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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 ...

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