IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
April 25, 2012
EDDIE L. PITTS, PLAINTIFF,
C. DAVIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se. He seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 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).
Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.
Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).
The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2).
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, 566 U.S. 662, 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.
In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740, 96 S.Ct. 1848 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, 89 S.Ct. 1843 (1969).
The complaint states a colorable claim for relief against defendants California State Prison -Solano (CSP-Sol) Registered Nurse (RN) F. Fontillas; RN C. Braunger; RN P. Kiesz*fn1 ; RN J. Freland*fn2 for deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition for not providing plaintiff timely access to a primary care physician and/or for not ascertaining that prescribed medications were provided to plaintiff timely (in light of his alleged on-going severe pain from a shoulder injury and/or for an allegedly serious allergy condition), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
However, in his complaint plaintiff has named the State of California as one of the defendants. The Eleventh Amendment serves as a jurisdictional bar to suits brought by private parties against a state or state agency unless the state or the agency consents to such suit. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978)( per curiam); Jackson v. Hayakawa, 682 F.2d 1344, 1349-50 (9th Cir. 1982). In the instant case, the State of California has not consented to suit. Accordingly, plaintiff's claims against the state are frivolous and must be dismissed.
With regard to defendants C. Davis, R. Fleischman, RN M. de la Vega,
CSPSolano medical "chief executive officer" [or, more likely, Chief
Medical Officer] L. Austin,
CSP-Sol Pharmacists R. Boughn & C.S. Truijillo, arising from their
participation in the inmate appeals process, the gravamen of the claim
against these individuals appears to be their failure to investigate
and identify to plaintiff through the inmate appeal process those
individual employees responsible for the alleged long delay he
experienced in having his painful shoulder injury treated and in
receiving his prescribed allergy [and pain] medication,*fn3
and generally their failure to respond to the grievances in a
manner plaintiff deemed appropriate or timely. Prisoners do not have a
"separate constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance
procedure." Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003),
citing Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988). Even the
non-existence of, or the failure of prison officials to properly
implement, an administrative appeals process within the prison system
does not raise constitutional concerns. Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639,
640 (9th Cir. 1988). See also, Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495
(8th Cir. 1993); Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728 (8th Cir. 1991). Azeez v.
DeRobertis, 568 F. Supp. 8, 10 (N.D.Ill. 1982) ("[A prison] grievance
procedure is a procedural right only, it does not confer any
substantive right upon the inmates. Hence, it does not give rise to a
protected liberty interest requiring the procedural protections
envisioned by the fourteenth amendment"). Specifically, a failure to
process a grievance does not state a constitutional violation.
Buckley, supra. State regulations give rise to a liberty interest
protected by the Due Process Clause of the federal constitution only
if those regulations pertain to "freedom from restraint" that "imposes
atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the
ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472,
484, 115 S. Ct. 2293, 2300 (1995).*fn4 Plaintiff's
due process claims against these defendants will be dismissed but
plaintiff will be granted leave to amend.
Defendants sued in their individual capacity must be alleged to have: personally participated in the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights; known of the violations and failed to act to prevent them; or implemented a policy that repudiates constitutional rights and was the moving force behind the alleged violations. Larez v. City of Los Angeles, 946 F.2d 630, 646 (9th Cir. 1991); Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642 (9th Cir. 1989); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040 (9th Cir. 1989). "Although a § 1983 claim has been described as 'a species of tort liability,' Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 417, 96 S. Ct. 984, 988, 47 L.Ed.2d 128, it is perfectly clear that not every injury in which a state official has played some part is actionable under that statute." Martinez v. State of California, 444 U.S. 277, 285, 100 S. Ct. 553, 559 (1980). "Without proximate cause, there is no § 1983 liability." Van Ort v. Estate of Stanewich, 92 F.3d 831, 837 (9th Cir. 1996).
The search, which was performed in accordance with this constitutionally valid strip search policy, was subsequently ratified by the School Board when Mr. Williams filed a grievance. Therefore, Williams' only grasp at evoking municipal liability under § 1983 is to show that this subsequent ratification is sufficient to establish the necessary causation requirements. Based on the facts, the Board believed Ellington and his colleagues were justified in conducting the search of Williams. There was no history that the policy had been repeatedly or even sporadically misapplied by school board officials in the past. Consequently, the School Board cannot be held liable for the ratification of the search in question, because this single, isolated decision can hardly constitute the "moving force" behind the alleged constitutional deprivation.
Williams v. Ellington, 936 F.2d 881, 884-885 (9th Cir. 1991).
This court is unwilling to adopt a rule that anyone involved in adjudicating grievances after the fact is per se potentially liable under a ratification theory. However, this is not to say that persons involved in adjudicating administrative disputes, or persons to whom complaints are sometimes made, can never be liable under a ratification theory. If, for example, a reviewing official's rejections of administrative grievances can be construed as an automatic whitewash, which may have led other prison officials to have no concern of ever being reprimanded, a ratifying official may be liable for having put a defective policy in place.
In this instance, plaintiff alleges that these defendants wrongly rejected and delayed his appeals in violation of prison policy/regulation and obfuscated the issues so that his valid claims were not properly or timely addressed. Although plaintiff has set forth his claims regarding the processing of each of his appeals in fairly exacting and lengthy detail (in a complaint, which including exhibits, totals more than 285 pages in length), plaintiff has not set forth facts with regard to any of these defendants sufficient to suggest that they are liable to him under a ratification theory, and they will be dismissed on that ground as well, but plaintiff will be given leave to amend.
As to defendants CSP Sol Chief Physician Surgeon [sic] S. McAlpine, CHSA CSP-Sol L. Mefford and D.P Morgan, it is unclear what specific allegations, if any, plaintiff has brought, or intends to bring, against them. These defendants will be dismissed but plaintiff will be granted leave to amend.
If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). Also, the complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 96 S.Ct. 598 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Furthermore, vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).
In addition, plaintiff is informed that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. Local Rule 220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. This is because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, in an amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted;
2. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. Plaintiff is assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). All fees shall be collected and paid in accordance with this court's order to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith.
3. Plaintiff's claims against defendants State of California, C. Davis, R. Fleischman, M. de la Vega, L. Austin, R. Boughn, C.S. Truijillo, McAlpine, L. Mefford and D.P Morgan are dismissed for the reasons discussed above, with leave to file an amended complaint within twenty-eight days from the date of service of this Order. Failure to file an amended complaint will result in a recommendation that these defendants be dismissed from this action.
4. Upon filing an amended complaint or expiration of the time allowed therefor, the court will make further orders for service of process upon some or all of the defendants.