Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition to filing a complaint, plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis, a request for appointment of counsel, and a motion for a preliminary injunction. 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. Dckt. No. 10; see E.D. Cal. Local Rules, Appx. A, at (k)(4).
I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Plaintiff has requested leave to proceedin forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Dckt. No. 2. Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).
II. Screening Requirement 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)).
Pursuant to § 1915A, the court has reviewed plaintiff's amended complaint, which supercedes the original complaint, and finds that it must be dismissed because it does not comply with Rule 8 or state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Rule 8 rule requires the pleader to set forth his averments in a simple, concise, and direct manner. Before undertaking to determine whether the complaint may have merit, the court must insist on plaintiff's compliance with Rule 8, and will accordingly dismiss the complaint with leave to file an amended complaint that contains only "a short and plain statement" of his claims. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (federal rules apply to all litigants, including prisoners lacking access to counsel); Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598 (1998) (encouraging "firm application" of federal rules in prisoner cases); McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177-78 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming Rule 8 dismissal of complaint that was "argumentative, prolix, replete with redundancy, and largely irrelevant" and providing an example of a properly-pleaded claim, which could be "read in seconds and answered in minutes").
Here, plaintiff fails to provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that he is entitled to relief. In his twenty page complaint, accompanied by over 200 pages of exhibits, see Dckt. No. 6, 11, plaintiff names at least twenty defendants who allegedly engaged in a "campaign of ongoing harassment." See Dckt. No. 5. Throughout the complaint, plaintiff refers generally to "defendants" without specifically linking a particular defendant to a violation of his federal rights. By lumping all defendants together in this fashion, the complaint hardly provides defendants with "fair notice" of plaintiff's claims against them.
Additionally, plaintiff purports to file the complaint on behalf of seven other named plaintiffs, as well as "all inmates incarcerated at the California Correctional Center Facility." Throughout the complaint, plaintiff repeatedly refers to "plaintiffs," making it impossible to determine whether plaintiff is alleging a deprivation of his own rights, or those of the many other plaintiffs that he claims to represent in this action. Plaintiff must correct this defect through an amended complaint because plaintiff cannot proceed with this action on behalf of other inmates. It is well-established that a layperson cannot ordinarily represent the interests of a class. See McShane v. United States, 366 F.2d 286 (9th Cir. 1966). This rule becomes nearly absolute when, as here, the putative class representative is incarcerated and proceeding pro se. Oxendine v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975). Plaintiff cannot "fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class," as required by Rule 23(a)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Martin v. Middendorf, 420 F. Supp. 779 (D.D.C. 1976). Thus, plaintiff cannot represent the interests of a class and this action must be construed as an individual civil suit brought by plaintiff. See C.E. Pope Equity Trust v. U.S., 818 F.2d 696, 697 (9th Cir. 1987) (non-attorney has a right to appear pro se on his own behalf, but "has no authority to appear as an attorney for others").
In light of the defects described above, and because of the rambling and unfocused nature of plaintiff's allegations, the complaint is so prolix and convoluted that the court cannot reasonably discharge its screening responsibility under § 1915A until plaintiff complies with the pleading requirements set forth in Rule 8. In an amended complaint, plaintiff ...