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Fazelimoghadam v. County of Los Angeles

September 27, 2010

ANDREH FAZELIMOGHADAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

I. INTRODUCTION

On August 13, 2010, Andreh Fazelimoghadam ("Plaintiff"), a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a Civil Rights Complaint (the "Complaint") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, the Complaint suffers from pleading deficiencies and is therefore dismissed with leave to amend.*fn1

II. ALLEGATIONS OF COMPLAINT

The Complaint names the following defendants: (1) the County of Los Angeles, (Complaint at 1); (2) Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Raygoza ("Deputy Raygoza"), (id. at 3); (3) Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Gonzalez ("Deputy Gonzalez"), (id.); and (4) Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Allen ("Deputy Allen"). (Id.). Plaintiff sues all of the defendants in their individual capacity, with the exception of the County of Los Angeles, for which he does not specify the capacity in which he is suing. (Id. at 1, 3).

Plaintiff alleges that on January 4, 2010, while in custody at the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail, Deputy Raygoza confiscated Plaintiff's legal papers and copies of the Complaint. (Complaint at 2-3). Plaintiff further alleges that Deputies Gonzales and Allen called Plaintiff a terrorist in the vicinity of other inmates. (Id. at 3).

Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $1,500,000. (Complaint at 6). Plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief in the form of medical treatment for ongoing medical problems. (Id.).

III. DISCUSSION

Congress has mandated that district courts perform an initial screening of complaints in civil actions where a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). This Court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portions thereof, before service of process if it concludes that the complaint (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); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint due to defects in pleading. When a plaintiff appears in propria persona in a civil rights case, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and afford the plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). In giving liberal interpretation to a pro se complaint, the court may not, however, supply essential elements of a claim that were not initially pled. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Propria persona litigants in civil rights cases must be given leave to amend their complaints unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1127-29; see also Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to amend, as indicated below.

A. Plaintiff Fails To State A Claim Against A Municipal Entity

Plaintiff has named the County of Los Angeles as a defendant. (Complaint at 1). When an individual sues a local government for violation of his constitutional rights, the municipality is liable if the individual can establish that the local government "had a deliberate policy, custom, or practice that was the 'moving force' behind the constitutional violation he suffered." Galen v. County of Los Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 667 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694-95, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed. 2d 611 (1978)). In Monell, however, the Supreme Court specifically rejected governmental liability based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-94. Thus, in order to impose liability on a municipality under § 1983, a plaintiff must identify a specific policy that caused his injury. See Bd. of County Comm'rs of Bryan County, Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403-04, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed. 2d 626 (1997); see also Iqbal v. Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1951, 173 L.Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (requiring specific allegations regarding the policy at issue in a civil rights case).

Here, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the County of Los Angeles because he has not identified any policy or practice that serves as the moving force behind his alleged constitutional violations. Indeed, Plaintiff may not have intended to name the County of Los Angeles as a defendant at all because he did not include the County in the list of defendants on pages 3 and 4 of the Complaint. (See Complaint at 3-4). Rather, Plaintiff merely included the County of Los Angeles in the caption on page 1 of the Complaint. (See id. at 1). Plaintiff is advised that if he does not intend to name the County of Los Angeles as a defendant in any amended complaint he should not include the County in the caption. If Plaintiff does intend to name the County of Los Angeles as a defendant, he must first identify the specific policy or practice that violates his constitutional rights.

Further, Plaintiff must allege specific facts establishing that the policy or practice was the "moving force" behind the constitutional ...


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