging the conditions of his confinement. According to the Complaint, officials at the Fresno 5 6 County Jail have interfered with the delivery of “US Mail between Perry Washington and the US 7 District Court.” Jail officials have also threatened and/or abused Mr. Washington to the point that 8 he is afraid to leave his cell. As a result, Plaintiff has been unable to visit Mr. Washington in jail 9 during scheduled visitation hours. Because of this, Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Washington has been 10 11 12 13 14 unable to sign legal documents that were prepared by Plaintiff. Plaintiff concludes that, without injunctive relief, Mr. Washington “will be forever denied his right to due process.” (Complaint, Exh. B, ECF No. 1.) She also alleges that she has invested large amounts of “cash and time” into the case because of Defendants’ actions. (Complaint 2.) Plaintiff’s previous complaint, in Case No. 1:14-cv-00129-AWI-SAB, similarly alleged 15 16 that Defendant Fresno County Sheriff had infringed upon Mr. Washington’s due process rights by 17 preventing him from receiving documents “to sue Fresno County while in jail in a in pro per 18 case.” (First Amended Complaint, Case No. 1:14-cv-00129-AWI-SAB, ECF No. 27.) Plaintiff 19 was dismissed from that case on the grounds that she did not enjoy third party standing to bring 20 21 claims on behalf of Perry Washington. (Order Dismissing Anthonia Washington as a Plaintiff, 22 Case No. 1:14-cv-00129-AWI-SAB, ECF No. 43.) 23 IV. 24 DISCUSSION As an initial matter, Plaintiff does not have standing to pursue a claim for a deprivation of 25 Mr. Washington’s due process rights. Standing examines whether a particular plaintiff has a 26 “sufficiently concrete interest in the outcome of their suit to make it a case or controversy subject 27 to a federal court’s Art. III jurisdiction” and “as a prudential matter, the plaintiff-respondents are 28 3 1 proper proponents of the particular legal rights on which they base their suit.” Singleton v. Wulff, 2 428 U.S. 106, 112 (1976). Courts “must hesitate before resolving a controversy, even one within 3 4 their constitutional power to resolve, on the basis of the rights of third persons not parties to the litigation.” Id. at 113 (“third parties themselves usually will be the best proponents of their own 5 6 7 rights”). As Plaintiff was informed in her prior case, a plaintiff may only seek relief for third 8 persons if: (1) the plaintiff suffered an injury in fact; (2) there is a close relationship between the 9 plaintiff and the individual who possesses the right that the litigant is asserting; and (3) there is a 10 hindrance to the third party’s ability to assert his own rights. Coalition of Clergy, Lawyers, and 11 Professionals v. Bush, 310 F.3d 1153, 1163 (9th Cir. 2002) (“a litigant may assert only his own 12 13 14 legal rights and interests and cannot rest a claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties”). 15 Even assuming Plaintiff has suffered an injury in fact here, she cannot establish that she 16 enjoyed the kind of “close relationship” to Mr. Washington that third party standing requires. A 17 close relationship requires that the interests of the litigant “coincide with those” of the third party 18 “and are equally as intense.” Wauchope v. U.S. Dep’t of State, 985 F.2d 1407, 1411 (9th Cir. 19 1993). Thus, a legal relationship (such as one that implies a legal duty) may be sufficient, while a 20 21 familial relationship may not. See, e.g., Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) (doctor- 22 patient relationship sufficiently close to justify third party standing); McCollum v. Cal. Dep’t of 23 Corrs. & Rehab., 647 F.3d 870, 879 (9th Cir. 2011) (“the relationship between a prison chaplain 24 and an inmate to whom he ministers has the requisite degree of closeness to allow for third party 25 standing”); Peoples v. Davis, No. CV 06-7366-JVS (AGR), 2008 WL 4189672, at *7 (C.D. Cal. 26 27 Aug. 8, 2008) (no third party standing where plaintiff sued prison officials for endangering plaintiff’s family members). 28 4 1 While Plaintiff may be assisting Mr. Washington with his pending litigation, she is not his 2 lawyer and cannot represent his interests in court. Johns v. Cnty. of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 877 3 (9th Cir. 1997). Nor has she otherwise demonstrated the requisite close relationship to establish 4 third party standing. In fact, the Complaint identifies two separate interests in the case between 5 6 Plaintiff and Mr. Washington: while the alleged damage to Mr. Washington is an infringement on 7 his due process rights, the alleged damage to Plaintiff is the “investment in cash and time” she has 8 lost to assist Mr. Washington in his case. 9 Mr. Washington has also not been hindered in exercising his own rights. McCollum, 647 10 F.3d at 279 (“the inmates are able to assert their own rights and . . . McCollum fails the essential 11 12 13 14 third requirement for standing—a showing that the rights holders are impeded from asserting their own claims”). Indeed, Plaintiff was dismissed from the litigation in Perry Washington et al. v. Fresno County Sheriff, Case No. 1:14-cv-00129-AWI-SAB, on September 24, 2014. Despite this, 15 Mr. Washington appears to have filed no less than eight motions or requests for the court to 16 consider since that date, as well as effected service of an amended complaint on defendants (with 17 the assistance of the United States Marshal). Mr. Washington thus appears able to assert his own 18 rights, precluding a finding of third party standing for Plaintiff to pursue claims on his behalf.1 19 Leave to amend cannot cure this deficiency—the failure in the Complaint is not in the 20 21 22 facts alleged; it is in the choice of Plaintiff to pursue the asserted rights. Should Mr. Washington experience problems with the conditions of his confinement, he must be the party that challenges 23 1 24 25 26 27 28 To the extent that Plaintiff alleges a constitutional violation as a result of her own inability to visit Mr. Washington (and she does not appear to allege any such violation—the allegations center only on the asserted inability of Mr. Washington to prosecute his pending case), the Complaint fails to plausibly allege a claim. First, the Complaint alleges that Mr. Washington is unavailable to receive visitors because he is unwilling to leave his cell, not because the Defendants have denied him visitors. Mr. Washington is thus the actor preventing the visits from occurring, not Defendants. Second, Plaintiff does not possess a constitutional right to visit Mr. Washington and thus cannot state a claim under § 1983. Egberto v. McDaniel, No. 3:08-cv-00312-HDM-VPC, 2011 WL 1233358, at *6 (D. Nev. March 28, 2011) (“Spouses and family members of prisoners do not have rights or privileges to visitation distinct from those of the inmate to which they are married or related”); Hill v. Wash. State Dep’t of Corrs., 628 F.Supp.2d 1250, 1262 (W.D. Wash. 2009) (“Neither prisoners nor visitors have a constitutional right to prison visitation”). 5 1 those conditions (as he apparently has done in his pending case). There is no amendment to the 2 Complaint that can remedy these deficiencies. 3 V. RECOMMENDATION 4 For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds that the Complaint fails to state a claim 5 6 7 8 under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Accordingly, it is recommended that the Complaint be DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the District Judge assigned to 9 this case pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within thirty (30) days after 10 being served with these Findings and Recommendations, Plaintiff may file written objections 11 12 with the Court. The document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the specified 13 14 15 time may waive the right to appeal the District Court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 16 17 18 19 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: June 24, 2015 /s/ Gary S. Austin UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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