IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
May 10, 2012
EVAMARIE ALIRES-ALCALA, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
SACRAMENTO COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
Plaintiffs Evamarie Alires-Alcala, and minors G. M. and M. A. are proceeding pro se with this action. The case has been referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule 302(c)(21) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
A filing fee of $350.00 is required to commence a civil action in a federal district court. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). The court may authorize the commencement of an action without prepayment of fees or security therefor by a litigant who submits an affidavit demonstrating inability to pay. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff Evamarie Alires-Alcala has submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 2.) The undersigned finds that plaintiff Evamarie Alires-Alcala's in forma pauperis application makes the showing required by the statute. Accordingly, plaintiff Evamarie Alires-Alcala's request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.
However, plaintiffs are advised that each plaintiff must file their own separate application to proceed in forma pauperis, since filing fees must be paid unless each plaintiff applies for and is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Therefore, plaintiff G. M. and plaintiff M. A. must each file their own separate application to proceed in forma pauperis.
Moreover, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court must dismiss the complaint at any time if the court determines that the pleading is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant. A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis 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). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a complaint 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; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). The court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows: A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends . . . , (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice to the defendants and allege facts that state the elements of the claims both plainly and succinctly. See Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). A plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity specific acts which each defendant engaged in that support the plaintiff's claims. See id.
Here, plaintiff Evamarie Alires-Alcala is proceeding on behalf of herself and her minor children G. M. and M. A. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 3.) As noted above, plaintiffs are proceeding pro se. The right to represent oneself pro se is personal to the plaintiff and does not extend to other parties. Simon v. Hartford Life, Inc., 546 F.3d 661, 664 (9th Cir. 2008); Russell v. United States, 308 F.2d 78, 79 (9th Cir. 1962) ("A litigant appearing in propria persona has no authority to represent anyone other than himself.") Thus, "a parent or guardian cannot bring an action on behalf of a minor child without retaining a lawyer." Johns v. County of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 877 (9th Cir. 1997). "'[I]t is not in the interest of minors . . . that they be represented by non-attorneys. Where they have claims that require adjudication, they are entitled to trained legal assistance so their rights may be fully protected."' Id. at 876-77 (quoting Osei-Afriyie v. Medical College, 937 F.2d 876, 882-83 (3d Cir. 1991)). In this regard, plaintiff's G. M. and M.
A. must be represented by counsel if this action is to proceed on their behalf.
Turning to the substance of the complaint, plaintiffs allege that on November 28, 2010, defendants violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment during the course of the arrest and detention of plaintiff Evamarie Alires-Alcala. (Comp. (Doc. No. 1) at 2-3.
A litigant who complains of a violation of a constitutional right does not have a cause of action directly under the United States Constitution. Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994) (affirming that it is 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation of rights secured by the United States Constitution); Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 617 (1979) (explaining that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was enacted to create a private cause of action for violations of the United States Constitution); Azul-Pacifico, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 973 F.2d 704, 705 (9th Cir. 1992) ("Plaintiff has no cause of action directly under the United States Constitution.").
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides that, [e]very 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 and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
In order to state a cognizable claim under § 1983 the plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating that she was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West
v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). It is the plaintiff's burden in bringing a claim under § 1983 to allege, and ultimately establish, that the named defendants were acting under color of state law when they deprived her of a federal right. Lee v. Katz, 276 F.3d 550, 553-54 (9th Cir. 2002).
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. Dep't of Soc. Servs. City of New York, 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).
Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).
Here, the complaint names as defendants Sacramento County and the Sacramento County Jail, as well as two individual defendants. These two public entities, however, cannot be held liable for an injury inflicted solely by an employee under a theory of respondeat superior. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981); Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1185 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1106 (2003) (describing the two routes to municipal liability as being where a municipality's official policy, regulation or decision violated plaintiff's rights or, alternatively, where a municipality failed to act under circumstances showing its deliberate indifference to plaintiff's rights.).
"To establish municipal liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that (1) she was deprived of a constitutional right; (2) the County had a policy; (3) the policy amounted to a deliberate indifference to her constitutional right; and (4) the policy was the moving force behind the constitutional violation." Burke v. County of Alameda, 586 F.3d 725, 734 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Liability will lie against a municipal entity under § 1983 only if a plaintiff shows that his constitutional injury was caused by employees acting pursuant to an official policy or longstanding practice or custom, or that the injury was caused or ratified by an individual with final policy-making authority." Chudacoff v. Univ. Med. Ctr. of S. Nev., 649 F.3d 1143, 1151 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). See also Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, plaintiffs' complaint will be dismissed. Plaintiffs will be granted leave to file an amended complaint if they wish to attempt to cure the defects noted above. Plaintiffs are cautioned, however, that if they (or any one of them) elects to file an amended complaint "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "While legal conclusions can provide the complaint's framework, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 1950. Those facts must be sufficient to push the claims "across the line from conceivable to plausible[.]" Id. at 1951 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Plaintiffs are also reminded that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make an amended complaint complete. Local Rule 220 requires that any amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to prior pleadings. The amended complaint will supersede the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Thus, in an amended complaint, just as if it were the initial complaint filed in the case, each defendant must be listed in the caption and identified in the body of the complaint, and each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged. Plaintiffs' amended complaint must include concise but complete factual allegations describing the conduct and events which underlie plaintiffs' claims.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff Evamarie Alires-Alcala's March 19, 2012 application to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. No. 2) is granted;
2. The complaint filed March 19, 2012 (Doc. No. 1) is dismissed with leave to amend;
3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of this order, an amended complaint shall be filed that cures the defects noted in this order and complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Practice. The amended complaint must bear the case number assigned to this action and must be titled "Amended Complaint";
4. If plaintiffs elect to file an Amended Complaint, plaintiff G. M. plaintiff M. A. shall each file a complete motion to proceed in forma pauperis together with the amended complaint; and
5. Failure to respond to this order in a timely manner may result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed.
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