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Flores v. Fresno County Board of Supervisors

January 23, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Wunderlich United States Magistrate Judge


I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Edward Javier Flores ("Plaintiff") is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct an initial review of the Complaint for sufficiency to state a claim. The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it determines that the action is legally "frivolous or malicious," fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the court determines that the Complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment.

"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. 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)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

A. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff currently resides at Atascadero State Hospital in Atascadero, California. Plaintiff is a civil detainee due to his classification as a Sexually Violent Predator ("SVP"). Plaintiff alleges his constitutional rights were violated when he was held at the Fresno County Jail in Fresno, California. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff also alleges his confinement constituted a violation of the Ex Post Facto and Double Jeopardy Clauses. Plaintiff names the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, Margaret Mims, the Fresno County Jail, and unnamed watch commanders and classification officers at Fresno County Jail as defendants. Plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive relief.

Plaintiff alleges that the conditions of his confinement at Fresno County Jail amounted to punishment. It appears from Plaintiff's complaint that every two years, Plaintiff receives recommitment proceedings in Fresno County and is held at the Fresno County Jail at that time. These stays lasted anywhere from hours to a few days.

Plaintiff alleges that while held at Fresno County Jail he was exposed to feces, urine, saliva, blood, hair, waste system flooding, mucus and roaches. His food was served through filthy food slots and that the food was served in an unsanitary manner. Plaintiff was held in cells for hours or days at a time without access to a shower, exercise, or a telephone. Plaintiff was not allowed to wear his own clothing, keep any of his personal possessions, and was housed in either segregated/disciplinary isolation or in loud dorms with varying penal commitments. Plaintiff was only allowed access to the telephone at the convenience of deputies, and the calls were electronically monitored and informed recipients that the call was being placed from a correctional facility. Plaintiff "was continually subjected to the risk of public strip searches, arbitrary searches of his personal and legal property and was unreasonably and unnecessarily restricted from having access to the Legal Library and consequently, the courts." (Compl. 11). Plaintiff also alleges that when he had visitors, the visits were "non-contact". Plaintiff was not given the medications prescribed by his doctors at Atascadero State Hospital. Jail staff instead attempted to give Plaintiff a prescription blood-pressure medication that was not prescribed to him.

B. Fourth Amendment Claims

Plaintiff alleges that while at Fresno County Jail he was subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to SVPs. Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 993 (9th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff alleges that defendants conducted unreasonable and unnecessary searches of Plaintiff that were degrading and punitive in nature. Therefore, Plaintiff's complaint states a cognizable claim for violation of the Fourth Amendment.

C. Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Claims

Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto clauses. Both claims have punishment as an essential prerequisite. Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 993-94. Plaintiff's argument appears to be that even though the SVP Act is a civil detention statute, the way it was applied against Plaintiff was punitive in nature and therefore violated the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto clauses. However, "[a]n Act, found to be civil, cannot be deemed punitive 'as applied' to a single individual in violation of the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto clauses and provide cause for release." Id. at 993 (quoting Seling v. Young, 531 U.S. 250, 267 (2001)). "Similarly, the California Supreme Court stressed the civil nature of a sexually violent predator commitment and rejected challenges to California's SVP Act ...

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