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Rivers v. Haukeba

March 27, 2009

DONNA RIVERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
M. HAUKEBA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge

ORDER

Pending before the Court are the following motions: Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 14); Plaintiff's Motion to Include the County of Fresno as a Defendant (Docket No. 16); Plaintiff's Motion to Directly Name Fresno County as a Defendant (Docket No. 18); and Plaintiff's Motion for a Protective Order (Docket No. 27). Having fully reviewed the record, and otherwise being fully informed, the Court enters the following Order.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff alleges that on August 19, 2006, as an inmate in the Fresno County Jail, she attempted to change the television channel in the inmates' common area. Plaintiff states that other inmates became angry with Plaintiff for this action, and the dispute escalated to the point that the inmates were placed back in their cells in lockdown. Plaintiff alleges that one inmate, Inmate Mananahn, whose cell was near Plaintiff's, began yelling threats and racial slurs against Plaintiff. Defendant Officer Haukeba*fn1 arrived on the scene and went to Inmate Mananahn's cell. Plaintiff alleges that Inmate Mananahn continued to threaten Plaintiff, stating she was going to "whip her ass." Complaint (Docket No. 1) at 7. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Haukeba then told Inmate Mananahn, "Well, whip her ass when the cells unlock." Id. When the cells were unlocked, Inmate Mananahn went to Plaintiff's cell and continued to threaten her. Plaintiff states she feared for and begged for her life. Inmate Mananahn finally left, stating that the incident was "not over." Id. at 8.

Plaintiff alleges that she has suffered severe mental distress as a result of this incident. She states that she also has physical symptoms, including body tremors and vomiting. Plaintiff seeks money damages and injunctive relief and sues Officer Haukeba and the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.

B. Bankruptcy Proceeding

After the filing of Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant Haukeba filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California. As a result of that filing, this action was stayed. However, on October 20, 2008, the bankruptcy court modified the automatic stay to allow Plaintiff's case against Defendant Haukeba to proceed. See Notice of Bankruptcy Court's Order (Docket No. 29), Exhibit A.

DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

A. Standard of Law

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss "does not need detailed factual allegations," it must set forth "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1965. Factual allegations must be enough "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. The Supreme Court explained that

[a]sking for plausible grounds to infer [a claim] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim]. And, of course, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.

Id. Alternatively, dismissal may be appropriate when the plaintiff has included sufficient allegations disclosing some absolute defense or bar to recovery. See Weisbuch v. County of L.A., 119 F.3d 778, 783, n. 1 (9th Cir. 1997) (stating that "[i]f the pleadings establish facts compelling a decision one way, that is as good as if depositions and other . . . evidence on summary judgment establishes the identical facts").

Additionally, "a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct.2197, 2200 (2007). The underlying requirement is that a complaint must give fair notice of the claim being asserted and the grounds upon which it rests. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002). Therefore, a complaint should not be dismissed if the facts ...


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