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Alfredo E. Zepeda v. James A. Yates

March 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge



Alfredo E. Zepeda ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on October 11, 2007. (Doc. 1.) On May 8, 2009, the Court dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim, with leave to amend. (Doc. 13.) On October 26, 2009, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint, which is now before the Court for screening. (Doc. 21.)


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). "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).

A complaint is only required to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).


Plaintiff is currently a state prisoner at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran, California. The events at issue in the First Amended Complaint allegedly occurred at North Kern State Prison ("NKSP") in Delano, California; Ironwood State Prison ("ISP") in Blythe, California; California Men's Colony ("CMC") in San Luis Obispo, California; and Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") in Coalinga, California, while Plaintiff was housed at those four correctional facilities. Plaintiff names over forty defendants and brings claims for adverse conditions of confinement, inadequate medical care, failure to protect, retaliation, excessive force, ADA violations, inadequate appeals process, and violations of his rights to due process and equal protection. Plaintiff requests money damages, attorney fees, and costs of suit as relief.

The Court has screened the First Amended Complaint and finds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim under section 1983 upon which relief may be granted against any of the defendants. Plaintiff shall be granted leave to file a Second Amended Complaint within thirty days.


The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "Section 1983 . . . creates a cause of action for violations of the federal Constitution and laws." Sweaney v. Ada County, Idaho, 119 F.3d 1385, 1391 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal quotations omitted). "To the extent that the violation of a state law amounts to the deprivation of a state-created interest that reaches beyond that guaranteed by the federal Constitution, Section 1983 offers no redress." Id.

A. Deficiencies in the First Amended Complaint

1. Improper Venue for Claims Arising at ISP and CMC

Plaintiff's claims arise from events occurring at NKSP in Delano, California; ISP in Blythe, California; CMC in San Luis Obispo, California; and PVSP in Coalinga, California. Plaintiff's claims arising out of events at NKSP and PVSP are proper in this district. However, venue for Plaintiff's claims arising out of events at ISP or CMC is not proper in this district, and those claims may not be pursued in this action. Plaintiff shall be granted an opportunity to file a Second Amended Complaint, in which he should omit any claims for relief arising out of events occurring at ISP and CMC. See Costlow v. Weeks, 790 F.2d 1486, 1488 (9th Cir. 1986) (court may raise defective venue sua sponte); see also Davis v. Mason County, 927 F.2d 1473, 1479 (9th Cir. 1991) (courts have broad discretion regarding severance). If Plaintiff wishes to pursue the claims arising at ISP and CMC, he may file a new action in the Central District of California.

2. Rule 8(a)

Under federal notice pleading, a complaint is only required to 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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). "[P]laintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . ," Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), and while a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, 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). To state a viable claim for relief, Plaintiff must set forth sufficient 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. Id.

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, consisting of thirty-nine handwritten pages, fails to comport with Rule 8(a)'s instruction that the complaint is only required to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Plaintiff's lengthy narrative does not clearly or succinctly allege facts against the named defendants. Given that Plaintiff's claims arising at ISP and CMC are not properly venued here, and that Plaintiff must comply with Rule 18(a), as discussed below, twenty-five pages is more than sufficient for Plaintiff to identify his claims and set forth specific facts in support of those claims. Accordingly, the Second Amended Complaint may not exceed twenty-five pages in length, and it will be stricken from the record if it violates this page limitation.

3. Rule 18

Plaintiff alleges multiple claims in the First Amended Complaint that are largely unrelated. Plaintiff may not proceed in one action on a myriad of unrelated claims against different staff members. "The controlling principle appears in Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a): 'A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

In this instance, Plaintiff 's First Amended Complaint recites various encounters with prison officials, some which are not related to others. Plaintiff will not be permitted to pursue unrelated claims in this action. In amending, Plaintiff should determine which related claims he wishes to pursue and re-allege only those claims. If Plaintiff 's Second Amended Complaint also violates Rule 18(a) despite this admonition, the Court will decide which claims, if any, shall proceed.

4. Doe Defendants

Plaintiff names Doe defendants in this action. "As a general rule, the use of 'John Doe' to identify a defendant is not favored." Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). Plaintiff is advised that John Doe or Jane Doe defendants cannot be served by the United States Marshal until Plaintiff has identified them as actual individuals and amended his complaint to substitute names for John ...

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