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Thompson v. State

January 8, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge



Rahn G. Thompson ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff filed his complaint on September 5, 2007 -- which is presently before the Court for screening.

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).

"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. P. 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. P. 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. 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)).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

At the time of the issues complained of in his complaint, Plaintiff was a state prisoner at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") in Coalinga, California. Plaintiff has subsequently been transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison ("SVSP") in Soledad, California.

Plaintiff names defendants: the State of California; Warden James Yates; Captain J. Batcher; Sergeants Gonzales, N. Green, and D. Huckabay; Correctional Officers T. Lee, C. LaPrima, M. Hernandez, W. Tucker, D. Thompson, and J. Melendez; and Appeals Coordinator H. Martinez.

Plaintiff alleges that he was transferred to PVSP because of an investigation at Pelican Bay State Prison which found that his life was in danger necessitating he be "relocated and placed in safe keeping, single-celled status." (Doc. 1, pg. 6.) Plaintiff variously complains of being placed with cell mates known to be his enemies so as to amount to failure to protect/provide for his safety, of an incident of excessive force, and of a violation of his due process rights in the handling of his inmate appeals.

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and requests the Court "to intervene & stop prison officials from turning their attention from these attacks. . . " -- which the Court interprets as a request for injunctive relief.

Plaintiff has stated some cognizable claims, and may be able to amend to correct deficiencies in his pleading so as to state additional cognizable claims. Thus, he is being given the applicable standards based on his delineated claims for relief and leave to file a first amended complaint.

C. Pleading Requirements

1. State of California as a Defendant

Plaintiff may not sustain an action against the State of California. The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from hearing suits brought against an un-consenting state. Brooks v. Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Co., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted); see also Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1122 (1996); Puerto Rico Aqueduct Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993); Austin v. State Indus. Ins. Sys., 939 F.2d 676, 677 (9th Cir. 1991). The State of California is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit. Thus, all claims Plaintiff might attempt to state against the State of California are subject to dismissal.

2. 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 names Warden James Yates, Capt. Batcher, Sgt. Gonzales, and C.O. LaPrima as defendants. However, Plaintiff fails to link any of these four defendants to any of his factual allegations. Thus, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against Warden James Yates, Capt. Batcher, Sgt. Gonzales, and/or C.O. LaPrima.

Plaintiff mentions "Officer Mr. Ruiz," "Officer Ms. Staton," "Tower Guard Mr. R.V.," "M.T.A. Mr. Chapman," "R.N. Ms. Davis," "C/O Deathridge," "Mrs. M.E. Rincon," "C/O Rincon," "Officer Rincon," and "Mrs. L. Magee" (Doc. 1, pp. 9, 11 & 12.) without naming them as defendants in either the caption, or Section III. of the form complaint. If Plaintiff intends to pursue claims against these persons, he must appropriately identify them as defendants in this action. Further, Plaintiff must specifically identify which defendant(s) he feels are responsible for any given violation(s) of his constitutional rights. Also, identifiers such as "several prison officers," "a couple prison guards," "some officers," and the like, without surname specificity, are insufficient to link a specific defendant to offending actions.

3. Exhibits

Plaintiff's complaint is one hundred eighty-five (185) pages long. Only eighteen (18) pages of the complaint contain Plaintiff's factual allegations, all other pages are exhibits.

Plaintiff is advised that the Court is not a repository for the parties' evidence. Originals, or copies of evidence (i.e., prison or medical records, witness affidavits, etc.) need not be submitted until the course of litigation brings the evidence into question (for example, on a motion for summary judgment, at trial, or when requested by the Court). At this point, the submission of evidence is premature as Plaintiff is only required to state a prima facie claim for relief. Thus, in amending his complaint, Plaintiff would do well ...

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