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K'Napp v. Yates

July 27, 2009

ERIC CHARLES RODNEY K'NAPP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES A. YATES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

(Doc. 1)

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Eric Charles Rodney K'napp, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California tort law on March 2, 2009. 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).

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)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Id. at 1949.

II. Claims Brought for Violation of Section 1983

A. Linkage Requirement

Plaintiff, who is housed at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, brings this action for the violation of his rights under the United States Constitution. Under section 1983, Plaintiff is required to show that (1) each defendant acted under color of state law and (2) each defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983, and therefore, each defendant is only liable for his or her own misconduct. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1948-49.

In this instance, Plaintiff has not sufficiently linked the numerous defendants named in his complaint to any acts or omissions that purportedly led to the violation of those rights. For example, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Collins, Delk, Grannis, Hickman, Negrete, Parks, Shannon, Tilton, Woodford, and Yates "refused or otherwise failed to take corrective action on Plaintiff's behalf despite possessing sufficient rank, responsibility, and opportunity to do so...." (Doc. 1, Comp., court record p. 19, lns. 7-9.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants "personally participated in jointly and severally causing or allowing Plaintiff to suffer violations and deprivations of..." his rights. (Id., p. 19, lns. 12-14.)

These general assertions do not suffice to show that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated by these Defendants. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. Rather, despite Plaintiff's assertion to the contrary, it appears that Plaintiff is attempting to impose liability not on Defendants' personal involvement but because they hold positions of authority and/or because of their involvement in reviewing appeals grieving misconduct, neither of which provides a basis for liability under section 1983. Iqbal at 1949 ("Absent vicarious liability, each Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct."); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934; George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007) ("Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation.").

Plaintiff will be permitted the opportunity to file an amended complaint clarifying the factual bases for his claims against each defendant. Plaintiff's amended complaint need not and should not be lengthy, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), but it must specify what each defendant did or did not do that led to the violation of Plaintiff's rights. Conclusory assertions of personal involvement or liability will not suffice. Iqbal at 1949-50.

B. Claims for Equitable Relief and Official Capacity Claims

In addition to money damages, Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and asserts both individual and official capacity claims. Plaintiff is currently housed at the Sierra Conservation Center, and the past events at issue in this action occurred at Pleasant Valley State Prison. When an inmate seeks injunctive or declaratory relief concerning the prison where he is incarcerated, his claims for such relief become moot when he is no longer subjected to those conditions. Nelson v. Heiss, 271 F.3d ...


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