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Harris v. Kim

March 16, 2009

DARREN HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KIM, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Wunderlich United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 45)

I. SCREENING ORDER

Darren Harris ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on January 1, 2005. (Doc. 1.) After being granted leave to file two amended complaints and various extensions thereon, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on June 30, 2008. (Doc. 45.)

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).

"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)).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

At the time of the issues complained of in his complaint, Plaintiff was a state prisoner at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF) in Corcoran, California.

Plaintiff names twenty-three defendants, and mentions nine other prison personnel throughout his factual allegations. Plaintiff's complaint is voluminous, unorganized, repetitive, and not presented in chronological order. As best as the Court can tell, Plaintiff generally alleges that he was required to use a corrosive powerwash as part of his prison job duties, which burned his hands, feet, and eyes. Subsequently, he did not receive appropriate medical care, was forced to work jobs that were known to be likely to cause him injury, was denied access to the law library, was retaliated against, and had funds wrongfully take from his trust account. Plaintiff seeks relief by way of declaration, injunction, and monetary damages.

In the past, Plaintiff has stated some cognizable claims. However, the Second Amended Complaint is so verbose and unorganized that the Court is unable to see how any of the named defendants might be able to ascertain the precise basis for Plaintiff's claims against him or her.

It should be noted that Plaintiff's complaint is organized with approximately ninety one pages of factual events followed by six delineated causes of action. Plaintiff incorporates all of the prior pages of factual events in each cause of action. Plaintiff does not specifically delineate which facts he feels show violations of which of his constitutional rights by any given defendant(s). Further, Plaintiff's factual allegations repeat variously throughout the Second Amended Complaint which complicates the screening of this case as subsequent repetitions are not always consistent with prior factual allegations. At this stage, the Court will not attempt to ascertain which of Plaintiff's factual allegations are accurate or disingenuous. It is Plaintiff's duty to correlate his claims for relief with their alleged factual basis. The Court will not guess as to which facts Plaintiff believes show any given constitutional violation(s). Thus, Plaintiff is being given the pleading requirements, the applicable standards based on his delineated causes of action, and leave to file a Third Amended Complaint. Plaintiff is advised that this is the last time he will be given leave to file an amended complaint, so he should do his very best to organize it in an understandable fashion and to comply with all of the law stated herein. Plaintiff is further advised that only the claims in his Third Amended Complaint that are found cognizable will be allowed to proceed. Any claims in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint that are not cognizable will be dismissed and will count as strikes under Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a).

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)).

Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint fails to comply with Rule 8(a) as it fails to provide a short an plain statement as to his claim(s) against each named defendant. As to each defendant he intends to pursue, Plaintiff must make his claims and their factual basis brief and easily understandable. It appears that in his amended complaints, Plaintiff has merely repeated variations of his factual scenarios and added additional defendants and legal verbiage. Neither the Court nor any defendants should have to parse what might be cognizable claims from this morass. It is Plaintiff's obligation to draft a complaint that is coherent, cohesive, and concise. Plaintiff is advised that any references to legal authority and/or legal argument are not appropriate, and should not be included in any Third 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 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

Because the Second Amended Complaint is so unorganized, the Court is simply unable to ascertain whether all of Plaintiff's allegations are, or might be, related. Plaintiff is advised that if he chooses to file a Third Amended Complaint, and fails to comply with Rule 18(a), the Court will count all frivolous/non-cognizable unrelated claims that are dismissed therein as strikes such that he may be barred from filing in forma pauperis in the future.

3. Linkage Requirement

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. 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 for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

Plaintiff mentions a number of prison personnel by surname in his factual allegations, but fails to list these persons as defendants in the caption, or anywhere else in his Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff must appropriately identify all individuals whom he intends to pursue as defendants in this action. Further, Plaintiff should clarify which defendant(s) he feels are responsible for any violation(s) of his constitutional rights, as his complaint must put each ...


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