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Hunter v. Hinojosa

August 5, 2009

LEROY DEWITT HUNTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HINOJOSA, DEFENDANT.



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

ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF EITHER TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT OR TO NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIMS FOUND TO BE OFFICER COGNIZABLE (DOC. 15) RESPONSE DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Leroy Dewitt Hunter ("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 this action on March 7, 2007, at which time he was a pre-trial detainee. The complaint was dismissed by the Court on November 21, 2008, with leave to amend. Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint on December 31, 2008. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff is ordered to file second amended complaint or to notify the Court of his willingness to proceed only on the due process claim found to be cognizable in this order within thirty days.

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 § 1915A9(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 statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds on which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 12. 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)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

A. Summary of Complaint

Plaintiff's complaint is almost illegible in some parts and difficult to read. To the best of Court's ability to decipher Plaintiff's complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hinojosa applied his handcuffs with excessive force on January 3, 2007, disregarding his medical issues such as diabetes, and cutting off his circulation to the point of causing numbness, bruising, scars, nightmares and emotional trauma. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hinojosa violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment.

B. Eighth Amendment/Fourteenth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment only protects convicted prisoners. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979); Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10 (1989). It is the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that protects pre-trial detainees from the use of excessive force. Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1440 (9th Cir. 1991) (quoting Graham v. Connor at 395 n.10).

In resolving a substantive due process claim, courts must balance '"several factors focusing on the reasonableness of the officers' actions given the circumstances.'" White v. Roper, 901 F.2d 1501, 1507 (9th Cir.1990) (quoting Smith v. City of Fontana, 818 F.2d 1411, 1417 (9th Cir. 1987) (overruled on other grounds)). In the White case, the Ninth Circuit articulated four factors that courts should consider in resolving a due process claim alleging excessive force. The factors are (1) the need for the application of force, (2) the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used, (3) the extent of the injury inflicted, and (4) whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain and restore discipline. White at 1507.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant applied handcuffs with excessive force to the point that it caused him numbness, bruising, scars, nightmares, and other emotional trauma. Under the liberal federal pleading rules, Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts to state a claim for excessive force under the ...


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