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Miguel Diaz v. Swarthout

September 5, 2012



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 and a request for injunctive relief. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff has requested leave to proceedin forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. 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)).

III. Background

Plaintiff commenced this action on March 22, 2012 by filing an "Emergency Motion for TRO and Preliminary Injunction." Dckt. No. 1. On April 11, 2012, the court informed plaintiff that to commence a civil action, he must file a complaint that contains a short and plain statement of his claim, showing that he is entitled to relief. Dckt. No. 2. Plaintiff responded by letter, stating that he was confused by the April 11, 2012 order because he had "already filed [his] complaint," and referred to the March 22, 2012 motion for injunctive relief. Dckt. No. 8. Plaintiff also filed a form complaint, in which he merely referred to the "Statement of the Case" section of his motion for injunctive relief. Dckt. No. 7. Because that form complaint was not complete in itself without reference to the earlier filed complaint, it is stricken from the docket. See E.D. Cal. L.R. 220; Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f)(1).

It appears from plaintiff's filings that plaintiff submits his initial filing as both a complaint and a motion for injunctive relief. Accordingly, the court screens plaintiff's initial filing as a complaint pursuant to § 1915A and also addresses the concurrently filed motion for injunctive relief.

IV. Screening Order

Plaintiff's complaint 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. Here, plaintiff complains generally about the alleged shortcomings of the administrative appeals process, alleged retaliation for filing administrative appeals and lawsuits, and alleged racial discrimination. The complaint does clearly identify the defendants or the claims for relief against any particular defendant. As drafted, the complaint hardly provides defendants with "fair notice" of plaintiff's claims against them. Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984).

Rather than submitting a "short and plain statement" of his claims, plaintiff has submitted a complaint that is so prolix and convoluted that the court cannot reasonably discharge its screening responsibility under ยง 1915A. Plaintiff must therefore file an amended complaint that complies with the pleading requirements set forth in Rule 8. 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 ...

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