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Bob Savage v. K. Dickinson

December 12, 2011



Bob Savage, an inmate confined at the California Medical Facility ("CMF"), filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, among other federal laws. In addition to filing a complaint, plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff has requested leave to proceedin forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Dckt. No. 2. Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).

II. Screening Order

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court shall review "a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). "On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

A district court must construe a pro se pleading "liberally" to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000). While detailed factual allegations are not required, "[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)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). Any legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations and are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 1950.

Plaintiff's complaint violates Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The complaint is so prolix and convoluted that the court cannot reasonably discharge its screening responsibility under § 1915A until plaintiff complies with the pleading requirements set forth in Rule 8. This rule requires the pleader to set forth his averments in a simple, concise, and direct manner. Before undertaking to determine whether the complaint may have merit, the court may insist upon compliance with its rules. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (federal rules apply to all litigants, including prisoners lacking access to counsel); see also Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598 (1998) (encouraging "firm application" of federal rules in prisoner cases).

Plaintiff need not identify the law that makes the alleged conduct wrong. He may use his own language to state, simply and directly, the wrong that has been committed and clearly explain how each state actor identified as a defendant was involved and what relief plaintiff requests of each defendant. Jones v. Cmty. Redev. Agency of L.A., 733 F.2d 646 (9th Cir. 1984); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740 (9th Cir. 1978). In fact, the inclusion of lengthy legal conclusions in plaintiff's original complaint has contributed enormously to the court's difficulty in performing its § 1915A review responsibility. For example, plaintiff's listing of defendants spans over nine typewritten pages due to the unnecessary legal conclusions contained therein.

E.g., Dckt. No. 1 at 3-4 (arguing that defendant Dickinson "has approved, encouraged and plotted a campaign of retaliation and calculated harassment with the other defendants named herein"), 4 (arguing that defendant Matt Cates "is directly responsible for the over all medical care, health and well being of the Plaintiff" and "is directly responsible for the violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act . . ., violation of Plaintiff's Civil and Constitutional rights of equal protection, due process, cruel and unusual punishment, retaliation, among other rights").

The court's screening task is further complicated by the complaint's repetition and disorganization. Plaintiff has unnecessarily included legal and factual allegations against defendants in the "Parties" portion of his complaint that are also contained in his "Statement of Facts" and "Claims for Relief." In addition, plaintiff's "Statement of Facts" contains redundant allegations and fails to set forth the underlying incidents in a clear fashion. Instead, plaintiff's allegations regarding separate incidents are intermingled such that the court has had great difficulty determining the scope of plaintiff's claims against each defendant. From the court's initial review, it appears that plaintiff challenges a number of separate incidents and the administrative proceedings spawned by those incidents: (1) an incident in which he was moved to a different housing unit and concurrently deprived of a chair he alleges is medically necessary and adequate bedding; (2) another incident in which he was placed in segregated housing after being found with a cell phone; (3) another incident in which he was deprived of pain medication; (4) another incident in which he had to wait several months for an ergonomic cane; (5) another incident in which he was denied permission for a specific typewriter; (6) several separate incidents in which his cell was ransacked or vandalized by custody staff and his property was taken or destroyed; (7) another incident in which he was denied visits with his wife; (8) another incident in which he was denied mail concerning fantasy football; (9) two incidents in which custody staff made plaintiff go to the dayroom despite his need for rest; (10) another incident in which custody staff wrongfully disciplined plaintiff for going to the canteen; (11) another incident in which plaintiff was not allowed to use the computer in the "ADA/DDP" section of the law library. Rather than including all allegations regarding a single incident and its attendant administrative proceedings in a single section of the complaint, plaintiff's "Statement of Facts" intersperses allegations each incident among one another, making it extremely difficult for the court to determine the allegations and defendants involved in each incident and, from there, whether the allegations make out a cognizable claim for relief and whether any claims are improperly joined in a single complaint.

The court simply does not have the resources to scour the 59 pages of plaintiff's complaint and 90 pages of exhibits and organize the allegations contained therein in order to perform its screening duty under § 1915A. Instead, the court must insist on plaintiff's compliance with Rule 8, and will accordingly dismiss the complaint with leave to file an amended complaint that contains only "a short and plain statement" of plaintiff's claims. McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177-78 (9th Cir.) (affirming Rule 8 dismissal of complaint that was "argumentative, prolix, replete with redundancy, and largely irrelevant" and providing an example of a properly-pleaded claim, which could be "read in seconds and answered in minutes"); Nevijel v. N. Coast Life Ins. Co., 641 F.2d 671, 673-74 (9th Cir. 1981) (affirming Rule 8 dismissal of "verbose, confusing, and almost entirely conclusory" complaint consisting of 48 pages with 14 pages of addenda and 9 pages of exhibits and "equally . . . verbose, confusing, and conclusory" amended complaint ...

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