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Plata v. Woodford

March 5, 2009

MARCIAL PLATA PLAINTIFF,
v.
WOODFORD, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 19)

I. SCREENING ORDER

Marcial Plata ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on August 7, 2006. (Doc. 1.) The Court screened and dismissed the Complaint with leave to amend. (Doc. 12.) After receiving extensions, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on December 10, 2008. (Doc. 19.)

A. 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).

A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). 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).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is a state prisoner at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") in Coalinga, California -- where the acts he complains of allegedly occurred. Plaintiff names defendants: California Department of Corrections Director, Jeanne S. Woodford; PVSP Warden, James A. Yates; Chief Deputy Warden A. Malfi; Associate Wardens B.J. Hill and W.J. Juarez; Captain V.J. Quinn-Robicheaux; Lieutenants K.R. Nash, V. Ramirez, and J.C. Smith; Sergeants B. Cramer and B. Torres; Correctional Officers R. Juarez, E. Corona, D. Watson, J. Duty, J. Lopez, Silva, Pasillas, Guerra, Walker, Espino, D. Gonzales, K. Session, and P. Sanchez; and John/Jane Does 1-35.

The Court appreciates Plaintiff's efforts towards condensing and clarifying his claims from the original Complaint (145 pages) to the First Amended Complaint (21 pages). The Court is now able to tell that Plaintiff's claims are premised on retaliation for Plaintiff's involvement in the class action over medical care in California prisons. Plaintiff delineates five causes of action, one of which is cognizable. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and monetary damages.

The Court provides Plaintiff with one final opportunity to amend his complaint and provides the following legal standards that appear to apply to his claims based on the causes of action that Plaintiff delineates. However, should Plaintiff choose to file a Second Amended Complaint, he is advised that he still must clearly and concisely specify his claims for relief against each defendant and their factual basis -- much as he did in his First Amended Complaint.

C. Pleading Requirements

1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

"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. Pro. 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. Pro. 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)).

While Plaintiff's original Complaint did not comply with Rule 8(a), Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint complies with Rule 8(a) by providing short and plain statements of his claims. Plaintiff is reminded that he should endeavor to do the same if he chooses to file a Second Amended Complaint.

2. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a)

"The controlling principle appears in Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a) 'A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 ...


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