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Kabil v. Youngblood

August 10, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge


Screening Order

Plaintiff Talat Mohamed Kabil, a former federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, filed a fifteen-count complaint on February 27, 2008. Plaintiff consented to jurisdiction by a U.S. Magistrate Judge on March 24, 2008.

Because of apparent errors and omissions in plaintiff's filed complaint, including the absence of numerous exhibits to which the complaint refers, on June 15, 2009, this Court entered an order permitting plaintiff to amend and/or supplement the complaint on or before July 20, 2009. If plaintiff did not amend or supplement by that date, the Court indicated its intent to screen the complaint in the form originally filed. Because plaintiff has not amended or supplemented his complaint, nor contacted the court requesting an enlargement of time, this Court now enters the following screening order, based on plaintiff's complaint as originally filed.

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. § 915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Plaintiff's Complaint, in General. In a vague, lengthy and poorly organized first amended complaint, plaintiff first sets forth his factual allegations, organizing them neither chronologically nor by topic. Plaintiff then asserts fifteen causes of action, none of which is clearly tied to specific factual allegations. The disorganization is compounded by the inclusion of claims against defendants who are never mentioned in the factual allegations, the absence of allegations against some of the named defendants, and by a large number of "Doe defendants" with confusingly similar names. The filed copy is both incomplete, omitting the exhibits to which it refers, frequently illegible, and occasionally obscured by the poor quality of the copy submitted for filing.*fn1 The complaint not only baffles the reader, it fails to state a claim.

This Court will not speculate regarding which facts plaintiff intends to support which constitutional claims. If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, as he is permitted to do pursuant to this order, he must correlate his claims for relief with the factual basis underlying each one, demonstrating how the occurrences of which he complains have resulted in each deprivation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. To accomplish this objective, plaintiff may find it helpful to reorganize his complaint to set forth each claim individually, followed by the relevant supporting allegations. Organizing the complaint in this way may also assist plaintiff in identifying and removing irrelevant or unnecessary factual allegations and duplicative or unsupported causes of action. By simplifying and shortening his complaint, plaintiff will enable the Court to evaluate his claims and the facts supporting each one. Plaintiff's amended complaint may not exceed twenty-five pages.

Plaintiff is encouraged to focus on the standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 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). 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, supra, 534 U.S. at 512. Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Plaintiff must set forth sufficient factual matter accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, supra, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, quoting Twombly, supra, 550 U.S. at 555. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Ibid.

Although accepted as true, "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555 (citations omitted). A plaintiff must set forth "the grounds of his entitlement to relief," which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 555-56 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To adequately state a claim against a defendant, plaintiff must set forth the legal and factual basis for his claim.

In screening a complaint, 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." Neitzke 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).

Improper joinder. Upon amendment, plaintiff's complaint, which advances fifteen causes of action, will need to be separated into more than one action in order to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. "A party asserting a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). This means that a plaintiff cannot combine claims in a single action unless each of the multiple claims is against the same defendant(s).

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 [that 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).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

A. Factual Background

From May 2007 until some time after February 27, 2008, plaintiff, who now resides in Egypt, was detained by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("BICE") and housed at the Kern County Jail ("KCJ"), pursuant to a contractual agreement. Despite the brevity of plaintiff's tenure at KCJ, he alleges numerous occurrences that gave rise to multiple constitutional claims against numerous defendants, some of whom plaintiff cannot now identify.

Plaintiff's broken foot. For reasons that are unclear from the complaint, prior to June 12, 2007, plaintiff exercised and played in the prison yard without shoes, burning the soles of his feet.*fn2 Because defendant Moustafi, a prison physician, would not provide the medical shoes plaintiff had requested, plaintiff borrowed another inmate's shoes, which were too big for plaintiff. Inevitably, plaintiff's left foot turned in the oversized shoe and was injured. Plaintiff saw Moustafi on June 13 and insisted that Moustafi x-ray his foot, despite Moustafi's disinclination to do so. The x-ray revealed two fractures of plaintiff's left foot. Nonetheless, plaintiff did not see the orthopedist at Kern Medical Center ("KMC") until August 17, 2007, over two months later. By then, it was too late to apply a cast.

On September 12, 2007, the orthopedist ordered eight therapy sessions before a follow-up appointment on October 16, 2007. The staff scheduler (either Nurse Doe or clerks Cindy or Debi*fn3 ) could not understand the orthopedist's report and scheduled a single therapy session for October 1, 2007. Plaintiff missed that session as well as several scheduled follow-up appointments since he was not provided transport. Nonetheless, on each occasion, he was required to wait in shackles for prolonged periods awaiting the escort that never arrived.

When plaintiff finally returned to the orthopedist on November 9, 2007, the orthopedist again ordered the series of eight therapy sessions. But, when plaintiff saw Dr. Moustafi on November 14, 2007, the schedulers had not made any therapy appointments. Moustafi directed Nurse Doe to arrange for appointments and to get approval from BICE.

The therapy appointments had still not been scheduled by November 22, 2007. In response to Moustafi's inquiry, Nurse Doe indicated that either Cindy or Debi was responsible for scheduling KMC appointments. Because the orthopedist's November 9, 2007, report was missing from plaintiff's medical file, Moustafi directed scheduling of a single session with additional sessions to be scheduled as directed by the therapist.

Withholding of medication. On September 5, 2007, defendant Nurse Lim refused to give plaintiff his medication*fn4 for "prejudic[ial] reason," even after plaintiff threatened to file a grievance. Defendant Carrasco was present but refused to allow plaintiff to speak with the floor supervisor. Plaintiff prepared a grievance but Carrasco refused to sign it, saying it would be signed by a sergeant. Plaintiff heard nothing more about his grievance.

"Violation of Procedure." On June 14, 2007, defendants McNell and Ramirez, both correctional officers, assaulted plaintiff by twisting his arms as they escorted him to reception, forcing him to walk on his injured foot despite the doctor's order that plaintiff not walk on it. While plaintiff experienced severe pain, McNell and Ramirez ignored his screaming and laughed at him. Plaintiff complained to BICE and filed a grievance with the jail, which was received by a deputy, badge no. 496.*fn5 Plaintiff received no response to his grievance alleging that McNell and Ramirez violated procedure and protocol.

November 4 Assault. Defendant Roden gave sick inmates stools to sit on while waiting for count. On November 4, 2007, Roden kicked plaintiff's stool away, told plaintiff that he did not need the stool, then locked plaintiff down for an "unreasonable reason." Plaintiff requested a grievance form. Shortly after the lock down following the count, Roden entered plaintiff's cell, directed plaintiff to face the wall, twisted plaintiff's left hand and arm, and caused plaintiff's head and chest to hit the wall. Roden then escorted plaintiff to the control area, directed plaintiff to lie down on his belly, and secured assistance to handcuff plaintiff. Roden filed a disciplinary report including false allegations.

As a result of Roden's assault and the handcuffing, plaintiff experienced pain in his hand, neck, elbow and wrist. When receiving pain medication at the infirmary, plaintiff complained to the night shift Sargent. Plaintiff was then relocated to the CPOD High Profile Unit and deprived of activities provided to inmates housed in the general population. Although defendant Luevavos promised an internal investigation, but plaintiff was nonetheless found guilty of the alleged (but untrue) disciplinary violations and denied a copy of the disposition.

Miscellaneous Allegations. On May 23, 2007, defendant Hall failed to wake plaintiff, who was sleeping soundly because of medication administered that morning, causing plaintiff to miss lunch. As a result, plaintiff was "starving" before dinner time.

On May 30, 2007, Hall refused to escort plaintiff to the law library.

On May 31, 2007, Hall locked plaintiff down for several hours for no reason. When plaintiff requested a grievance from defendant Hall, Hall refused, requiring plaintiff to file his grievance on plain paper. On an unspecified date, Hall assaulted plaintiff in retaliation for filing the May 31 grievance. plaintiff was also relocated multiple times and assigned an incompatible cellmate in retaliation for the May 31 grievance. On July 20, 2007, the May 31 grievance was denied.

Hall threatened plaintiff, warning him not to file a grievance regarding an unspecified incident that occurred on June 14, 2007.

Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding harassment by other inmates but received no response.

B. Defendants

1. Identity of Defendants

The complaint fails to clearly identify which individuals are intended to be defendants. For example, plaintiff names as defendants Kern County Sheriff Danny Youngblood, Michael Rubio, Chairman of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, Sgt. Doe #619, #Do350, and Clerk Tresa but includes no allegations against them in the body of the complaint. Other individuals, such as clerk Debi and deputy, badge no. 496, are addressed in the complaint but are not named as defendants. The amended complaint, should plaintiff elect to file one, must clearly identify the individuals that plaintiff intends to name as defendants.

2. Linkage "Claims against unknown persons are meaningless and uncomprehensible." Copeland v. Northwestern Mem'l Hosp., 964 F.Supp. 1225, 1234 (N.D.Ill. 1997)(internal quotations and citations omitted). Accordingly, plaintiff must identify as defendants those persons and entities directly responsible for the violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff must tie each ...

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