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Pierce v. Woodford

January 7, 2009

AARON JAMES PIERCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEANNE S. WOODFORD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 5, 2003, plaintiff filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. On July 14, 2004, that court granted plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his complaint with leave to amend. On August 3, 2004, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. On April 30, 2008, the Northern District screened plaintiff's amended complaint. The claims set out in plaintiff's complaint concerned medical care and treatment at the California State Prison facilities known as the Correctional Training Facility, High Desert State Prison and Mule Creek State Prison. Plaintiff also alleged that he suffered three assaults, two at the hands of fellow inmates and one by prison staff, all while confined at High Desert State Prison.

As to plaintiff's claims concerning events that allegedly took place at High Desert State Prison and Mule Creek State Prison, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California explained that venue was proper in the Eastern District of California and transferred those claims to this court. As to plaintiff's claims concerning events that allegedly took place at the Correctional Training Facility, the court determined in a separate order that plaintiff had failed to identify the specific individuals he claims caused his constitutional injuries and dismissed the amended complaint while granted plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint within thirty days.

PROCEEDING IN THIS CASE

If plaintiff elects to proceed in this action, he must file an in forma pauperis affidavit or pay the required filing fee ($350.00). See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(a). Plaintiff is cautioned that the in forma pauperis application form includes a section that must be completed by a prison official, and the form must be accompanied by a certified copy of plaintiff's prison trust account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of this action. Plaintiff will be provided thirty days leave to either submit the appropriate affidavit in support of a request to proceed in forma pauperis or to submit the appropriate filing fee.

In addition, if plaintiff elects to proceed in this action before this court, he must file a second amended complaint here as well. As the United States District Court for the Northern District of California observed, in his amended complaint plaintiff fails to allege any specific causal link between the actions of the named defendants and the claimed constitutional violations. Accordingly, plaintiff's amended complaint will be dismissed with leave to file a second amended complaint. In any second amended complaint he elects to file, plaintiff must allege what events he claims took place at High Desert State Prison and Mule Creek State Prison that resulted in his constitutional rights being violated and name the defendants that were involved in those events. Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which each defendant engaged in that support his claims. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984).

Plaintiff is advised that the Civil Rights Act, under which this action was filed, provides as follows:

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 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 Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 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).

Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

Plaintiff is also advised that Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice to the defendants and must allege facts that support the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

Finally, plaintiff is advised of the following legal standards that govern Eighth Amendment claims such as those he is attempting to pursue in this action. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments." U.S. Const. amend. VIII. It is well established that the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" constitutes cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the United States Constitution. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). See also Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 670 (1977); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976). Neither accident nor negligence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, as "[i]t is obduracy ...


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