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Johnson v. Yates

February 3, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge


(Doc. 28)

I. Findings and Recommendations Following Screening of Second Amended Complaint

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action. Defendant James Yates removed the action to this Court on May 3, 2006. On January 17, 2007, the court issued an order dismissing plaintiff's complaint for failure to state claims upon which relief could be granted and providing direction for plaintiff's use in filing an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on May 10, 2007. On February 26, 2008, this Court issued an order dismissing Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In dismissing the complaint, the Court found that plaintiff's amended complaint contained multiple inadequacies, and Plaintiff had failed to cure all but one of the inadequacies identified in this court's prior screening order. Plaintiff was granted one final opportunity to amend his complaint, and after obtaining two extensions of time, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on June 23, 2008.

B. 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)).

C. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

Plaintiff is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison. This court's two prior screening orders provided the standards and rules for filing an amended complaint. Plaintiff names as defendants: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., CDCR Director Suzan Hubbard, "Prison Health Services Providers et al" and "Any Unknown Liable Person, Party, Entity, Successor, or Predecessor, Jointly and Severaly [sic] in their Individual and Official Capacities".

In his second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his disability claims were reviewed and denied by various prison officials, beginning at the first level of review through to the Director's level. Plaintiff alleges that the decisions were made by subordinates of Chief Warden James Yates and defendant Hubbard, both of whom Plaintiff alleges acted under the authority of the defendant Governor Schwarzenegger.*fn1 Plaintiff then alleges that "they" 1) denied epilepsy as a qualified ADA disability, 2) refused to medically unassign plaintiff for chronic seizures, and 3) refused to prepare documentation for his social security claim.

At the outset, the Court is mindful that Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and may not be able to draft a complaint with the precision of an attorney. However, it is not clear from reading Plaintiff's second amended complaint whom plaintiff alleges participated in the 3 acts/omissions listed above that form the basis of his claims. As was previously explained to Plaintiff, under section 1983, Plaintiff is required to show that Defendants (1) acted under color of state law, and (2) committed conduct which deprived Plaintiff of a federal right. Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 987 (9th Cir. 2007). "A person deprives another of a constitutional right, where that person 'does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.'" Id. at 988 (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). "[T]he 'requisite causal connection can be established not only by some kind of direct, personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion a series of acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.'" Id. (quoting Johnson at 743-44).

It is also difficult to delineate the facts upon which Plaintiff's claims are based. In support of his claims, Plaintiff directs the Court to "Plaintiff's Settlement Proposal", which is attached as an exhibit. Plaintiff's settlement proposal recounts arguments raised by Plaintiff to the Social Security Commissioner, defendants' arguments in opposition, and Plaintiff's reply. Plaintiff's settlement proposal is riddled with legal argument, which only serves to further confuse his second amended complaint. It is not the duty of the Court to sift through Plaintiff's records and cull out the named defendants in order to link them to acts or omissions. At best, it appears that Plaintiff argues that while he is not entitled to social security benefits, his children and family are entitled to benefits from his disability. Plaintiff further argues that prison officials are responsible for preparing Plaintiff's disability documents.

Plaintiff has also attached to his second amended complaint copies of his inmate grievances and medical records. (Doc. 28, Second Amended Complaint, pp.11-37). With respect to exhibits, while they are permissible if incorporated by reference, Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c), they are not necessary in the federal system of notice pleading, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). These documents are not incorporated by reference and the Court is not obligated to search through the documents to determine whether Plaintiff states any claims ...

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