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Sevilla v. Terhune

April 30, 2009

RONALD VICTOR SEVILLA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TERHUNE, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING FOURTH AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 49)

I. SCREENING ORDER

Ronald Victor Sevilla ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on February 16, 2006. (Doc. 1.) Subsequent to numerous motions, including motions for leave to file amend the Complaint, and prior to screening, Plaintiff filed the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Amended Complaints. (Docs. 17, 21, 26, 30, 49.) The Fourth Amended Complaint is the operative pleading presently before the Court for screening.

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 Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison ("SATF") in Corcoran, California. Plaintiff names fourteen defendants and seeks medical treatment and monetary damages.

Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint is a rambling, semi-chronological narrative of actions/inactions by SATF personnel followed by four delineated claims for relief against most, if not all, of the defendants. Plaintiff's claims are that Defendants (1) violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs; (2) violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to due process and equal protection of the laws; (3) failed to train, supervise, and discipline their employees; and (4) violated California laws by failing to summon medical care. The manner in which the Fourth Amended Complaint is organized and presented makes it nearly impossible to ascertain which factual allegations he intends to rely on to support any of his claims for relief. Plaintiff does not specify which facts he feels show violations of which of his constitutional rights by any given Defendant. Plaintiff may be able to amend to correct deficiencies in his pleading so as to state cognizable claims. The Court provides Plaintiff with the following law that appears to apply to his claims. However, the Court is simply unable to ascertain specific factual basis for various of Plaintiff's claims. 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). Plaintiff is hereby given the applicable standards based on his delineated claims for relief and leave to file a fifth 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)).

Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint does not comply with Rule 8(a) as it fails to give each Defendant a short and plain statement as to Plaintiff's claims and factual basis against each of them. Neither the Court, nor any Defendants, should have to bear the burden of ferreting through Plaintiff's factual allegations to attempt to ascertain which factual allegations Plaintiff might rely on as the basis for any of his claims for relief.

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).

The Court seriously doubts that all four of Plaintiff's claims for relief are related. However, Plaintiff may clarify any alleged relationship between his claims for relief in an amended complaint. Plaintiff is advised that if he chooses to file a fifth 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 ...


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