Buckley v. County of San Mateo et al

Filing 26

ORDER by Judge James Donato granting 19 Motion to Dismiss. (lrcS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 8/8/2017)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 ANTONIO CORTEZ BUCKLEY, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Case No. 16-cv-07314-JD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS v. COUNTY OF SAN MATEO, et al., Re: Dkt. No. 19 Defendants. 12 13 Plaintiff, a former detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a civil rights 14 action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendant County of San Mateo and nineteen individual 15 defendants from Maguire Correctional Facility have filed a motion to dismiss. Docket No. 19. 16 Plaintiff has filed an opposition. The Court found the motion suitable for decision on the papers 17 pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), and vacated the hearing that had been set on May 25, 2017. 18 The motion to dismiss is granted. 19 BACKGROUND 20 Plaintiff generally alleges that while an inmate at Maguire Correctional Facility in 2015 he 21 was denied his right to practice his religion because the Kosher meals were not actually Kosher 22 and he was not permitted to wear certain religious items outside of his cell. He also presents 23 allegations of retaliation, violations of his ability to file grievances, a stolen money order and 24 inadequate medical care. 25 The complaint contains ten pages of handwritten text with no breaks or individual causes 26 of action. Plaintiff identifies several dates and states that his rights were violated by many of the 27 defendants. While plaintiff identifies the defendants, he fails to specifically describe the actions of 28 each individual defendant. Moreover, plaintiff has failed to delineate each claim, and it was 1 2 defendants, in an attempt to understand the complaint, who identified ten causes of action. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss addressing each cause of action and seeking to 3 dismiss some or all defendants from each cause of action. Defendants noted in the motion to 4 dismiss that in many instances it was difficult to discern plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff filed an 5 opposition that failed to address many of defendants’ arguments and presented new allegations. 6 LEGAL STANDARD 7 To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 9 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw 10 the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly at 556). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court 12 must assume that the plaintiff’s allegations are true and must draw all reasonable inferences in his 13 or her favor. Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). However, the 14 Court need not “accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of 15 fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 16 2008). If the Court dismisses a complaint, it “should grant leave to amend even if no request to 17 amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured 18 by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal 19 quotation marks and citation omitted). 20 In order to establish a free exercise violation, a prisoner must show a defendant burdened 21 the practice of his religion without any justification reasonably related to legitimate penological 22 interests. See Shakur v. Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 883-84 (9th Cir. 2008). A prisoner is not required 23 to objectively show that a central tenet of his faith is burdened by a prison regulation to raise a 24 viable claim under the Free Exercise Clause. Id. at 884-85. 25 Section 3 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 26 provides: “No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person 27 residing in or confined to an institution, as defined in section 1997 [which includes state prisons, 28 state psychiatric hospitals, and local jails], even if the burden results from a rule of general 2 1 applicability, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person (1) 2 is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of 3 furthering that compelling governmental interest.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). The statute applies 4 “in any case” in which “the substantial burden is imposed in a program or activity that receives 5 Federal financial assistance.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(b)(1). “Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five basic 6 elements: (1) an assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) 8 because of (3) that prisoner’s protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate’s 9 exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a legitimate 10 correctional goal.” Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005) (footnote omitted). 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 Accord Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 806 (9th Cir. 1995) (prisoner suing prison officials under § 12 1983 for retaliation must allege that he was retaliated against for exercising his constitutional 13 rights and that the retaliatory action did not advance legitimate penological goals, such as 14 preserving institutional order and discipline). 15 Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment’s 16 proscription against cruel and unusual punishment.1 Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); 17 McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX 18 Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). A determination of 19 “deliberate indifference” involves an examination of two elements: the seriousness of the 20 prisoner’s medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need. Id. at 1059. Supervisor defendants are entitled to qualified immunity where the allegations against 21 22 them are simply “bald” or “conclusory” because such allegations do not “plausibly” establish the 23 1 24 25 26 27 28 Even though pretrial detainees’ claims arise under the Due Process Clause, the Eighth Amendment serves as a benchmark for evaluating those claims. See Carnell v. Grimm, 74 F.3d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1996) (8th Amendment guarantees provide minimum standard of care for pretrial detainees). The Ninth Circuit has determined that the appropriate standard for evaluating constitutional claims brought by pretrial detainees is the same one used to evaluate convicted prisoners’ claims under the Eighth Amendment. “The requirement of conduct that amounts to ‘deliberate indifference’ provides an appropriate balance of the pretrial detainees’ right to not be punished with the deference given to prison officials to manage the prisons.” Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1443 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc) abrogated in part on other grounds by Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). 3 supervisors’ personal involvement in their subordinates’ constitutional wrong, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 2 675-84 (noting no vicarious liability under § 1983 or Bivens actions), and unfairly subject the 3 supervisor defendants to the expense of discovery and continued litigation, Henry A. v. Willden, 4 678 F.3d 991, 1004 (9th Cir. 2012) (general allegations about supervisors’ oversight 5 responsibilities and knowledge of independent reports documenting the challenged conduct failed 6 to state a claim for supervisor liability). So it is insufficient for a plaintiff to allege only that 7 supervisors knew about the constitutional violation and that they generally created policies and 8 procedures that led to the violation, without alleging “a specific policy” or “a specific event” 9 instigated by them that led to the constitutional violations. Hydrick v. Hunter, 669 F.3d 937, 942 10 (9th Cir. 2012). There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, which means there is no 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 liability under § 1983 solely because one person is purportedly responsible for the actions or 12 omissions of another. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). 13 Plaintiff is also advised there is no constitutional right to a prison administrative appeal or 14 grievance system. See Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003); Mann v. Adams, 855 15 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988). 16 DISCUSSION 17 In reviewing plaintiff’s complaint, the Court is not certain about the involvement of 18 specific defendants with respect to many of the claims. In most instances, plaintiff has failed to 19 link the named defendant to an alleged constitutional deprivation. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a 20 plaintiff must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled 21 to relief. . . .” Rule 8 requires “sufficient allegations to put defendants fairly on notice of the 22 claims against them.” McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991)). Accord Richmond 23 v. Nationwide Cassel L.P., 52 F.3d 640, 645 (7th Cir. 1995) (amended complaint with vague and 24 scanty allegations fails to satisfy the notice requirement of Rule 8.) “The propriety of dismissal 25 for failure to comply with Rule 8 does not depend on whether the complaint is wholly without 26 merit.” McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996). 27 28 Plaintiff’s allegations with respect to many defendants and claims are so vague and perfunctory that they give defendants “little idea where to begin” in preparing a response to the 4 1 complaint. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 565 n.10. While plaintiff has presented new allegations in the 2 opposition, the Court can only consider the allegations of the complaint. While defendants seek to 3 dismiss many of the defendants and claims and only proceed on a few claims, the Court will 4 dismiss the entire complaint with leave to amend. See 28 U.S.C.§ 1915(e). This will permit 5 plaintiff, who proceeds pro se, an opportunity to better present his claims and allegations. Plaintiff 6 must describe the actions of each individual defendant and how they violated his constitutional 7 rights. Conclusory statements with no support are insufficient and plaintiff should delineate each 8 specific claim. 9 Plaintiff is also advised that “a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government’s 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be 12 said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible 13 under § 1983.” Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). To properly plead a 14 claim under Monell, it is insufficient to allege simply that a policy, custom, or practice exists that 15 caused the constitutional violations. AE v. County of Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 636-37 (9th Cir. 16 2012). Pursuant to the more stringent pleading requirements set forth in Iqbal, at 682-83, and 17 Twombly, at 553-56, a plaintiff suing a municipal entity must allege sufficient facts regarding the 18 specific nature of the alleged policy, custom or practice to allow the defendant to effectively 19 defend itself, and these facts must plausibly suggest that plaintiff is entitled to relief. AE, 666 F.3d 20 at 636-37 (citing Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011), which summarized new 21 pleading standards derived from Iqbal, Twombly and related Supreme Court decisions). 22 The complaint is dismissed with leave to amend to address these deficiencies in light of the 23 legal standards set forth above. Because an amended complaint completely replaces the original 24 complaint, plaintiff must include in it all the claims he wishes to present. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 25 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). He may not incorporate material from the original complaint 26 by reference. The amended complaint may not add any new defendants or claims for relief 27 without leave of the Court. 28 5 1 CONCLUSION 2 1. Defendants’ motion to dismiss (Docket No. 19) is GRANTED as discussed above. 3 2. The complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend. The amended complaint must 4 be filed within twenty-eight (28) days of the date this order is filed and must include the caption 5 and civil case number used in this order and the words AMENDED COMPLAINT on the first 6 page. Failure to amend within the designated time will result in the dismissal of this case. 7 3. The Clerk shall change this case designation to Nature of Suit 555. 8 4. It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to prosecute this case. Plaintiff must keep the Court informed of any change of address by filing a separate paper with the clerk headed “Notice 10 of Change of Address,” and must comply with the Court’s orders in a timely fashion. Failure to 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 do so may result in the dismissal of this action for failure to prosecute pursuant to Federal Rule of 12 Civil Procedure 41(b). 13 14 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: August 8, 2017 15 16 JAMES DONATO United States District Judge 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 ANTONIO CORTEZ BUCKLEY, Case No. 16-cv-07314-JD Plaintiff, 5 v. CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE 6 7 COUNTY OF SAN MATEO, et al., Defendants. 8 9 10 I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I am an employee in the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 That on August 8, 2017, I SERVED a true and correct copy(ies) of the attached, by placing said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelope addressed to the person(s) hereinafter listed, by depositing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by placing said copy(ies) into an inter-office delivery receptacle located in the Clerk's office. 16 17 18 Antonio Cortez Buckley 540 Price Avenue Redwood City, CA 94063 19 20 Dated: August 8, 2017 21 22 23 Susan Y. Soong Clerk, United States District Court 24 25 26 By:________________________ LISA R. CLARK, Deputy Clerk to the Honorable JAMES DONATO 27 28 7

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