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Melvin Joseph v. K. Williams

April 10, 2012

MELVIN JOSEPH SIMMONS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
K. WILLIAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and is before the undersigned pursuant to plaintiff's consent. See E.D. Cal. Local Rules, Appx. A, at (k)(4). After three dismissals pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), plaintiff has filed a third amended complaint.

I. Screening Requirements and Standards

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions," "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-557 (2007). In other words, "[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).

Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief has facial plausibility. 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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

A pro se plaintiff must satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) "requires a complaint to include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)).

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff's original complaint was screened by the court on September 10, 2010 and dismissed, with leave to amend, for failure to state a cognizable claim. Dckt. No. 25. Plaintiff's original complaint concerned his housing in the general prison population with a cellmate who attempted to sexually assault him, and plaintiff's subsequent placement in administrative segregation after he was falsely charged with battery on an inmate with a weapon. In its initial screening order, the court informed plaintiff that his allegations failed to show that any defendant acted with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's safety or medical needs, and informed plaintiff of the following:

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and only those deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). In order to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment, the plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that prison officials knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff. E.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). To state a claim defendants provided constitutionally inadequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment, plaintiff must allege acts or omissions evidencing identified defendants knew of and disregarded plaintiff's serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835-37. Neither defendant's negligence nor plaintiff's general disagreement with the treatment he received suffices to state a claim. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 394 (9th Cir. 1988); Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 331 (9th Cir. 1996).

Dckt. No. 25 at 4. In dismissing the complaint with leave to amend, the court informed plaintiff that any amended complaint must show that the federal court has jurisdiction, that plaintiff is entitled to relief if plaintiff's allegations are true, and that contains a request for particular relief. The court further informed plaintiff that he must identify as a defendant only persons who personally participated in a substantial way in depriving plaintiff of a federal constitutional right. Johnson, 588 F.2d at 743 (a person subjects another to the deprivation of a constitutional right if he does an act, participates in another's act or omits to perform an act he is legally required to do that causes the alleged deprivation). The court also warned plaintiff that he may not change the nature of this suit by alleging new, unrelated claims in an amended complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2) (joinder of defendants not permitted unless both commonality and same transaction requirements are satisfied).

Plaintiff's first amended complaint was screened by the court on November 15, 2010 and also dismissed, with leave to amend, for failure to state a cognizable claim. Dckt. No. 29. The amended complaint failed to cure the deficiencies identified by the court in its initial screening order. Plaintiff alleged that Walker "failed to create a safe living environment . . . when [ ] plaintiff was injured during an attempted sexual assault." Dckt. No. 27 at 5. Plaintiff alleged further that Walker "failed to properly train and . . . supervise defendant T. Virga when defendant T. Virga failed to protect plaintiff from injuries during an attempted sexual assault by another prison inmate," and that Walker was "indifferent to [ ] plaintiff's treatment when . . . [he] failed to properly train and failed to properly supervise defendant K. Williams, when defendant K. Williams failed to enforce the law and failed to enforce regulations and procedure after [ ] plaintiff was injured during an attempted sexual assault." Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff alleged that his claims were based on a theory of respondeat superior, that is, that defendants were liable based on their supervisory roles. Id. at 10. The court's second screening order informed plaintiff that his allegations were improperly set forth in an entirely conclusory manner and were not supported by sufficient factual allegations. Dckt. No. 29. The court reminded plaintiff that it is his responsibility to allege facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The court also noted that plaintiff's allegations were so vague and conclusory that there was no factual basis from which to infer that defendants were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's safety or medical needs. The court again dismissed the complaint with leave to amend, and again warned him that he may not change the nature of this suit by alleging new, unrelated claims in an amended complaint. George, 507 F.3d at 607 (no "buckshot" complaints).

Plaintiff's second amended complaint was screened by the court on November 15, 2011, and it too was dismissed, with one final opportunity to amend, for failure to state a cognizable claim. Dckt. No. 35. The court's screening order provided as follows:

The court has reviewed plaintiff's most recent complaint pursuant to § 1915A and finds that it, too, fails to state a cognizable claim. The complaint names four defendants -- K. Williams, James Walker, T. Virga, and C. Heintschel. The complaint purports to state Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claims as well as Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims. The complaint alleges the following:

In February of 2009, defendant Virga ended plaintiff's single cell status, despite plaintiff's objections and safety concerns. Defendant Walker should have known that plaintiff's safety was in jeopardy and should have allowed plaintiff to remain on single status. Plaintiff was subsequently housed in general population and celled with ...


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