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Robert Lewis v. City of Fresno

December 19, 2011

ROBERT LEWIS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF FRESNO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis and in pro se in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants City of Fresno, Fresno Police Department, and Police Officer Catton for events surrounding his arrest. As set forth below, Plaintiff states a cognizable Section 1983 claim for excessive force against Officer Catton, but states no cognizable claim as to the remaining defendants. Plaintiff shall inform the Court of his willingness to proceed only with the claim found cognizable or he may elect to amend his complaint, curing the deficiencies outlined below.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that on August 22, 2009, he was involved in an argument with his wife at a Chevron gas station. (Doc. 1, 3:25-4:1.) During the argument, Plaintiff threw an empty bottle at the service station wall, and the station clerk then called the police. (Doc. 1, 4:1-3.) When the police officers responded to the call and arrived at the scene, they saw Plaintiff "arguing loudly with his wife," and Officer Catton pushed Plaintiff in the chest and Plaintiff fell to the ground. (Doc. 1, 4:3-5.)

Plaintiff sustained injuries for which an ambulance was summoned. (Doc. 1, 4:7.) While he was being treated in the ambulance, Plaintiff complained of chest pains from a prior heart condition. (Doc. 1, 4:7-8.) The condition was "further exacerbated by the tightness of the handcuffs." (Doc. 1, 4:9.) According to Plaintiff, Officer Catton continued to taunt Plaintiff and a struggle ensued during which Plaintiff was "unnecessarily tazed" and beaten "about the head." (Doc. 1, 4:10-11.) Plaintiff asserts that he was falsely charged with assault on an officer and spent over a year in jail. (Doc. 1, 4:12-13.) Plaintiff also contends that the officer lied "to secure the plaintiff's imprisonment for longer than necessary." (Doc. 1, 4:13-14.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Screening Standard

In cases where the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required to screen each case, and shall dismiss the case at any time if the Court determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

B. Pleading Requirements

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), 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). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain 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] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

C. Analysis

1. Section 1983 Claims

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code does not provide substantive rights; rather, it is "a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (citations and internal quotation ...


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