Jones v. Mailroom Officials, et al.

Filing 13

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND and Discharging 11 Order to Show Cause signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 10/18/2017. Amended Complaint due by 11/13/2017. (Attachments: # 1 Amended Complaint Form)(Flores, E)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 GARLAND A. JONES, 10 11 12 Plaintiff, v. Case No. 1:17-cv-00281-AWI-SKO (PC) ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND AND DISCHARGING ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE GHILARDUCCI, et al., (Docs. 1, 11) 13 Defendants. TWENTY-ONE (21) DAY DEADLINE 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 INTRODUCTION A. Background Plaintiff, Garland A. Jones, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. On August 16, 2017, an order issued for Plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for his failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing suit as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997. (Doc. 11.) Plaintiff filed a timely response which suffices for exhaustion purposes to allow this case to proceed to screening. (Doc. 12.) As discussed below, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim upon which relief may be granted. Thus, the Complaint is DISMISSED with leave to file a first amended complaint. B. Screening Requirement and Standard The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). 28 1 1 The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are 2 legally “frivolous or malicious,” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or 3 that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. 4 § 1915A(b)(1), (2). “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been 5 paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or 6 appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 7 8 C. Pleading Requirements 1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) 9 “Rule 8(a)’s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited 10 exceptions,” none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 11 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain “a short and plain 12 statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). 13 “Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and 14 the grounds upon which it rests.” Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. 15 Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a 16 cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 17 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). 18 Plaintiff fails to state anything other than conclusory statements. Plaintiff must set forth 19 “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.’” Iqbal, 20 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true, but 21 legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 22 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557. 23 While “plaintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . . ,” Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 24 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se prisoners are still construed liberally 25 and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). 26 However, “the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff’s factual allegations,” 27 Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989), “a liberal interpretation of a civil rights 28 complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled,” Bruns v. 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982), and courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability” fall short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. If he chooses to file a first amended complaint, Plaintiff should make it as concise as possible in no more than twenty-five (25) pages. Plaintiff should state which of his constitutional rights he believes were violated by each Defendant and the facts that support each contention. Plaintiff need not and should not cite legal authority for his claims in a first amended complaint. If Plaintiff files a first amended complaint, his factual allegations will be screened under the legal standards and authorities set forth in this order. 2. 13 Linkage Requirement The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides: 14 Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. 15 16 17 18 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. The statute plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between 19 the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See 20 Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 21 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that “[a] person ‘subjects’ another to the deprivation of a 22 constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates 23 24 in another’s affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th 25 Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named 26 defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff=s 27 federal rights. 28 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Plaintiff fails to link any of the named Defendants to any factual allegations upon which he bases his claims. Plaintiff must clearly identify which Defendant(s) he believes are responsible for each violation of his constitutional rights and the factual basis for each claim as his Complaint must put each Defendant on notice of Plaintiff’s claims against him or her. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004). 3. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) & 20(a)(2) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) allows a party asserting a claim for relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim to join, either as independent or as alternate claims, numerous claims against an opposing party. However, Plaintiff may not bring unrelated claims against unrelated parties in a single action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a), 20(a)(2); Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 2011); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff may bring a claim against multiple defendants so long as (1) the claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions and occurrences, and (2) there 13 are commons questions of law or fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 14 1348, 1351 (9th Cir. 1997); Desert Empire Bank v. Insurance Co. of North America, 623 F.3d 15 1371, 1375 (9th Cir. 1980). Only if the defendants are properly joined under Rule 20(a) will the 16 Court review additional claims to determine if they may be joined under Rule 18(a), which 17 permits the joinder of multiple claims against the same party. 18 19 The Court must be able to discern a relationship between Plaintiff’s claims or there must be a similarity of parties. The fact that all of Plaintiff’s allegations are based on the same type of 20 constitutional violation (i.e. deliberate indifference to different medical issues) does not 21 necessarily make claims related for purposes of Rule 18(a). Nor are Plaintiff’s claims related 22 because he believes the Warden, or other supervising personnel, failed to properly train or 23 supervise all of the allegedly culpable actors. 24 Claims that do not comply with Rules 18(a) and 20(a)(2) are subject to dismissal. 25 Plaintiff is cautioned that if the first amended complaint sets forth improperly joined claims, the 26 Court will determine which claims may proceed and which claims will be dismissed. Visendi v. 27 Bank of America, N.A., 733 F3d 863, 870-71 (9th Cir. 2013). Whether any claims will be subject 28 4 1 2 to severance by future order will depend on the viability of the claims stated in the second amended complaint. DISCUSSION 3 Plaintiff’s Allegations 4 A. 5 Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the R.J. Donovan Facility in San Diego, California; 6 however, his allegations are based on circumstances that allegedly occurred at Valley State Prison 7 in Chowchilla, California. Plaintiff names “Mailroom - Officials” as the only defendants in this 8 action. All three of Plaintiff’s claims are identical: “right to protected legal privacy -- violation 9 of protected rights -- exposing of legal issues.” (See Doc. 1, pp. 3-5.) In the first two claims, 10 Plaintiff simply states “opening of legal mail (continual) or often.” In the third claim, Plaintiff 11 repeats that statement and adds: “complaints -- logging by c/o’s.” As indicated previously, 12 Plaintiff does not state any factual allegations upon which he bases these claims, which violates 13 Rule 8. Thus, Plaintiff is provided the applicable legal standards for his stated claims and an 14 opportunity to file an amended complaint. 15 16 17 B. Legal Standards 1. Legal Mail Inmates have a protected First Amendment interest in having properly marked civil legal 18 mail opened only in their presence. Hayes v. Idaho Corr. Ctr., 849 F.3d 1204 (9th Cir. 2017). 19 “[A] plaintiff need not allege a longstanding practice of violating his First Amendment rights in 20 order to state a claim for relief on a direct liability theory.” Id., at 1212. “Two or three pieces of 21 mail opened in an arbitrary or capricious way suffice to state a claim.” Id., at 1211 (quoting 22 Merriweather v. Zamora, 569 F.3d 307, 318 (6th Cir. 2009)) (internal quotations omitted). 23 However, the First Amendment does not prohibit opening mail from the Unites States courts 24 outside the recipient’s presence, since it is not legal mail. Hayes, 849 at 1211. The Sixth 25 Amendment, prohibits guards from reading prisoner legal mail, and protects the right of a 26 prisoner to be present while legal mail relating to criminal proceedings is opened. Mangiaracina 27 v. Penzone, 849 F.3d 1191 (9th Cir. 2017). However, merely negligent conduct on the part of 28 prison officials is not sufficient to state a claim. Id. 5 2. 1 Inmate Appeals The Due Process Clause protects prisoners from being deprived of liberty without due 2 3 process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). In order to state a cause of action 4 for deprivation of due process, a plaintiff must first establish the existence of a liberty interest for 5 which the protection is sought. “States may under certain circumstances create liberty interests 6 which are protected by the Due Process Clause.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483-84 (1995). 7 Liberty interests created by state law are generally limited to freedom from restraint which 8 “imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of 9 prison life.” Id. “[I]nmates lack a separate constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance 10 11 procedure.” Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003) (no liberty interest in 12 processing of appeals because no entitlement to a specific grievance procedure), citing Mann v. 13 Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988). “[A prison] grievance procedure is a procedural right 14 only, it does not confer any substantive right upon the inmates.” Azeez v. DeRobertis, 568 F. 15 Supp. 8, 10 (N.D. Ill. 1982) accord Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993); see 16 also Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. 2001) (existence of grievance procedure 17 confers no liberty interest on prisoner). “Hence, it does not give rise to a protected liberty interest 18 requiring the procedural protections envisioned by the Fourteenth Amendment.” Azeez v. 19 DeRobertis, 568 F. Supp. at 10; Spencer v. Moore, 638 F. Supp. 315, 316 (E.D. Mo. 1986). Actions in reviewing prisoner’s administrative appeal generally cannot serve as the basis 20 21 for liability under a ' 1983 action. Buckley, 997 F.2d at 495. The argument that anyone who 22 knows about a violation of the Constitution, and fails to cure it, has violated the Constitution 23 himself is not correct. “Only persons who cause or participate in the violations are responsible. 24 Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the 25 violation.” Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 656-57 (7th Cir.2005) accord George v. Smith, 507 26 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2007); Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 851-52 (7th Cir.1999); Vance 27 v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 992-93 (7th Cir.1996). 28 // 6 1 However, “a plaintiff may state a claim against a supervisor for deliberate indifference 2 based upon the supervisor’s knowledge of and acquiescence in unconstitutional conduct by his or 3 her subordinates.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 (2011). Such knowledge and 4 acquiescence may be shown via the inmate appeals process where the supervisor was involved in 5 reviewing Plaintiff's applicable inmate appeal and failed to take corrective action, thereby 6 allowing the violation to continue. However, such involvement in processing and/or reviewing an 7 inmate appeal based on one incident is insufficient. 8 9 3. Supervisory Liability Plaintiff may seek to hold supervisory mailroom personnel liable because of their position. 10 However, generally, supervisory personnel are not liable under section 1983 for the actions of 11 their employees under a theory of respondeat superior -- when a named defendant holds a 12 supervisory position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be 13 specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 14 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 941 (1979). To state a claim for relief 15 under this theory, Plaintiff must allege some facts that would support a claim that supervisory 16 defendants either: personally participated in the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights; knew 17 of the violations and failed to act to prevent them; or promulgated or “implemented a policy so 18 deficient that the policy ‘itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights' and is 'the moving force of 19 the constitutional violation.’” Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal 20 citations omitted); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). To establish this, “a 21 plaintiff must show the supervisor breached a duty to plaintiff which was the proximate cause of 22 the injury. The law clearly allows actions against supervisors under section 1983 as long as a 23 sufficient causal connection is present and the plaintiff was deprived under color of law of a 24 federally secured right.” Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1447 (9th Cir. 25 1991)(internal quotation marks omitted)(abrogated on other grounds by Farmer v. Brennan, 511 26 U.S. 825 (1994). 27 “The requisite causal connection can be established . . . by setting in motion a series of 28 acts by others,” id. (alteration in original; internal quotation marks omitted), or by “knowingly 7 1 refus[ing] to terminate a series of acts by others, which [the supervisor] knew or reasonably 2 should have known would cause others to inflict a constitutional injury,” Dubner v. City & Cnty. 3 of San Francisco, 266 F.3d 959, 968 (9th Cir.2001). “A supervisor can be liable in his individual 4 capacity for his own culpable action or inaction in the training, supervision, or control of his 5 subordinates; for his acquiescence in the constitutional deprivation; or for conduct that showed a 6 reckless or callous indifference to the rights of others.” Watkins v. City of Oakland, 145 F.3d 7 1087, 1093 (9th Cir.1998) (internal alteration and quotation marks omitted). ORDER 8 For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed with leave to file a first 9 10 amended complaint within twenty-one (21) days. If Plaintiff needs an extension of time to 11 comply with this order, Plaintiff shall file a motion seeking an extension of time no later than 12 twenty-one (21) days from the date of service of this order. Further, Plaintiff’s response to the 13 order to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for his failure to exhaust 14 administrative remedies suffices to discharge the order issued on August 16, 2017. Plaintiff must demonstrate in any first amended complaint how the alleged conditions 15 16 have resulted in a deprivation of his constitutional rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th 17 Cir. 1980). The first amended complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant 18 is involved. There can be no liability under section 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or 19 connection between a defendant’s actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 20 362 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 21 743 (9th Cir. 1978). 22 Plaintiff’s first amended complaint should be brief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Such a short and 23 plain statement must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon 24 which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) quoting Conley v. 25 Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). Although accepted as true, the “[f]actual allegations must be 26 [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. 127, 555 27 (2007) (citations omitted). 28 // 8 Plaintiff is further reminded that an amended complaint supercedes the original, Lacey v. 1 2 Maricopa County, Nos. 09-15806, 09-15703, 2012 WL 3711591, at *1 n.1 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 3 2012) (en banc), and must be “complete in itself without reference to the prior or superceded 4 pleading,” Local Rule 220. The Court provides Plaintiff with opportunity to amend to cure the deficiencies identified 5 6 by the Court in this order. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff 7 may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his first amended 8 complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no “buckshot” complaints). Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that: 9 1. 10 The order to show cause that issued on August 16, 2017, (Doc. 11) is DISCHARGED;1 11 12 2. Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed, with leave to amend; 13 3. The Clerk’s Office shall send Plaintiff a civil rights complaint form; 14 4. Within twenty-one (21) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff must 15 file a first amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in 16 this order or a notice of voluntary dismissal; and 5. 17 If Plaintiff fails to comply with this order, this action will be dismissed for failure to obey a court order and for failure to state a cognizable claim. 18 19 20 21 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: October 18, 2017 /s/ Sheila K. Oberto . UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 27 1 28 Nothing in this order should be construed to prohibit defendants from raising exhaustion as an affirmative defense if/when Plaintiff states a cognizable claim upon which he is allowed to proceed. 9

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