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Wilson v. Tilton

February 3, 2009

DAVID WILSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's third amended complaint as well as plaintiff's motions for a preliminary injunction and the imposition of sanctions against defendants.

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

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. 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).

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), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 941 (1979). 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).

In his third amended complaint, plaintiff has identified as defendants the following: Governor Schwarzenegger, Tilton, Hubbard, Pearson, Grannis, Fisher, Swan, DeMars, Hall, Benton, McGahey, Soufi, Gross, Haws, and Bowen. Plaintiff alleges that the named defendants have improperly forced him to double-cell. It appears from his third amended complaint that plaintiff believes he is entitled to a single cell based on his mental health condition. Plaintiff also alleges that he complained to medical personnel about "forced double-celling," but they have told him that they can do nothing about it. (Third Am. Compl. at 3-8.)

Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the defendants from double-celling him with any inmate unless both he and the other inmate have signed a compatibility form. Plaintiff also seeks one-on-one psychotherapy two to three times a week or outside mental health treatment. Finally, plaintiff seeks to keep in his possession his typewriter, legal cases, books, radio/CD/cassette player, and nine-inch television. (Id. at 8.)

Plaintiff's third amendment complaint is difficult to decipher, and the court is unable to determine whether the current action is frivolous or fails to state a claim for relief. The allegations of the third amended complaint are vague and conclusory and fail to allege with any degree of particularity the overt acts which the named defendants allegedly engaged in that support plaintiff's constitutional claims. Thus, the complaint before the court does not contain a short and plain statement as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules 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). Because plaintiff has failed to comply with the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the complaint must be dismissed. The court will, however, grant plaintiff leave to file a fourth and final amended complaint to attempt to address these deficiencies.

If plaintiff chooses to file a fourth amended complaint, he is advised that all defendants must be identified in the caption of his pleading and that all defendants must be named, with position and place of employment, in the section of the form designated for that purpose. Plaintiff is also advised that he must allege facts demonstrating how each defendant's actions resulted in a deprivation of his federal constitutional or statutory rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). Plaintiff should also clarify which of his constitutional rights he believes each named defendant has violated. 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).

In addition, plaintiff is advised that to the extent that he claims he is entitled to a single-cell assignment or that his assignment to a double-cell violates his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, he fails to state a cognizable constitutional claim for relief. Inmates do not have a constitutional right to be incarcerated at a particular correctional facility or in a particular cell or unit within a facility. See Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 224-25 (1976).

If, however, plaintiff believes he requires a single cell because of a medical condition, including a condition related to mental health, he may be able to state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim. Plaintiff is advised that in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court held that inadequate medical care did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment cognizable under § 1983 unless the mistreatment rose to the level of "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." In applying this standard, the Ninth Circuit has held that before it can be said that a prisoner's civil rights have been abridged, "the indifference to his medical needs must be substantial. Mere 'indifference,' 'negligence,' or 'medical malpractice' will not support this cause of action." Broughton v. Cutter Lab., 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06).

The "deliberate indifference" standard also applies to claims challenging the adequacy of mental health care in prisons. Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). To establish unconstitutional treatment of a mental health condition, "a prisoner must show deliberate indifference to a 'serious' medical need." Doty, 37 F.3d at 546 (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1991)). A medical need is "serious if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" Doty, 37 F.3d at 546 (quoting McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059). If ...


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