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Jacobs v. Woodford

January 14, 2010

GEORGE E. JACOBS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WOODFORD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO EITHER FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT OR NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIMS FOUND TO BE COGNIZABLE (Doc. 1) RESPONSE DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

I. SCREENING ORDER

Plaintiff, George E. Jacobs, ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner who is currently proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 14, 2008. (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 twenty-three Defendants and seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and monetary damages. Plaintiff's complaint is comprised of forty-four pages of factual allegations and nineteen pages of exhibits. Plaintiff's complaint alleges fifteen causes of action based on a number of apparently unrelated factual scenarios against unrelated groupings of defendants such that it violates 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).

The Court is unable to discern specific relationship between most of Plaintiff's claims and declines to summarize and reiterate all of Plaintiff's claims against every Defendant. The fact that claims are premised on the same type of constitutional violation(s) (i.e. retaliation) against multiple defendants does not make them factually related. Claims are related where they are based on the same precipitating event, or a series of related events caused by the same precipitating event and/or are alleged against the same defendant(s).

Plaintiff's first, second, third, and fourth causes of action against Defendants C.O.s B. David and J. Masiel, and Sgt. J.M. Martinez appear related such that these claims will be screened and Plaintiff will be given leave to amend to clarify the relationship (if any) of his claims; or to choose to proceed on only those claims that are addressed herein as related -- attempting to amend to cure the noted deficiencies; or to choose to proceed only on those claims identified herein as cognizable and related so as not to violate Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a). Plaintiff is advised that if he chooses to file a first amended complaint, and fails to comply with Rule 18(a), all unrelated claims will be stricken.

In his first, second, third, and fourth causes of action with allegations against Defendants C.O.s B. David and J. Masiel, and Sgt. J.M. Martinez, Plaintiff alleges that during an escort while in mechanical restraints, Defendant C.O. David grabbed him by the collar and pushed him across the yard while making threats against Plaintiff if Plaintiff continued to pursue his lawsuit against C.O. David's superior -- Sgt. J.M. Martinez. C.O. J. Masiel joined in and pushed Plaintiff in a violent way and directed offensive and derogatory comments toward Plaintiff. Once inside his cell, Plaintiff extended his hands through the tray slot to be uncuffed at which time C.O. Masiel squeezed Plaintiff's arm and made threats against him, and that C.O. David uncuffed Plaintiff and intentionally smashed the tray slot door on Plaintiff's right hand. Sgt. Martinez reported to the scene and Plaintiff explained what happened, to which Sgt. Martinez responded by dousing Plaintiff with pepperspray while indicating that Plaintiff was lucky Sgt. Martinez had not been involved in the escort. Plaintiff requested a video tape for unreasonable use of force and medical attention which was rejected by Sgt. Martinez. As a result of this incident Plaintiff sustained injury.

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 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) quoting 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. Iqbal. at 1949; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, ___ F.3d ___, 2009 WL 2052985, *6, (9th Cir. 2009); 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 correctional personnel by the names of Meza, A. Robles, and N. Grannis in his factual statement, but fails to list them as defendants in the caption. If Plaintiff intends to pursue claims against these individuals, he must appropriately identify them as defendants in this action. Plaintiff must specify which Defendant(s) he feels are responsible for each violation 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. Official Capacity

Plaintiff has made all of his allegations against all of the named defendants in both their ...


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