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Shai Alkebu-Lan v. K. Dickinson

May 30, 2012

SHAI ALKEBU-LAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
K. DICKINSON, WARDEN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff is presently housed at San Quentin State Prison, and is pursuing an action filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to court order, plaintiff has filed an amended complaint.

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, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). 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 Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (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 (1969).

A. Pleading Defects

Plaintiff has filed two separate amended complaints. In the first amended complaint, plaintiff names 15 defendants and raises various claims related to an allegedly false rules violation that occurred while plaintiff was housed at the California Medical Facility ("CMF"). (Dkt. No. 14 at 1-13, referred to hereafter as the "first amended complaint".) In the appended second amended complaint, plaintiff names defendants Zamora and Moore, who are not named in the first amended complaint, and raises claims concerning the destruction of plaintiff's property at CMF. Plaintiff is advised that he cannot pursue two separate complaints in the same action; there can be only one operative complaint in this action. Thus, plaintiff must decide which claim he seeks to pursue in the instant action, and file a separate action as to the other claim; or, if the claim is against the same defendant and is related to the underlying claim, file the related claims in one complaint. Thus, plaintiff's amended complaint is dismissed, and plaintiff is granted leave to file a second amended complaint.

B. Substantive Issues

Plaintiff is reminded of the pleading standards for filing a civil rights action. The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: Every 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 . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978) ("Congress did not intend § 1983 liability to attach where . . . causation [is] absent."); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976) (no affirmative link between the incidents of police misconduct and the adoption of any plan or policy demonstrating their authorization or approval of such misconduct). "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) (no liability where there is no allegation of personal participation; Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 941 (1979) (no liability where there is no evidence of personal participation). 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) (complaint devoid of specific factual allegations of personal participation is insufficient). Accordingly, plaintiff should not include the Warden or other supervisory personnel in any amended complaint, unless he can allege facts that demonstrate their personal involvement.

First, the second amended complaint (appended to the first amended complaint) includes plaintiff's prior claims concerning the destruction of his property by defendants Zamora and Moore. As plaintiff was previously informed, neither the negligent nor intentional deprivation of property states a due process claim under § 1983 if the deprivation was random and unauthorized. See Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 536-44 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986). The availability of an adequate state post-deprivation remedy, e.g., a state tort action, precludes relief because it provides sufficient procedural due process. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 128-29 (1990). California law provides such an adequate post-deprivation remedy. See Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816-17 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Cal. Gov't Code §§ 810-95). Also, "[t]he confiscation of personal property . . . does not give rise to a claim for relief for violation of the Eighth Amendment, regardless of the value of the property to the inmate." Washington v. Early, 2008 WL 795603 (E.D. Cal. 2008). Moreover, a "refusal to respond in a reasonable manner," also fails to state a cognizable civil rights claim.

Furthermore, the destruction of property claim is unrelated to plaintiff's false rules violation claims contained in the first amended complaint and involve at least one defendant not named in plaintiff's first amended complaint. Plaintiff may join multiple claims if they are all against a single defendant. Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a). Unrelated claims against different defendants must be pursued in multiple lawsuits.

The controlling principle appears in Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a): "A party asserting a claim . . . may join, [] as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims . . . as the party has against an opposing party." Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation ...


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