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Cd Alston v. Christy Wurster

October 31, 2011

CD ALSTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHRISTY WURSTER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, proceeding in this action pro se, has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court by E.D. Cal. L.R. 302(c)(21), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit making the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

The determination that plaintiffs may proceed in forma pauperis does not complete the required inquiry. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court is directed to dismiss the case at any time if it determines the allegation of poverty is untrue, or if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant.

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 where 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.

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." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 1216, pp. 235-235 (3d ed. 2004). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S.___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

Pro se pleadings are liberally construed. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S. Ct. 594, 595-96 (1972); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). Unless it is clear that no amendment can cure the defects of a complaint, a pro se plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is entitled to notice and an opportunity to amend before dismissal. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1230.

In this case, plaintiff alleges that on April 26, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. she was approached by defendant Christy Wurster and her partner Wrigley at the Fish Hatchery. Wurster stated that plaintiff had been there two days in a row, that plaintiff was in the park before the park opened at 6:00 a.m., and accused her of camping out. Plaintiff denied these allegations, but Wurster opened plaintiff's car door and demanded that she exit her vehicle. Wurster also threatened to take plaintiff to jail. Plaintiff requested that Wurster get her foot that was kicking plaintiff's car door open off her car so she could leave, but Wurster refused. Wurster reached in plaintiff's vehicle, put it in park, and then began to twist plaintiff's arm. Thereafter, plaintiff somehow left the park without further incident.

Subsequently, plaintiff filed suit against Wurster in her individual and official capacity, the County of Sacramento, and the El Dorado County Sheriff Department. The complaint for damages primarily alleges liability for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and for related state law tort claims. Plaintiff claims that the County of Sacramento and El Dorado County Sheriff Department's policies, customs, and practices, such as their alleged failure to provide adequate training and lack of adequate supervision, gave rise to the deprivation of her constitutional rights.

It appears that, for the limited purposes of screening, plaintiff's complaint states a colorable claim against defendant Wurster in her individual capacity. However, because the allegations as to the remaining defendants are ambiguous and inconsistent, the court is unable to ascertain their involvement in this matter.*fn1

The Civil Rights Act provides as follows:

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. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department 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).

Since there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, counties and municipalities may be sued under § 1983 only upon a showing that an official policy or custom caused the constitutional tort. See Mt Healthy City School Dist Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977); Monell v. New York City Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). "A local government entity cannot be held liable under § 1983 unless the plaintiff alleges that the action inflicting injury flowed from either an explicitly adopted or a tacitly authorized [governmental] policy." Ortez v. Washington Cty., State of Or., 88 F.3d 804, 811 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation and quotations omitted) (alteration in original) "[L]ocal governments, like any other § 1983 'person,' . . . may be sued for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental 'custom' even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the body's official decisionmaking channels." Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91.

Thus, "a local government may not be sued under ยง 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents." Monell, at 694. A local governmental entity may also "be liable if it had a policy or custom of failing to train its employees and that failure to train caused the constitutional violation. In particular . . . the inadequate training of police officers could be characterized as the cause of the constitutional tort if -- and only if -- the failure to train amounted to 'deliberate indifference' to the rights of persons with whom the police come into contact." Collins v. City of ...


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