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Archie Cranford v. Letty Avila

December 7, 2010

ARCHIE CRANFORD,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
LETTY AVILA, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND AMENDED COMPLAINT DUE 1/14/11

Plaintiff Archie Cranford ("Plaintiff") proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is civilly committed to Coalinga State Hospital as a sexually violent predator. Plaintiff's November 13, 2008 Complaint is currently before the Court for screening. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

I. SCREENING REQUIREMENT

The in forma pauperis statutes provides that "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). 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). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice," Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), and courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences," Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Under section 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

II. FACTS

Plaintiff's November 13, 2008 Complaint alleges as follows: Because Plaintiff has a history of heart attacks, his doctor instructed him to keep nitro-glycerin tablets with him at all times. Plaintiff was to self-administer his nitro-glycerin if he felt a heart attack coming on.

On September 16, 2008, Defendant Ires Wilkins asked Plaintiff if he knew when and how to use his heart medication and if he was aware of the risks of using his medication incorrectly. After extensive questioning, Plaintiff alleges that Wilkins felt he was reliable enough to self-medicate. However, Defendant Letty Avila ordered Wilkins to take Plaintiff's nitro-glycerin tablets. Plaintiff informed Defendants that he was under doctor's orders to carry those tablets with him at all times, but they did not immediately return the tablets to Plaintiff. Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction of both Defendants' employment as well as monetary damages. (ECF No. 1.)

III. ANALYSIS

Section 1983 "provides a cause of action for the 'deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States." Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

Plaintiff alleges that prison officials violated his constitutional rights by failing to provide adequate medical care. Plaintiff is not a prisoner; he is civilly committed to Coalinga State Hospital as a sexually violent predator. "[C]ivil detainees retain greater liberty protections than individuals detained under criminal process, and pre-adjudication detainees retain greater liberty protections than convicted ones . . . ." Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 932 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Treatment is presumptively punitive when a civil detainee is confined in conditions identical to, similar to, or more restrictive than his criminal counterparts and when a pre-adjudication civil detainee is detained under conditions more restrictive than a post-adjudication civil detainee would face. Id. at 932-33.

As a civil detainee, Plaintiff's right to medical care is protected by the substantive component of the Due Process Clause. Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 315, 102 S.Ct. 2452 (1982). A determination whether Plaintiff's rights were violated requires "balancing of his liberty interests against the relevant state interests." Youngberg, 457 U.S. at 321. Plaintiff is "entitled to more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish," but the Constitution requires only that courts ensure that professional judgment was exercised. Youngberg, at 321-22. A "decision, if made by a professional, is presumptively valid; liability may be imposed only when the decision by the professional is such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards as to demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base the decision on such a judgment." Id. at 322-23; compare Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1243-44 (9th Cir. 2010) (rejecting the Youngberg standard and applying the deliberate indifference standard to a pretrial detainee's right to medical care, and noting that pretrial detainees, who are confined to ensure presence at trial, are not similarly situated to those civilly committed).

The facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint fail to state a claim for inadequate medical care. Plaintiff alleges that a staff member confiscated his medication for a period of time. It is unclear from Plaintiff's complaint how long he was deprived of his nitro-glycerin tablets and what harm, if any, resulted from his deprivation. A plaintiff must show harm caused by his medical treatment in order to state a civil rights claim. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff also has failed to allege facts showing that Defendants' removal of his medication was a substantial departure from ...


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