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Collins v. Mule Creek State Prison

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


September 28, 2009

ALONZO COLLINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MULE CREEK STATE PRISON, WARDEN, DEFENDANTS.

ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. By order filed April 16, 2009, plaintiff's complaint was dismissed with leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff has now filed an amended complaint.

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).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions," "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). In other words, "[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). Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief has facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

Although the exact nature of plaintiff's complaint is hard to discern, it appears that plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation pending investigation into charges against him and released seven months later. During that period, he was never evaluated by mental health personnel and was treated unjustly. He wants compensation for false imprisonment, "mental terror and oppression" and "inhumane treatment, cruel and unusual punishment."

The Eighth Amendment protects against conditions of confinement and prohibits conditions that involve the wanton infliction of pain. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981); Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff does not describe the conditions he classifies as inhumane but rather relies only on his legal conclusion. He will be given the opportunity to describe the conditions in the segregation unit which he believes were inhumane, if he can do so while complying with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11.

Plaintiff also alleges that he was not evaluated by mental health personnel. The Eighth Amendment proscribes deliberate indifference to an inmate's medical or mental health needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Once again, plaintiff has not described his mental health needs nor alleged that his mental health suffered as the result of prison officials' failure to act; he will be given the opportunity to amend this portion of his complaint as well.

Finally, a prisoner does not have a constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely accused. Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d 949, 951 (2d Cir.1986) (prison disciplinary charge). Moreover, placement in disciplinary confinement does not generally implicate a prisoner's constitutional rights. Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1078 (9th Cir. 2003). It is possible that plaintiff is basing his claim on some sort of denial of a hearing or deprivation of procedural due process rights at the hearing. Plaintiff may amend this portion of his complaint if he is able.

In sum, the court finds the allegations in plaintiff's amended complaint so vague and conclusory that it is unable to determine whether the current action is frivolous or fails to state a claim for relief. The court has determined that the amended complaint does not contain a short and plain statement as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in that support plaintiff's claim. Id. Because plaintiff has failed to comply with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the amended complaint must be dismissed. The court will, however, grant leave to file a second amended complaint.

If plaintiff chooses to file a second amended complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate 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). Also, the second amended complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 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). Furthermore, vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

In addition, plaintiff is informed that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's second amended complaint complete. Local Rule 15-220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. This is because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files a second amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, in a second amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged.

In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's amended complaint is dismissed; and

2. Plaintiff is granted thirty days from the date of service of this order to file a second amended complaint that complies with the requirements of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Practice; the second amended complaint must bear the docket number assigned this case and must be labeled "Second Amended Complaint"; failure to file a second amended complaint in accordance with this order will result in an order dismissing this action.

20090928

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