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Gonzales v. Price

December 2, 2009

MICHAEL GONZALES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

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

I. SCREENING ORDER

Plaintiff, Michael Gonzales, ("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 the Complaint on September 21, 2007. (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).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is currently housed at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison ("SATF") in Corcoran, California -- where the acts he complains of occurred. Plaintiff names Price, K. Frescura, B.S. Vikjord, M. Castro, Warden Darrel Adams, R. Pinzon, E. Castro, J. Munoz, and Kelley as Defendants in this action. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Plaintiff alleges a number of seemingly unrelated acts against most of the Defendants -- ranging from retaliating against him, to involuntarily medicating his meals, to stealing his novels and drawings, to refusing to mail his correspondence, and not allowing him to use the showers. Plaintiff does not specify which of his rights he feels were violated. Rather, he uses various words (i.e. retaliate, engaged in concerted actions, without due process, stolen) throughout his presentation of events that imply that he is alleging a variety of claims. Plaintiff states some cognizable claims and may be able to amend to correct the deficiencies in his pleading so as to state additional cognizable claims. Thus, he is being given the applicable standards based on the nomenclature utilized in his allegations 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. 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)).

"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, ___ 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, 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; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, ___ F.3d ___, 2009 WL 2052985, *6, (9th Cir. 2009) ref Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557.

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 mentions Thomas, Vanzant, and Cortez variously throughout the Complaint. If Plaintiff intends to pursue allegations against these individuals, he must appropriately identify them as defendants in this action. Further, generic identifiers such as "Defendants," "Officers," and "staff" are insufficient to adequately link a specific defendant to any charging allegations. Plaintiff must clearly state 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).

3. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a)

Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a) states that "A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party." "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 [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).

It appears that a number of Plaintiff's claims are not related such that the Complaint violates Rule 18(a). Plaintiff's allegations against prison staff by the names of Vanzant, Rodriguez, and Thomas (none of whom are named as defendants in this action) and against named Defendants J. Munoz and E. Castro appear to be wholly unrelated to Plaintiff's claims against named Defendants Price, Vikjord, M. Castro, R. Pinzon, K. Frescura, and Warden Adams. Thus, the Court only addresses Plaintiff's allegations against named Defendants Price, Vikjord, M. Castro, R. Pinzon, K. Frescura, and Warden Adams in this screening order. If Plaintiff believes his allegations involving Vanzant, Rodriguez, and Thomas and Defendants J. Munoz and E. Castro are related to his allegations against Defendants Price, Vikjord, M. Castro, R. Pinzon, K. Frescura, and Warden Adams, and if Plaintiff chooses to amend his pleading, he must specifically show any such relationship in a first amended complaint. Plaintiff is advised that claims are not related simply because he alleges the same type of constitutional violation(s) (i.e. retaliation) against multiple ...


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