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Mason v. Hartley

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


June 2, 2009

ROY A. MASON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARTLEY, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 1)

I. SCREENING ORDER

Plaintiff Roy A. Mason ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on February 8, 2008. (Doc. 1.)

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

Plaintiff is currently housed at Avenal State Prison ("ASP") -- where the acts he complains of occurred. Plaintiff names six defendants: Warden James Hartley; Lieutenant Buck; Sergeants Ybarra, Hurl, and Amaro; CCII Wagner; and Does 1 through 10. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as monetary damages.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants conspired and violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to due process and equal protection; under the Eighth Amendment subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment; and failed to accommodate his disability as required by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Apparently Plaintiff incurred a rules violation report, and the Defendants caused him to be held overnight in his wheelchair in the staff's program office without a bed to lie down on because there was no housing accessible to him in his wheelchair in the administrative segregation housing unit. This caused Plaintiff to have to sleep in his wheelchair in a corner of the cold office saturated with urine as the room did not have a restroom that was wheelchair accessible.

Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim, but may be able to amend to correct the deficiencies in his pleading. Thus, he is being given the applicable standards based on his stated claims against the each defendant and leave to file a first 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)).

If he chooses to file a first amended complaint, Plaintiff should endeavor to make it as concise as possible. He should merely state which of his constitutional rights he feels were violated by each Defendant and its factual basis.

2. 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 fails to link any of the named defendants to his allegations. Plaintiff must clarify which Defendant(s) he feels are responsible for any violation(s) of his constitutional rights and their factual basis as his Complaint must put each Defendant on notice of Plaintiff's claims against him or her. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004).

D. Claims for Relief

1. Fourteenth Amendment

a. Due Process

(1) Procedural

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects prisoners from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that would support a claim that he was deprived of a protected interest without procedural due process.

(2) Substantive

"To establish a violation of substantive due process . . . , a plaintiff is ordinarily required to prove that a challenged government action was clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. Where a particular amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that Amendment, not the more generalized notion of substantive due process, must be the guide for analyzing a plaintiff's claims." Patel v. Penman, 103 F.3d 868, 874 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations, internal quotations, and brackets omitted), cert. denied, 117 S.Ct. 1845 (1997); County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 842 (1998). Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that would support a claim that his rights under the substantive component of the Due Process Clause were violated.

b. Equal Protection

In order to state a § 1983 claim based on a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that defendants acted with intentional discrimination against plaintiff or against a class of inmates which included plaintiff. Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000) (equal protection claims may be brought by a "class of one"); Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736, 740 (9th Cir. 2000); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998); Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Henderson, 940 F.2d 465, 471 (9th Cir. 1991); Lowe v. City of Monrovia, 775 F.2d 998, 1010 (9th Cir. 1985).

When an equal protection claim is premised on unique treatment rather than on a classification, the Supreme Court has described it as a "class of one" claim. Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000) (per curiam). In order to claim a violation of equal protection in a class of one case, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant intentionally, and without rational basis, treated the plaintiff differently from others similarly situated. See Id.; accord Squaw Valley Dev. Co. v. Goldberg, 375 F.3d 936, 944 (9th Cir. 2004), overruled on other grounds, Action Apt. Ass'n v. Santa Monica Rent Control Bd., 509 F.3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir.2007). A class of one plaintiff must show that the discriminatory treatment "was intentionally directed just at him, as opposed ... to being an accident or a random act." Jackson v. Burke, 256 F.3d 93, 96 (2d Cir. 2001).

Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim for violation of his rights under the Equal Protection Clause as he fails to state allegations to show an intentional discriminatory animus motivating his being left in his wheelchair in the program office overnight, rather than an ad-seg cell. Plaintiff also does not state any allegations to show whether the ad-seg housing unit was wheelchair accessible, and, if not, how other prisoner's in wheelchairs had served ad-seg confinement prior to this event. Even in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, his allegations are simply insufficient to show that his being left in his wheelchair in the program office overnight was not an accident, or a random act, rather than an act of discrimination. Plaintiff's claim under the Equal Protection Clause is not cognizable at this time.

2. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

In Roundtree v. Adams CV-F-01-6502-OWW-SMS-P, the Honorable Oliver W. Wanger found that individual liability is precluded under Title II of the ADA. (Roundtree, Court Doc. 117.) In the opinion, Judge Wanger stated:

The ADA defines "public entity" in relevant part as "any State or local government" or "any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government." 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1)(A)-(B) . . . . "Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination in programs of a public entity or discrimination by any such entity." Thomas v. Nakatani, 128 F.Supp.2d 684, 691 (D. Haw. 2000). The term "public entity," "as it is defined within the statute, does not include individuals." Alsbrook v. City of Maumelle, 184 F.3d 999, 1005 n.8 (8th Cir. 1999); see also 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1). "In suits under Title II of the ADA . . . the proper defendant usually is an organization rather than a natural person. . . . Thus, as a rule, there is no personal liability under Title II." Walker v. Snyder, 213 F.3d 344, 346 (7th Cir. 2000); accord Miller v. King, 384 F.3d 1248, 1276-77 (11th Cir. 2004) . . . . Individual liability is precluded under ADA Title II. (Doc. 117, 16:18-17:6.) Accordingly, any claim Plaintiff might intend to make under the ADA against Defendants, all of whom are individuals, is not cognizable.

3. Eighth Amendment -- Cruel & Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and only those deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9, 112 S.Ct. 995 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). In order to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that prison officials knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff. E.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). Since, as discussed above, Plaintiff fails to link any of the Defendants to his factual scenario, he fails to show that any of the named Defendants knew he was left in the program office in his wheelchair with neither a bed to lie down, nor access to a handicapped accessible restroom which caused him to spend the night in urine soaked clothes.

Further, temporarily unconstitutional conditions of confinement do not rise to the level of constitutional violations. See Anderson v. County of Kern 45 F.3d 1310 (9th Cir. 1995) and Hoptowit v. Ray 682 F.2d 1237 (9th Cir. 1982). Thus, even though being left in his wheelchair in the program office without access to a handicapped restroom or bed to lie down on, over time might rise to the level of a cognizable claim under the Eighth Amendment. However, since it apparently only occurred one night, this circumstance was temporary and thus does not rise to the level of a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

4. Conspiracy

It appears that Plaintiff might be attempting to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). A claim brought for violation of section 1985(3) requires "four elements: (1) a conspiracy; (2) for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; and (3) an act in furtherance of this conspiracy; (4) whereby a person is either injured in his person or property or deprived of any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States." Sever v. Alaska Pulp Corp., 978 F.2d 1529, 1536 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). A racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus is an indispensable element of a section 1985(3) claim. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 989 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotations and citation omitted).

In interpreting these standards, the Ninth Circuit has held that a claim under § 1985 must allege specific facts to support the allegation that defendants conspired together. Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 626 (9th Cir. 1988). A claim for violation of section 1985(3) requires the existence of a conspiracy and an act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Holgate v. Baldwin, 425 F.3d 671, 676 (9th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). A mere allegation of conspiracy without factual specificity is insufficient to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Id.; Sanchez v. City of Santa Anna, 936 F.2d 1027, 1039 (9th Cir. 1991). A racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus is an indispensable element of a section 1985(3) claim. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 989 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotations and citation omitted). Restraint must be exercised in extended section 1985(3) beyond racial prejudice. Butler v. Elle, 281 F.3d 1014, 1028 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).

Plaintiff's only conspiracy allegations are that "defendants conspired to punish the petitioner by ordering him to spend the night in his wheelchair in the staff's program office" and that "defendants maliciously and sadistically conspired to inflict unecessary [sic] cruelty upon the petitioner as punishment for the situation involving the parties." These allegations lack specificity to state a conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. §1985(3). Further, Plaintiff fails to state any discriminatory animus behind any conspiratorial efforts. Thus, Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. §1985(3).

5. Supervisory Liability

It appears that Plaintiff named all of the Defendants because they hold supervisory positions. Plaintiff is advised that supervisory personnel are generally not liable under section 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 941 (1979). To state a claim for relief under section 1983 based on a theory of supervisory liability, plaintiff must allege some facts that would support a claim that supervisory defendants either: personally participated in the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights; knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them; or promulgated or "implemented a policy so deficient that the policy 'itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights' and is 'the moving force of the constitutional violation.'" Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal citations omitted); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Although federal pleading standards are broad, some facts must be alleged to support claims under section 1983. See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993).

Plaintiff has not alleged any facts indicating that the Defendants personally participated in the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights; knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them; or promulgated or "implemented a policy so deficient that the policy 'itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights' and is 'the moving force of the constitutional violation.'" Hansen v. Black at 646.

5. Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

In addition to money damages, Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief. (Doc. 1, p. 3.) "'A case or controversy exists justifying declaratory relief only when the challenged government activity is not contingent, has not evaporated or disappeared, and, by its continuing and brooding presence, casts what may well be a substantial adverse effect on the interests of the petitioning parties.'" Feldman v. Bomar, 518 F.3d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Headwaters, Inc. v. Bureau of Land Management, Medford Dist., 893 F.2d 1012, 1015 (9th Cir. 1989) (internal quotations and citation omitted)). "Declaratory relief should be denied when it will neither serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue nor terminate the proceedings and afford relief from the uncertainty and controversy faced by the parties." U.S. v. State of Wash., 759 F.2d 1353, 1357 (9th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted). The governmental conduct at issue in this action occurred in 2006, and Plaintiff's remedy is damages should he prevail on his claim that his constitutional rights were violated. Further, in the event that this action reaches trial and the jury returns a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, that verdict will be a finding that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated. Thus, Plaintiff's declaratory relief claim is subject to dismissal.

In addition to declaratory relief, Plaintiff seeks "an injunction to refrain prison staff from this type of conduct." (Doc. 1, p. 3.)

"[T]hose who seek to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts must satisfy the threshold requirement imposed by Article III of the Constitution by alleging an actual case or controversy." City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 1665 (1983) (citations omitted); Jones v. City of Los Angeles, 444 F.3d 1118, 1126 (9th Cir. 2006). "Abstract injury is not enough." Lyons, 461 U.S. at 101, 103 S.Ct. at 1665. "[P]laintiff must show that he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as the result of the challenged official conduct and the injury or threat of injury must be both real and immediate, not conjectural or hypothetical." Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). "The key issue is whether the plaintiff is 'likely to suffer future injury.'" Jones, 444 F.3d at 1126 (quoting Lyons at 105, 1667). At this point, Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable claims to have met Article II's threshold requirement.

In addition, any award of equitable relief is governed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which provides in relevant part, "Prospective relief in any civil action with respect to prison conditions shall extend no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right of a particular plaintiff or plaintiffs. The court shall not grant or approve any prospective relief unless the court finds that such relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1)(A).

This action will only proceed if Plaintiff is able to file an amended complaint that states a cognizable claim regarding his being left in the program office overnight in 2007. The past actions of Defendants related to Plaintiff's placement in the office overnight will form the case or controversy in this action if Plaintiff is able to state a cognizable claim. The Court has no jurisdiction to issue an order aimed at remedying unrelated actions which might occur in the future. Thus, Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief is subject to dismissal.

II. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed, with leave to file a first amended complaint within thirty days. If Plaintiff needs an extension of time to comply with this order, Plaintiff shall file a motion seeking an extension of time no later than thirty days from the date of service of this order.

Plaintiff must demonstrate in any first amended complaint how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). The first amended complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under section 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

Plaintiff's first amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights. Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 987-88 (9th Cir. 2007). Although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 127, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).

Plaintiff is further advised that a first amended complaint supercedes the original complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the prior or superceded pleading," Local Rule 15-220. Plaintiff is warned that "[a]ll causes of action alleged in an original complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived." King, 814 F.2d at 567 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth, 114 F.3d at 1474.

The Court provides Plaintiff with opportunity to amend to cure the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his first amended complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no "buckshot" complaints).

Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed, with leave to amend;

2. The Clerk's Office shall send Plaintiff a civil rights complaint form;

3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff must either:

a. File a first amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order, or

b. Notify the Court in writing that he does not wish to file a first amended complaint and wishes to proceed only on the claims identified by the Court as viable/cognizable in this order; and

4. If Plaintiff fails to comply with this order, this action will be dismissed for failure to obey a court order and for failure to state a claim.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20090602

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