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Alvin Snyder v. K. W. Yeager


September 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge


I. Background

Plaintiff Alvin Snyder ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On November 18, 2011, Plaintiff filed his complaint. ECF No. 1.

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). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader

2 is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but 3

"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, 4 do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 5

U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a 6 claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). While factual 7 allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. 8

II. Summary of Complaint 9

Plaintiff was previously incarcerated at Wasco State Prison ("WSP") in Wasco, California, where the events giving rise to this action occurred. Plaintiff names as Defendants: Doctor John Doe, lieutenant K. W. Yeager, sergeant John Doe, correctional officer Jane Doe, and correctional officer Bohon.

Plaintiff alleges the following. On May 14, 2010, while housed in the protective custody housing unit (also known as the sensitive needs yard), Plaintiff was escorted by Defendant Jane Doe. Plaintiff was escorted from the MRI trailer parked behind the medical building, into the medical building. Plaintiff was in handcuffs and leg chains. Plaintiff ordered to sit and face the wall once inside. Plaintiff believed that he was in danger, because general custody inmates walked freely behind Plaintiff. Plaintiff stated to Defendant sergeant John Doe that he felt in danger. Sergeant John Doe escorted Plaintiff into a private room a few feet away. Plaintiff expressed his concerns, at which point Sergeant John Doe escorted him back to the same chair to sit and face the wall. Plaintiff was left there by John Doe.

Plaintiff heard a doctor open an exam door and state to Defendant Bohon that an unidentified general custody inmate was here just two weeks ago. Defendant Bohon was sitting down and instructed the doctor to send the general custody inmate out. Plaintiff was attacked without provocation. Plaintiff found himself on the floor with pain in his right eye, and was bleeding from the right side of his face. Plaintiff contends that he is legally blinded in his right eye, and has nerve damage in the right side of his face. Defendant Yeager is responsible for the safety and security of all inmates at WSP.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth

Amendment, and were negligent. Plaintiff requests compensatory damages and costs of suit as relief.

III. Analysis

A.Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). 8 Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and only those 9 deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). Prison officials have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse. Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1250 (9th Cir. 1982). In order to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a claim that officials knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to him. E.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). Mere negligence on the part of the official is not sufficient to establish liability, but rather, the official's conduct must have been wanton. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1128.

Based on Plaintiff's allegations, Plaintiff has sufficiently satisfied the first prong of an Eighth Amendment claim, regarding the serious harm. However, Plaintiff fails to satisfy the second prong, deliberate indifference. Plaintiff alleges no facts against any Defendants that would indicate that the particular Defendant knew of and disregarded an excessive risk of serious harm to Plaintiff's safety. Plaintiff alleges no facts which indicate that a Defendant was aware that Plaintiff was at an excessive risk of serious harm. Plaintiff makes the general allegation that all SNY inmates are at risk of serious harm when anywhere near a general yard inmate. That allegation, however, is merely possible, not plausible as to the knowledge of each Defendant. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("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.").

To the extent that Plaintiff alleges liability against Defendants based on any supervisory roles, such as Defendant Yeager, Plaintiff fails to state a claim. The term "supervisory liability," 2 loosely and commonly used by both courts and litigants alike, is a misnomer. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. 3

"Government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates 4 under a theory of respondeat superior." Id. at 676. Rather, each government official, regardless of 5 his or her title, is only liable for his or her own misconduct. Id. at 677. When the named defendant 6 holds a supervisory position, the causal link between the defendant and the claimed constitutional 7 violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); 8

Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). To state a claim for relief under § 1983 for 9 supervisory liability, plaintiff must allege some facts indicating that the defendant either: personally participated in the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Plaintiff alleges no facts which indicate that any supervisory Defendants personally participated in an alleged constitutional violation or knew of constitutional violations and failed to act to prevent them.

B.State Law Claims

Plaintiff contends that Defendants were negligent. Because Plaintiff has failed to allege any cognizable federal claims, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).

IV. Conclusion and Order

Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable federal claims against any Defendants. The Court will provide Plaintiff with an opportunity to file a first amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order. Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no "buckshot" complaints).

If Plaintiff decides to amend, Plaintiff's amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

Finally, Plaintiff is advised that an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint,

Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997) overruled in part on other grounds, Lacey v. Maricopa County, -- F.3d --, 09-15806, 2012 WL 3711591 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2012); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the 5 prior or superseded pleading," L. R. 220. 6

Accordingly, based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. The Clerk's Office shall send Plaintiff a complaint form; 2. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim, with leave to file a first 9 amended complaint within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order;

3. Plaintiff may not add any new, unrelated claims to this action via the first amended complaint and any attempt to do so may result in an order striking the first amended complaint; and

4. If Plaintiff fails to comply with this order, the Court will dismiss this action for failure to obey a court order and failure to state a claim.



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