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Medina v. Emard

August 26, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge



R. Medina ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff originally filed his complaint on June 5, 2006.

A. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is a state prisoner currently housed at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in Lancaster, California. The acts he complains of allegedly occurred while Plaintiff was housed at California Correctional Institution ("CCI") in Tehachapi, California.

Plaintiff names as defendants: C/O's Erica Barajas, Daniela Bray, Lary Emard, Joen Razo, Alberta Morales, and Jerome Nunley; Sgt. Daniela Frazer; M.T.A. Roseann Beagle; Lt.'s Hartgrove, B. Taylor, and R. Miller; Capt's F.B. Haws and R. Grounds; and Dr. Vo.

Plaintiff alleges that he has extremely long hair which he refused to cut upon transfer to CCI. On August 16, 2005, at CCI, after picking up his dinner tray, while on his way back to his cell, he picked up a bar of soap that another inmate tossed out to him; upon doing so, C/O Emard directed him to put down his dinner tray, and Plaintiff did not comply. C/O's Emard and Barajas approached Plaintiff, and C/O Emard grabbed Plaintiff's ponytail, slammed him into the wall and placed handcuffs on him. Plaintiff was moved downstairs and into a holding cell where he remained handcuffed. When Plaintiff yelled to Sgt. Frazer, C/O Emard walked over and sprayed mace into Plaintiff's face and ear. C/O Bray placed shackles on Plaintiff's ankles and two C/O's escorted Plaintiff from the holding cell. Due to the pace at which they were walking, Plaintiff tripped, and the C/O's let go of his arms such that he fell face down, hitting his knees. C/O Bray then yelled that Plaintiff was resisting, at which time pepper spray was sprayed in Plaintiff's right eye and ear. As Plaintiff lay on the floor handcuffed, shackled, and coughing/gasping for breath, C/O's Bray, Nunley, Emard, Razo, Morales, and Barajas kicked his crotch and legs. C/O Razo drug Plaintiff by the shackles while the other C/Os continued to kick him. Two C/Os then picked Plaintiff up by the handcuffs and shackles and carried him to be hosed off and placed in a holding cage where he was told to take off his clothes. He was given clean boxers to wear and after remaining in the holding cage for 2 1/2 hours, C/O's Razo and Morales read Plaintiff his Miranda rights and advised that he was being charged with battery on C/O Nunley. Plaintiff requested medical attention, and C/O Razo advised he would have to wait until he was transferred to Ad-Seg. A while later, two C/O's cuffed Plaintiff and escorted him into a room where only his upper body was photographed by C/O's Mathus and Madden (not named defendants). Plaintiff was advised his lower body would be photographed after he was seen by a doctor. He was then placed in an isolation holding room instead of Ad-Seg so as to hide Plaintiff's bloodied wounds from the view of other inmates. Plaintiff was placed on suicide watch without a blanket, mattress, running water, or clean boxers. The morning after the incident, Plaintiff again requested and was denied medical attention. Plaintiff was able to gain the attention of a nurse who advised that she could not assist him because he hit an officer, and his medical file could not be located for her to give Plaintiff his inhaler. On August 18, 2005, Plaintiff was transferred to Ad-Seg where C/O B. Taylor and all defendants conspired to cover-up/justify Plaintiff's injuries. Capt. F. B. Haws submitted a false complaint to the district attorney charging Plaintiff with battery on a peace officer. On August 16, 2005, MTA Beagle generated a false medical report and denied Plaintiff medical care. On August 18, 2005, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Vo who was advised that Plaintiff had assaulted a staff member and thereafter indicated that he did not want to get involved, only treating Plaintiff's infected eye. On September 22, 2005, Plaintiff wrote Warden W.J. Sullivan (not a named defendant) a letter "informing him of the reprisals" he was suffering. C/O M. Rogers (not a named defendant) was assigned as the investigating officer and advised that he was working in the gym on the day of the incident and that the defendants really messed Plaintiff up. On September 19, 2005, C/O Emard came to Plaintiff's cell, warned Plaintiff about his 602 appeals, said he could be transferred to any housing block, and sprayed Plaintiff for no reason. On September 25, 2005 and February 25, 2006, Lt.'s Miller and Hartgrove, respectively, denied Plaintiff due process regarding the rule violation (battery on an officer). Since the incident, Plaintiff has "not received proper medical treatment" and his appeals have not been acknowledged. Plaintiff was referred to an eye specialist via a waiting list and was told it would take four to six months to be seen; thereafter, Plaintiff has developed migraine headaches and partially lost both vision in his right eye and hearing in his right ear.

The Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Plaintiff has organized his first amended complaint in a manner which is difficult for the Court to ascertain which facts Plaintiff believes show violation(s) of his constitutional rights, i.e. he makes a chronological statement of facts followed by "legal claims" without stating which facts he feels support each legal claim against any given defendant(s). It is Plaintiff's duty to specify his claims for relief and their factual basis against each named defendant. The Court provides Plaintiff with the legal standards which may generally apply to Plaintiff's listed claims.

C. Pleading Requirements

1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. A court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. Id. at 514. "'The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.'" Jackson v. Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 755 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004) ("'Pleadings need suffice only to put the opposing party on notice of the claim . . . .'" (quoting Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 977 (9th Cir. 2001))). However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. 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)).

2. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a)

"The controlling principle appears in Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a) 'A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

Plaintiff is advised that if he chooses to file an amended complaint, and fails to comply with Rule 18(a), the Court will count all frivolous/non-cognizable unrelated claims that are dismissed therein as strikes such that he may be barred from filing in forma pauperis in the future.

3. Linkage Requirement

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

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.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates 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 Cir. 1978).

In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights. Plaintiff fails to make any factual allegations against Capt. R. Grounds. Thus, Capt. R. Grounds is properly dismissed at this time. Further, in his factual allegations, Plaintiff identifies C/O's M. Rogers, Mathus, Madden, and Warden W.J. Sullivan, none of whom were named as defendants. Plaintiff is advised that if he intends to pursue any claims against these three C/O's and Warden Sullivan, he must name them as defendants. Plaintiff must link each delineated defendant to an alleged unconstitutional claim and its supporting factual allegation(s).

D. Claims for Relief

1. Cruel and Unusual Punishment -- Excessive Force

Plaintiff claims that he was attacked by prison officers who did not like him because he refused to cut his extremely long hair.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits those who operate our prisons from using "excessive physical force against inmates." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1246, 1250 (9th Cir.1982) (prison officials have "a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse"); see also Vaughan v. Ricketts, 859 F.2d 736, 741 (9th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1012 (1989) ("prison administrators' indifference to brutal behavior by guards toward inmates [is] sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim"). As courts have succinctly observed, "[p]ersons are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment." Gordon v. Faber, 800 F.Supp. 797, 800 (N.D.Iowa 1992) (citation omitted), aff'd, 973 F.2d 686 (8th Cir.1992). "Being violently ...

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