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Shehee v. State

November 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 302.

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action.

28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's prison trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

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).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.

Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555) (citations and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, id., and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

The allegations of plaintiff's complaint span more than twelve years and encompass three federal venues. Plaintiff initially challenges the alleged misconduct of correctional officers at California State Prison-Sacramento ("CSP-S"), and medical personnel associated thereto, commencing in 1998, including an alleged battery of plaintiff resulting in allegedly permanent eye damage and the alleged failure to provide plaintiff with adequate medical care. Plaintiff next alleges the misconduct of officers with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department while plaintiff was incarcerated at the Los Angeles County Jail commencing in 2001, and of associated medical personnel at the Los Angeles County Medical Center. Plaintiff next alleges the failure of the California Department of Corrections, the California Department of Mental Health, and employees of each agency, to provide plaintiff with adequate medical care since the commencement of his incarceration at Coalinga State Hospital in 2008. The complaint details wide-ranging instances of allegedly unconstitutional conduct, pursuant to the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff asserts that he is now blind as the result of his initial beating and his repeatedly inadequate and injurious medical care, and that he has suffered further physical and psychological injuries due to the failure of Coalinga State Hospital to accommodate plaintiff's disability as required under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Plaintiff states that he has been assisted in the preparation of his complaint by other patients, despite an additional claim of being denied access to legal materials.

Plaintiff seeks damages, including "100 million dollars" in punitive damages, against more than thirty named defendants, as well as "Does #1 through #100."

The court finds that the complaint does not contain a short and plain statement as required by Federal Rules Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice to each of the defendants and state the elements of each claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Cmty Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). While plaintiff has attempted to meet this standard with specificity, the complaint is so wide ranging with respect to time, claims, defendants, and venue that it comprises a "shotgun" pleading requiring amendment. See, e.g., Byrne v. Nezhat, 261 F.3d 1075, 1129 (11th Cir. 2001) ("a shotgun complaint leads to a shotgun answer" and "disjointed pleadings make it difficult, if not impossible, to set the boundaries for discovery"); Anderson v. Dist. Bd. of Trustees of Centr. Florida Comm. Coll., 77 F.3d 364, 366-67 (11th Cir. 1996) ("[e]xperience teaches that, unless cases are pled clearly and precisely, issues are not joined, discovery is not controlled, the trial court's docket becomes unmanageable, the litigants suffer, and society loses confidence in the court's ability to administer justice"); Smith v. Rainey, 2010 WL 4118096, 16 (M.D. Fla. 2010) ("[w]hatever the merits of the underlying claim(s), [p]laintiff[] risk[s] having them overshadowed by the manner in which these claims are alleged").

Plaintiff's allegations must be refined and set forth in at least three separate pleadings, each filed in the appropriate federal judicial districts, i.e., the Sacramento Division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (plaintiff's claims against CSP-S officials), the Fresno Division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District Court of California (plaintiff's claims associated with Coalinga State Hospital), and the United States District Court for the Central District Court of California (plaintiff's claims against the Los Angeles County defendants).

The court will therefore dismiss the instant complaint with leave to file an amended complaint that is limited, in this court, to plaintiff's allegations relative to CSP-S, commencing with ...

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