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Smith v. Kouri

May 28, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jay C. Gandhi United States Magistrate Judge



A. Dismissal of Original Complaint

On January 11, 2010, plaintiff Tryon Larry Smith ("Plaintiff"), a California prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a civil rights complaint ("Complaint") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. at 1.) The Complaint named four defendants: (1) Police Detective Nathan Kouri; (2) "City of Los Angeles Police Department" ("LAPD"); (3) "Police Officers (Does 1-20)"; (4) "City of Los Angeles" (the "City"); and (5) "City of Los Angeles Children Services" ("Children's Services"). (Compl. at 3-4.)

Pursuant to the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), the Court screened the Complaint and found it deficient in several respects: (1) Plaintiff failed to name all of the defendants in the caption of the Complaint; (2) Plaintiff failed to properly state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 against the City and Children's Services; (3) Plaintiff failed to state a conspiracy claim against any of the defendants; (4) Plaintiff failed to state a Monell claim against the City, LAPD, and Children's Services*fn1; and (5) Plaintiff's conspiracy claim was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). (Court's Mar. 1, 2010 Order at 3-6.) Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Complaint, but granted Plaintiff leave to amend. (Id. at 7.)

B. Filing of First Amended Complaint

On May 5, 2010, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") against police officers Nathan Kouri, J. Zamora, P. Montejano, J. Townsend, and C. Fenstemacher (collectively "Officer Defendants"), and Children's Services agent Julie Middleton ("Defendant Middleton"). (FAC at 1, 3-4a.)*fn2 The Officer Defendants are sued in their individual capacities only. (Id. at 3-4.) The FAC fails to indicate in what capacity Defendant Middleton is being sued. (See id. at 1, 4a.)

The FAC cures the deficiencies previously identified by the Court: (1) the City, LAPD, and Children's Services are no longer named defendants to this action; (2) Plaintiff does not re-allege his purported conspiracy claim; and (3) Plaintiff names all of the defendants in the caption of the FAC. (See generally FAC at 1-6.) However, for the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Middleton, whether in her individual or official capacity, fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.


Plaintiff alleges that on December 7, 2005, he was "brutally attacked, [assaulted,] and beaten by the" Officer Defendants at his parents' Los Angeles area home. (FAC at 3, 5-5a.) Plaintiff, a minor at the time of the incident, claims that he was not at school on the day at issue because he was sick at home with "a very high fever." (Id. at 5, 5a.) Plaintiff allegedly "slept the whole day" up until around 5:30 pm, when he "came to with" the Officer Defendants "pulling [him] out of bed, [and] kicking and punching [him] brutally until[] [he] was knocked [unconscious] by the brutal ass[a]ult." (Id. at 5a.) As a result, Plaintiff states that his face was "disfigured" and "grotesquely swollen" with his "cheek bone crushed in" and "eye severely damaged." (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that he had broken bones and "maj[o]r pain sites all over [his] body," and that his eye injury "required emergency surgery." (Id.)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Middleton arrived at his parents' house with the Officer Defendants on the day of the incident. (FAC at 5b.) She was also "present during the whole ordeal," but "stood idly by and allowed the ass[a]ult to take place." (Id.) Prior to the assault, Defendant Middleton took Plaintiff's younger "brother and sister into custody[,]" but did not take Plaintiff into custody. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that Defendant Middleton could have prevented the beating "altogether" if she had taken him into custody with his siblings. (Id.)

Based upon these factual allegations, Plaintiff claims that the Officer Defendants and Defendant Middleton violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using unnecessary and "unreasonable force" in unlawfully "beating ... a minor under the guise of apprehension and detention." (FAC at 5.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Middleton exhibited a "wilful [and] deliberate indifference and reckless disregard" to the alleged beating. (Id.) For his injuries, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory relief. (Id. at 6.)


The Prison Litigation Reform Act obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding in forma pauperis, and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)-(h) and 1915A. Under these provisions, the Court must sua sponte dismiss any prisoner civil rights action and all other in forma pauperis complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek damages from defendants who are immune. Id.; see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Dismissal for failure to state a claim "can be based on the lack of a ...

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