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Joseph Lee Glosson v. Tim v. Virga

August 10, 2011

JOSEPH LEE GLOSSON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIM V. VIRGA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1).

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (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)(1), (2). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a ". . . short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague and conclusory.

I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff names the following as defendants: Virga, Baughman, Shannon, Clark, Engellenner, Stinson, Leatham, Polich, Brannen, Long, Wright, and Foston. Plaintiff alleges that, on April 10, 2010, he was instructed by defendant Stinson to pack up his belongings because he was going to be moved to a different housing unit. Plaintiff told Stinson that he was "not interested in moving" because his "standing" in his current unit was "exemplary." Stinson then told plaintiff that, if he didn't agree to the move, he would be fired from his current job assignment. Stinson denied plaintiff's request to speak with the watch sergeant about the issue. Plaintiff adds that he later learned that the move had been approved by defendant Engellenner.

Next, plaintiff claims that he had been "medically assigned" a lower bunk and that upon arrival at the new housing unit, plaintiff produced his lower bunk "chrono" to defendants Leatham and Polich. It appears that, notwithstanding his "chrono," plaintiff was assigned to an upper bunk in his new cell. Plaintiff claims that, on April 11, 2010, after sleeping the night in the upper bunk, he was climbing down and "lost his balance and landed on the cell floor, and was rendered unconscious." Plaintiff's cell mate then yelled "man down," whereupon plaintiff was removed from his cell by stretcher and taken to the medical clinic for evaluation where he was examined by defendant Long. According to plaintiff, defendant Long diagnosed plaintiff as suffering from a contusion to the back of the head "and injuries that would require further examination." Nonetheless, plaintiff claims that defendant Long was deliberately indifferent and that he was sent back to his cell before any further evaluation was performed. Plaintiff states that he was later moved to a lower bunk.

Plaintiff claims that these allegations give rise to § 1983 claims based on deliberate indifference to his medical needs, retaliation, and denial of due process.

II. DISCUSSION

The court finds that plaintiff's complaint suffers from a number of defects which are discussed below.

A. Causal Link

Of the named defendants, there are no specific allegations as to defendants Virga or Shannon. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege an actual connection or link between the actions of the named defendants and the alleged deprivations. See Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Rather, the plaintiff must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's causal role in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988).

B. Supervisory Defendants

Plaintiff names Virga and Baughman, who as the prison warden and associate warden, respectively, are supervisory defendants. Supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983). A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations of subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations. See id. The Supreme Court has rejected the notion that a supervisory defendant can be liable based on knowledge and acquiescence in a subordinate's unconstitutional conduct because government officials, regardless of their title, can only be held liable under § 1983 for his or her own conduct and not the conduct of others. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). When a defendant holds a supervisory position, the causal link between such defendant and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of supervisory personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the constitution." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1948.

Here, plaintiff does not allege facts showing any personal involvement on the part of Virga. As to Baughman, the only personal action alleged is that he addressed plaintiff's grievance at the second level of review. For the reasons discussed below, this is insufficient to maintain a ...


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