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Jones v. Stieferman

June 22, 2010

MALIK JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
C. STIEFERMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding with counsel, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's second amended complaint (Doc. 84).

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague and conclusory.

In an order issued concurrently herewith, the undersigned found Plaintiff's second amended complaint, read liberally, appears to state a cognizable claim against several defendants. However, as discussed below, plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against defendants Stieferman, Rudolph, Holmes, Ward, Chastain, and Pliler. In addition defendants Cambine, Churray, Kimbrell and Rianda were previously dismissed from this action, and Plaintiff should not be allowed to reinstate this action against them. Finally, Plaintiff is attempting to bring two new defendants, Harper and Burgett, into this action on new and unrelated claims.

I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff's second amended complaint generally alleges that the defendants have acted with deliberate indifference to his mental health needs, retaliated against him, assaulted him, and harassed him. In addition, Plaintiff claims he has been deprived of his wheelchair, and the warden refused to intervene in his mistreatment. He also has named several individuals as defendants, but fails to make any allegations against them.

II. DISCUSSION

A. FAILURE TO LINK

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege an actual connection or link between the actions of the named defendants and the alleged deprivations. See Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 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). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Rather, the plaintiff must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's causal role in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988).

Here, Plaintiff names the following additional individuals as defendants: Stieferman, Rudolph, Homes, Ward, and Chastain. The undersigned found Plaintiff's first amended complaint was sufficient to state a claim against several of these individuals, but Plaintiff's second amended complaint, which supercedes the first, fails to allege any facts regarding the individuals' role in his alleged constitutional deprivations. There are no allegations in his second amended complaints against these individuals. The only place they are mentioned is in the list of defendants, wherein Plaintiff identifies the defendants' and their respective positions.

Often, especially when a prisoner is proceeding pro se, a plaintiff will be provided an opportunity to cure such a defect. However, Plaintiff is no longer proceeding pro se, and he has been provided ample opportunity to file a sufficient complaint. Therefore, the undersigned recommends the dismissal of these individuals as defendants to this action, without further leave to amend, and this action proceed on the second amended complaint as set forth in the undersigned's screening order.

B. SUPERVISOR LIABILITY

Supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983). A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations of subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations. See id. The Supreme Court has rejected the notion that a supervisory defendant can be liable based on knowledge and acquiescence in a subordinate's unconstitutional conduct because government officials, regardless of their title, can only be held liable under § 1983 for his or her own conduct and not the conduct of others. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). When a defendant holds a supervisory position, the causal link between such defendant and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of supervisory personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the constitution." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1948.

Plaintiff names Warden Pliler as a defendant in this action based solely on the allegation that she refused to intervene in his mistreatment. As stated above, a supervisory defendant can only be liable for his or her own conduct, not that of others. Except for his allegation that he attempted to communicate with Warden Pliler about his mistreatment, and therefore she was presumably aware of it and failed to intervene, there are no allegations of any affirmative conduct by Warden Pliler. Plaintiff makes no allegation that Warden Pliler actively participated in his alleged mistreatment. Knowledge and acquiescence of mistreatment is insufficient to impose liability on a supervisory defendant. As discussed above, Plaintiff has been provided sufficient ...


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