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Peterson v. County of Solano

February 5, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Michael Seabright United States District Judge


On March 19, 2008, pro se prisoner Plaintiff Ronald K. Peterson ("Plaintiff") filed a Complaint against Defendants County of Solano ("County"), Correctional Officer Anthony Cuevaz ("Cuevaz"), and SDF / Claybank City Jail*fn1 (collectively, "Defendants") alleging violations of his constitutional rights for Cuevaz' alleged inappropriate comments and behavior towards Plaintiff. Based on the following, the court DISMISSES Plaintiff's Complaint in part and DIRECTS SERVICE.


Plaintiff alleges that Cuevaz violated his rights during an incident that occurred on March 4, 2008 when Cuevaz collected a urine sample from Plaintiff for a diabetes test. Compl. at 11.*fn2 Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Cuevaz was "constantly peering" at him and asked another inmate, David McCray, to come down off his bunk and hold his penis for him while he urinated. Id.*fn3 Without providing more detail as to the other Defendants, it appears that Plaintiff alleges that the County and Claybank Jail are also liable for Cuevaz' behavior and "for the [negligence] of its own." Id. Plaintiff requests compensatory relief against all Defendants. Id.


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the court must screen cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental agency. The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that (1) are legally frivolous or malicious, (2) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (3) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 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 Martin v. Sias, 88 F.3d 774, 775 (9th Cir. 1996); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

The court must construe pro se pleadings liberally and afford the pro se litigant the benefit of any doubt. Morrison v. Hall, 261 F.3d 896, 899 n.2 (9th Cir. 2001); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). "Unless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect . . . , a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action." Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).


Construing Plaintiff's claims liberally and affording him the benefit of the doubt, he brings a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against correctional officer Cuevaz, Claybank Jail, and the County. The court addresses Plaintiff's claims against each Defendant below.

A. Plaintiff Fails to State a Claim Against Claybank Jail

First, Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against Claybank Jail cannot stand because a jail is a building, not a "person" subject to suit pursuant to § 1983.See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see, e.g., Grant v. Chapman County Jail, 2008 WL 516702, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 25, 2008) (stating that county jail is not subject to suit under § 1983); Yates v. Maury County Jail, 2006 WL 3761938, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 21, 2006) (same); Dauban v. Marquette County Jail, 2006 WL 2700747, at *3 (W.D. Mich. Sept.18, 2006) (same); Floyd v. Emmet County Corr. Facility, 2006 WL 1429536, at *2 (W.D. Mich. May 23, 2006) (stating a correctional facility is not a person under § 1983); Davis v. Belmont Corr. Inst., 2006 WL 840387, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 30, 2006) (same); McLeod v. Still, 2006 WL 372986, at *4 (D. N.J. Feb. 16, 2006) (same); Meyers v. Schuylkill County Prison, 2006 WL 559467, at *8 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 7, 2006) (asserting that a county prison is not a person within meaning of § 1983); Spratt v. DeKalb County Jail, 2005 WL 1958654, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Aug. 12, 2005) ("A jail is a building and it is not a suable entity."); Seals v. Grainger County Jail, 2005 WL 1076326, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. May 6, 2005) (finding that county jail is not entity subject to suit within meaning of § 1983); Powell v. Cook County Jail, 814 F. Supp. 757, 758 (N.D. Ill. 1993) (same).

Because Claybank Jail is not a proper defendant, the court DISMISSES Plaintiff's Complaint as to Claybank ...

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