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East v. Lewis


April 24, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: George H. WU United States District Judge



Plaintiff is a state detainee at the West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino, California (the "WVDC"), who is accused of violating California criminal law. Plaintiff filed this pro se civil rights action on January 26, 2009, against San Bernardino Sheriff Deputies K. Lewis, Mondragon, and Grizzle, and against WVDC Psychotherapist Christina Wooder. The Complaint does not indicate whether the Defendants are sued in their individual and/or official capacities.


Plaintiff asserts three claims. In Counts 1 and 2, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Wooder voluntarily disclosed assertedly privileged information that Plaintiff had provided to Defendant Wooder concerning his mental condition. Plaintiff alleges that this information was used to reclassify him as "assaultive," and to move him to a housing unit where he is locked down 23.5 hours per day and fed sometimes only twice per day. Plaintiff further alleges he has been denied medication that he has requested to treat his alleged mental illness. Plaintiff alleges that these actions have subjected Plaintiff to cruel and unusual punishment based on his mental disability, in asserted violation of his Eighth Amendment rights (Complaint, pp. 3-4).

In Count 3, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Lewis, Mondragon and Grizzle used excessive force by slamming Plaintiff on his bunk, twisting Plaintiff's left arm causing injury, choking Plaintiff, and twisting Plaintiff's leg. Plaintiff alleges that the deputies then dragged him out of his cell and threw him on the floor. Plaintiff claims he received a busted lip and minor bruising to his left arm and face. Plaintiff also claims he required an x-ray of his injured arm, but that no x-ray was performed (Complaint, p. 5).

Plaintiff alleges that he filed a grievance with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, but that no action was taken beyond blaming the incident on the San Bernardino Police Department (Complaint, p. 6). The Complaint does not include a prayer for relief or indicate what redress Plaintiff is seeking.


As Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding on a civil rights complaint naming governmental defendants and addressing conditions in a correctional facility, the Court must screen the Complaint prior to ordering service on the Defendants, identify cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A ("prisoner" complaints against government defendants by detained persons accused of crimes); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c) (complaints regarding "prison" conditions by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1154 (1999) ("The statutory authority is clear: 'the court shall dismiss at any time if the court determines that. . . the action or appeal. . . fails to state claim on which relief may be granted.'") (emphasis in original, citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)).

When a plaintiff appears pro se, the court construes the pleadings liberally to afford the plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). Giving Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt, the Complaint in this action appears deficient for the following reasons.

I. The Complaint Fails to Identify the Capacity in Which Each Defendant is Being Sued and Fails to Specify the Relief Sought from the Defendants

Under Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain, inter alia: (1) "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"; and (2) "a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief." "Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(1). "Experience teaches that, unless cases are pled clearly and precisely, issues are not joined, discovery is not controlled, the trial court's docket becomes unmanageable, the litigants suffer, and society loses confidence in the court's ability to administer justice." Bautista v. Los Angeles County, 216 F.3d 837, 841 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations and quotations omitted).

As noted above, the Complaint does not clearly identify the capacity in which each Defendant is being sued on each of Plaintiff's claims, and does not specify the relief Plaintiff seeks. A complaint is subject to dismissal if "one cannot determine from the complaint who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory, with enough detail to guide discovery." McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1996). Accordingly, the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to comply with Rule 8(a).*fn1

II. Plaintiff, as a Pretrial Detainee, Has No Eighth Amendment Claim Concerning His Inmate Classification and Housing; Any Claim Plaintiff May Assert is a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim

To the extent Plaintiff may be asserting in Counts 1 and 2 a claim that WVDC officials: (1) were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's psychiatric treatment needs by failing to provide psychiatric medication; and/or (2) placed Plaintiff in a special housing unit and classified Plaintiff as "assaultive" based on the information that Defendant Wooder allegedly shared, Plaintiff has not alleged an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim.

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment applies only after conviction and sentence. Pierce v. Multnomah County, Oregon, 76 F.3d 1032, 1042 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1006 (1996). The Eighth Amendment prohibition does not apply to Plaintiff, who is a pretrial detainee. The same standards generally apply to pretrial detainees under the Due Process Clause, however. Lolli v. County of Orange, 351 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d at 1187; Johnson v. Meltzer, 134 F.3d 1393, 1398 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 840 (1998).

With respect to Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim, the Court notes that jail officials may violate the Constitution if they are "deliberately indifferent" to an inmate's "serious medical needs." See Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d at 1187 (applying Eighth Amendment "deliberate indifference" standard to pretrial detainee's due process claim); see also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 837 (1994) (detailing Eighth Amendment's subjective "deliberate indifference" standard). To be liable for "deliberate indifference" for denying an inmate medical care, a jail official must "know[] of and disregard[] an excessive risk to inmate health and safety." Id. at 837. The official must "both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm [to the inmate] exists, and he [or she] must also draw the inference." Id.

To the extent Plaintiff may assert a due process claim concerning his housing within the WVDC, Plaintiff may not have a protected interest to remain in a particular housing unit. "[T]he Constitution itself does not give rise to a liberty interest in avoiding transfer to more adverse conditions of confinement." Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005) (citation omitted). However, "a liberty interest in avoiding particular conditions of confinement may arise from state policies or regulations, subject to the important limitations set forth in Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995)." Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. at 222; see Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995) ("Sandin").

Under Sandin, state prison regulations generally will create a federally enforceable liberty interest only where their application to an inmate "inevitably" affects the duration of the inmate's sentence or imposes an "atypical and significant hardship upon the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484, 487. The Sandin analysis applies to conditions of confinement for pretrial detainees which are not imposed as punishment. See Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 523 (9th Cir. 1996).

Here, Plaintiff has not alleged that his classification and housing affect the duration of Plaintiff's confinement in the WVDC. Assuming, arguendo, Sandin applies because Plaintiff's classification and housing are not a form of punishment, Plaintiff has failed to plead that the challenged acts caused Plaintiff to suffer any "atypical and significant hardship" so as to give rise to a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484, 487; see also Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 448-49 (9th Cir. 2000) (under Sandin, plaintiff failed to state due process claim for confinement in special housing unit pending prison disciplinary hearing, where complaint failed to allege that conditions in special housing unit were materially different from conditions in disciplinary segregation or general population).


The Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend. If Plaintiff still wishes to pursue this action, he is granted thirty (30) days from the date of this Order within which to file a First Amended Complaint. The First Amended Complaint shall be complete in itself. It shall not refer in any manner to any prior complaint. Plaintiff shall not attempt to add additional parties without leave of Court. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 21. Failure to file timely a First Amended Complaint in conformity with this Memorandum and Order may result in the dismissal of this action. See Simon v. Value Behavioral Health, Inc., 208 F.3d 1073, 1084 (9th Cir.), amended, 234 F.3d 428 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1104 (2001), overruled on other grounds, Odom v. Microsoft Corp., 486 F.3d 541 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 464 (2007) (affirming dismissal without leave to amend where plaintiff failed to correct deficiencies in complaint, where court had afforded plaintiff opportunities to do so, and where court had given plaintiff notice of the substantive problems with his claims); Plumeau v. School District #40, County of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 439 (9th Cir. 1997) (denial of leave to amend appropriate where further amendment would be futile).


Presented this 6th day of February, 2009, by


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