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Williams v. Baca

January 13, 2009

EVERETT WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LEROY BACA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer T. Lum United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

On November 6, 2008, Everett Williams ("plaintiff"), a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 ("Complaint"). On December 1, 2008, the Court dismissed the Complaint, with leave to amend, pursuant to the screening provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"). On December 17, 2008, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint.

In accordance with the terms of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), the Court has screened the First Amended Complaint before ordering service to determine whether the action (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).

The Court's screening of plaintiff's First Amended Complaint under the foregoing statutes are governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) the plaintiff fails to state a cognizable legal theory or (2) the plaintiff has alleged insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Because plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the First Amended Complaint liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). Moreover, in determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). A pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987).

After careful review and consideration of the First Amended Complaint under the relevant standards, and for the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and ORDERS the FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. ALLEGATIONS OF THE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Plaintiff's claims arise out of his confinement at the Los Angeles County Jail. (See First Amended Complaint at 2, 5). Plaintiff names as defendants Leroy Baca, Sheriff of the Los Angeles County Jail, who is responsible for the operations of the North County Correctional Facility ("NCCF"), E. Rizo, Deputy Sheriff at NCCF, John Doe No. 1, Deputy Sheriff at NCCF; John Doe No. 2, Deputy Sheriff at NCCF; and John Doe No. 3, a medical radiologist at Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail ("MCJ"). (Id. at 1, 3-4, 5(b)-5(c)). Plaintiff sues all defendants in their official as well as individual capacities. (Id. at 3-4, 5(d)).

Plaintiff alleges that on June 21, 2007, he was returning from the NCCF Medical Department to his housing unit when he was stopped by defendants Rizo, John Doe No. 1, and John Doe No. 2. (Id. at 5(d)). Plaintiff alleges that defendants asked plaintiff to turn around and face the wall for a random pat-down search, and plaintiff complied. (Id.). Defendant Rizo had plaintiff place his hands behind his back, place his palms together, and interlock his fingers. (First Amended Complaint at 5(d)). Plaintiff alleges that, as she began to conduct the search, defendant Rizo applied unnecessary force by holding plaintiff's hand in a forceful manner and bending plaintiff's middle fingers, which caused him great pain. (Id. at 5(d)-5(e)). Plaintiff complained about defendant Rizo's action. (Id. at 5(e)). According to plaintiff, defendants John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2, who were present at the time, did not try to stop defendant Rizo from causing plaintiff unwarranted pain in a malicious and sadistic manner. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that defendants John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2 stood by, watching and laughing. (Id.).

Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding this incident at NCCF on June 24, 2007. (Id. at 5(f), 5(g)). On June 31, 2007, plaintiff received notice that his grievance had been denied. (Id. at 5(g)). Plaintiff alleges that defendant Baca, as Sheriff, has knowledge that deputies at NCCF are using excessive force on detainees within his jurisdiction because the detainees have filed complaints. (Id. at 5(f)). Plaintiff contends that defendant Baca failed to act despite his knowledge that there was a substantial risk of serious harm to plaintiff. (Id.). Plaintiff further contends that defendant Baca refused to make sure that plaintiff would not be deprived of his right to be free from excessive force. (Id.).

Plaintiff further alleges that in July 2007, defendant John Doe No. 3, a medical radiologist at the MCJ, saw plaintifff and took X-rays of his hand. (Id. at 5(e)). A physician then saw plaintiff and told him that defendant John Doe No. 3's radiology report stated there was "No bone abnormality." (Id.). Plaintiff, however, continued to suffer from pain and swelling in his middle finger on his left hand. (Id.). In November 2007, after suffering from continuous pain for four months, the physician ordered a that a new X-ray be taken. (Id.). Again, defendant John Doe No. 3 reported no bone abnormality. (Id.). Because plaintiff was still suffering from pain, the physician ordered that plaintiff be seen by an orthopedic physician at Los Angeles County Medical Center ("LCMC"). (Id.; see id., Exh. 1). On June 18, 2008, plaintiff was taken to LCMC to see the orthopedic physician. (Id. at 5(e)-5(f)). The orthopedic physician told plaintiff that his middle finger had a fracture, which was clearly shown in the X-ray that defendant John Doe No. 3 had stated showed "No bone abnormality." (First Amended Complaint at 5(f)). The orthopedic physician explained to plaintiff that his middle finger on his left hand had fractured and healed wrong, which was why plaintiff could not close his hand properly, and that it was too late to re-set the bone. (Id. at 5(f)). According to plaintiff, he cannot use his left hand fully due to defendant John Doe No. 3's negligence in failing to correctly read plaintiff's X-ray. (Id.).

Plaintiff asserts claims against defendants for excessive force and deliberate indifference to medical needs under the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments. (See id. at 5(g)-(I)). He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and costs related to this law suit. (See id. at 5(a)-5(b), 5(i)-5(j)).

DISCUSSION

I. PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANTS IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES MUST BE DISMISSED

Plaintiff sues all defendants in their official as well as individual capacities. (First Amended Complaint at 3-4, 5(d)).

Official capacity claims against state officials are merely another way of pleading an action against the state itself. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) ("[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office. As such, it is no different from a suit against the State itself." (internal citation omitted)). The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal jurisdiction over claims against a state without its consent or if Congress has abrogated the state's Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). The State of California has not consented to be sued under Section 1983 in federal court, and the Supreme Court has held that Section 1983 was not intended to abrogate a State's Eleventh Amendment immunity. Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1025-26 (9th Cir. 1999); see Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 n.17 (1985). Thus, official capacity claims for damages are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Dittman, 191 F.3d at 1026 ("The Eleventh Amendment bars actions for damages against state officials who are sued in their official capacities in federal court."); Aholelei v. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007) ("The Eleventh Amendment bars ...


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