Bolton v. King County Corrections et al

Filing 6

ORDER DECLINING TO SERVE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND by Hon. James P. Donohue. (cc: plaintiff with amended complaint form)(ST)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 10 11 Case No. C17-388-RSM-JPD SCOTT C. BOLTON, Plaintiff, v. ORDER DECLINING TO SERVE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND KING COUNTY CORRECTIONS, et al., 12 Defendants. 13 14 Plaintiff Scott C. Bolton is currently confined at the King County Jail. Proceeding pro se 15 and in forma pauperis, he filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint against the King 16 County Correctional Facility (“KCCF”), KCCF Classifications Officer “John Doe,” and the 17 Director of the KCCF. See Dkt. 1-1. Having reviewed plaintiff’s complaint, the Court finds and 18 ORDERS: 19 (1) Plaintiff alleges that on February 3, 2017, a classifications officer admitted him 20 into the “Trusty Inmate Worker Program.” Dkt. 1-1 at 3. He alleges that on February 4, 2017, a 21 different classifications officer, the one named as a John Doe defendant in this action, revoked 22 his admission into the program. Id. Plaintiff claims that the revocation was retaliatory and 23 ORDER DECLINING TO SERVE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND- 1 1 discriminatory. Id. As relief, he asks the Court to “correct this discriminatory act and its 2 retaliatory concealment.” Id. 3 (2) Once a complaint is filed in forma pauperis, the Court must dismiss it prior to 4 service if it “fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii); 5 see Talley v. Jackson, 2015 WL 3796339, at *1 (W.D. Wash. June 18, 2015) (citations omitted). 6 To avoid dismissal, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a 7 claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009). The 8 factual allegations must be “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell 9 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint may be dismissed if it 10 lacks a cognizable legal theory or states insufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. 11 Zixiang v. Kerry, 710 F.3d 995, 999 (9th Cir. 2013). 12 The Court holds pro se plaintiffs to less stringent pleading standards than represented 13 plaintiffs and liberally construes a pro se complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. 14 Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Nevertheless, § 1915(e) “not only permits but 15 requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim.” 16 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1229 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). When dismissing a complaint 17 under § 1915(e), the Court gives pro se plaintiffs leave to amend unless “it is absolutely clear 18 that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.” Cato v. United States, 19 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). 20 (3) To sustain a § 1983 civil rights claim, plaintiff must show (1) he suffered a 21 violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) the 22 violation was proximately caused by a person acting under color of state or federal law. West v. 23 ORDER DECLINING TO SERVE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND- 2 1 Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). To 2 satisfy the second prong, plaintiff must allege facts showing how individually named defendants 3 caused or personally participated in causing the harm alleged in the complaint. Arnold v. IBM, 4 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981). 5 6 7 (4) Having screened plaintiff’s complaint, the Court has identified the following deficiencies: a. The KCCF is an entity of King County and, as such, is not a proper 8 defendant in this action. See Nolan v. Snohomish Cnty., 59 Wn. App. 876, 883, 802 P.2d 792, 9 796 (Wash. Ct. App. 1990) (“[I]n a legal action involving a county, the county itself is the only 10 legal entity capable of suing and being sued.”). Plaintiff may sue King County as a “person” 11 under § 1983. Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691-94 (1978). 12 However, King County cannot be held liable under § 1983 solely because it employs a tortfeasor. 13 Id. A plaintiff seeking to impose liability on King County under § 1983 must identify a 14 municipal “policy” or “custom” that caused his or her injury. Bd. of the Cnty. Comm’rs of 15 Bryant Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Plaintiff does 16 not allege that any King County policy or custom caused him injury. 17 b. Plaintiff names the KCCF Director as a defendant in this action but he 18 does not allege any facts regarding this defendant. The KCCF Director cannot be held liable 19 simply because he is John Doe’s supervisor. Rather, to proceed against the KCCF Director, 20 plaintiff must allege facts showing that he caused or personally participated in causing the harm 21 alleged in the complaint. 22 23 ORDER DECLINING TO SERVE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND- 3 1 c. Plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to state a First Amendment 2 retaliation claim against John Doe. His conclusory claim that John Doe retaliated against him is 3 insufficient. If plaintiff files an amended complaint against John Doe, any retaliation claim will 4 be screened under the following standards. 5 “Within the prison context, a viable claim of First Amendment retaliation entails five 6 basic elements: (1) An assertion that a state actor took some adverse action against an inmate (2) 7 because of (3) that prisoner’s protected conduct, and that such action (4) chilled the inmate’s 8 exercise of his First Amendment rights, and (5) the action did not reasonably advance a 9 legitimate correctional goal.” Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2005). “The 10 prisoner must show that the type of activity in which he was engaged was constitutionally 11 protected, that the protected conduct was a substantial or motivating factor for the alleged 12 retaliatory action, and that the retaliatory action advanced no legitimate penological interest.” 13 Quiroz v. Horel, 85 F. Supp. 3d 1115, 1124 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (citing Hines v. Gomez, 108 F.3d 14 265, 267-68 (9th Cir. 1997)); see also Pratt v. Rowland, 65 F.3d 802, 806 (9th Cir. 1995) 15 (plaintiff bears burden of pleading and proving the absence of legitimate correctional goals for 16 the conduct of which he complains). Additionally, “a plaintiff who fails to allege a chilling 17 effect may still state a claim if he alleges he suffered some other harm.” Brodheim v. Cry, 584 18 F.3d 1262, 1269 (9th Cir. 2009). 19 d. Plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to state a discrimination claim 20 against John Doe. Plaintiff does not allege the basis for the discrimination, i.e., why John Doe 21 discriminated against him. “Prisoners are protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the 22 Fourteenth Amendment from invidious discrimination based on race.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 23 ORDER DECLINING TO SERVE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND- 4 1 U.S. 539, 556 (1974) (citing Lee v. Washington, 390 U.S. 333 (1968)). But given the lack of any 2 specific factual allegations, the Court cannot say that plaintiff alleges a valid discrimination 3 claim under § 1983. 4 (5) Based on the forgoing, the Court DECLINES to serve plaintiff’s complaint, but 5 GRANTS him leave to file an amended complaint curing the above-noted deficiencies within 30 6 days after the date this Order is signed. The amended complaint must carry the same case 7 number as this one and must be filed on the appropriate form, a copy of which will be sent with 8 this Order. If no amended complaint is timely filed or if plaintiff files an amended 9 complaint that fails to correct the deficiencies identified above, the Court may recommend 10 that this action be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim 11 upon which relief may be granted. 12 Plaintiff is advised that an amended pleading operates as a complete substitute for an 13 original pleading. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). Thus, any 14 second amended complaint must clearly identify the defendant(s), the constitutional or federal 15 statutory claim(s) asserted, the specific facts which plaintiff believes support each claim, and the 16 specific relief requested. 17 (6) The Clerk is directed to send plaintiff the appropriate forms so that he may file an 18 amended complaint. The Clerk is further directed to send copies of this Order to plaintiff and to 19 the Honorable Ricardo S. Martinez. 20 Dated this 3rd day of April, 2017. A 21 JAMES P. DONOHUE Chief United States Magistrate Judge 22 23 ORDER DECLINING TO SERVE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND- 5

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