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Morris v. City of Fresno

February 23, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiffs Robert Morris and Michelle Morris ("Plaintiffs"), appearing pro se and proceeding in forma pauperis, filed the instant amended complaint on January 28, 2009. Plaintiffs allege false arrest and imprisonment, police brutality, violation of due process of law, conspiracy to deprive equal protection of laws, officer misconduct and conspiracy. Plaintiffs name the City of Fresno, Mayor Ashley Swearington, former-Mayor Alan Autry, the Fresno Police Department, Officer Christopher Long, Officer Jeromey DeMoss, Detective Branden Rhames, Lieutenant Martinez, and Chief of Police Jerry Dyer as Defendants.


A. Screening Standard

In light of the amended complaint, and pursuant to Title 28 of the United States Code Section 1915(e)(2), the court has reviewed the complaint for sufficiency to state a claim. The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the court 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). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the Court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question (Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976)), construe the pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff (Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000)), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff's favor (Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969)).

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)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984).

Although Plaintiffs attempt to allege many causes of action and provide a description of their alleged experiences, the narrative-style complaint is insufficient to state legally cognizable causes of action. It is Plaintiffs' burden, not that of the Court, to separately identify claims and state facts in support of each claim. If Plaintiffs wish to allege causes of action they must separate each claim and state facts in support of each individual claim. It is very difficult for the court to sift through the complaint and attempt to speculate as to which facts go with which claim, or how each Defendant relates to each cause of action. Moreover, Plaintiffs' complaint does not comport with Local Rule 7-130 which provides that documents must be "double-spaced." Plaintiffs' complaint is single-spaced.

B. Plaintiffs' Allegations

Plaintiffs Robert and Michelle Morris bring this action against the City of Fresno, Mayor Ashley Swearengin, former Mayor Alan Autry, the Fresno Police Department, Officers Christopher Long and Jeremy DeMoss, Detective Rhames, Lieutenant Martinez and Chief of Police Jerry Dyer.

The best the Court can discern, is Plaintiffs' allegations arise from an incident that occurred on October 28, 2007, wherein Plaintiffs were apparently awaiting law enforcement assistance for a purported assault and robbery committed by unidentified third persons, however, the response ultimately resulted in Plaintiff Robert Morris's arrest for unspecified criminal charges.

Plaintiff Robert Morris seeks reimbursement for medical costs incurred as a result of Officer Long's actions, compensation for pain and suffering, and for the loss of his career as a floor covering installer due to permanent injury, disciplinary action against involved officers, a letter of apology from the City of Fresno and the Fresno Police Department, and punitive damages. Plaintiff Robert Morris's demand is "UNLIMITED." (Am. Comp., at 5.) Plaintiff Michelle Morris seeks "relief for her losses" and states "a demand of UNLIMITED." (Am. Comp., at 7.)

C. Section 1983 Claims

1. Preliminary Matters

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes the following: The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

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. To state a section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must plead that (1) defendant acted under color of state law at the time the complained of act was committed, and (2) defendant deprived plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1338 (9th Cir. 1986).

The statute plainly 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 Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 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). In order to state a claim ...

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