Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Turner v. Fresno County Jail

October 12, 2010

BRIAN TURNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FRESNO COUNTY JAIL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN 30 DAYS

(Doc. 1)

Plaintiff Brian Turner ("Plaintiff") is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff was in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and incarcerated at Fresno County Jail at the time of the events described in his complaint. Plaintiff is suing under Section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff names Fresno County Jail as the defendant. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any cognizable claims for relief under Section 1983. The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, with leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days.

I. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by incarcerated persons 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 complaint has raises 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).

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under 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. P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II. Background

Plaintiff alleges that for a period of at least thirty days, Plaintiff and other inmates informed jail staff that the conditions in the jail were unsanitary. Plaintiff alleges that the vents and ceiling were covered with mold, dust, and bacteria. Plaintiff claims that jail staff did not take any action to clean the jail. On January 5, 2010, Plaintiff was seen by medical staff and learned that he had an infection that required the doctor to "lance a '2 in' section out of [Plaintiff's] left leg." (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff contends that the infection was caused by the unsanitary conditions at Fresno County Jail.

III. Discussion

Plaintiff contends that the unsanitary conditions at Fresno County Jail violated his rights. It is unclear whether Plaintiff's claims should be characterized as Eighth Amendment claims or Fourteenth Amendment claims because it is unclear whether Plaintiff was held at Fresno County Jail as a convicted prisoner or as a pre-trial detainee. The Eighth Amendment does not apply to pre-trial detainees because pre-trial detainees are not detained for punitive purposes. See Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 931 (9th Cir. 2004). However, the distinction is largely semantic. If the conditions of Plaintiff's confinement would violate a prisoner's Eighth Amendment rights, they would violate a pre-trial detainee's Fourteenth Amendment rights. Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 932 (9th Cir. 2004) (where a civil detainee is held in conditions similar to or more restrictive than the conditions imposed on a criminal detainee, the conditions constitute "punishment" in violation of the detainees Fourteenth Amendment rights).

While it is unclear whether Plaintiff's claims should be characterized as Eighth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment claims, the same "deliberate indifference" legal standard applies irrespective of Plaintiff's incarceration status. Cloutheir v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1241-44 (9th Cir. 2010) (deliberate indifference standard applies to claims that government officials failed to prevent harm). For the purposes of screening Plaintiff's claims, the Court will use the use Eighth Amendment terminology as it applies to prisoners.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments and "embodies 'broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency.'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (quoting Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 579 (8th Cir. 1968)). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the objective requirement that the deprivation is "sufficiently serious," and (2) the subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)).

The objective requirement that the deprivation be "sufficiently serious" is met where the prison official's act or omission results in the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). The subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind" is met where the prison official acts with "deliberate indifference" to inmate health or safety. Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-303). A prison official acts with deliberate indifference when he or she "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety." Id. at 837. "[T]he official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id.

"It is undisputed that the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which [the prisoner] is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment." Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). "The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners not only from inhumane methods of punishment but also from inhumane conditions of confinement." Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). Prison officials must provide prisoners with "food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety." Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). "[W]hile conditions of confinement may be, and often ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.