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Lewis A. Haller v. James Hartley

January 24, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer L. Thurston United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding pro se in a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. On October 2, 2012, Defendant J. Clark Kelso filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 6). In this motion, Defendant contends that he is entitled to the protections of judicial immunity as the court-appointed receiver for the CDCR medical system. Plaintiff filed his Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on December 26, 2012, though he does not object to the dismissal of Defendant Kelso. (Doc. 10). Defendant also filed a Reply. (Doc. 14). Both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge for all purposes. (Docs. 7, 11)

For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the motion to dismiss. Moreover, because the remaining causes of action do not implicate federal court jurisdiction, the Court ORDERS the matter remanded to the Kings County Superior Court.


A. Federal Rules Of Civil Procedure Rule 12(B)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); see also Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2003). A 5 complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory, 6 or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable theory. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 7 2001).

In reviewing the motion, the Court will assume the truth of all factual allegations and will 9 construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Gompper v. VISX, Inc., 298 F.3d 893, 895 (9th Cir. 2002). However, the court is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. "When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009). However, the conclusions contained in the pleading "are not entitled to the assumption of truth." (Id.)

B. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

To plead a § 1983 violation, a plaintiff must allege facts from which it may be inferred (1) he was deprived of a federal right, and (2) a person who committed the alleged violation acted under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 28 (1988); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 670 (9th Cir. 1976). In addition, a plaintiff must allege he suffered a specific injury, and show causal relationship between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered by the plaintiff. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978) (a person deprives another of a federal right "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 so that it causes the deprivation of which complaint is made"). As with other complaints, conclusory allegations unsupported by facts are insufficient to state a civil rights claim under § 1983. Sherman v. Yakahi, 549 F.2d 1287, 1290 (9th Cir. 1977).


Defendant Kelso, sued in his official capacity as Receiver for the California prison medical health care system, filed a motion to dismiss/motion for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) the 4 complaint fails to state a claim against him; and (2) as the Receiver, he is entitled to absolute quasi-5 judicial immunity. Plaintiff's Opposition cites to cases and UCC code sections and repeats the 6 allegations in his complaint. (Doc. 10).For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned finds that Plaintiff's complaint is subject to dismissal.

First, Plaintiff names Kelso as a defendant in this matter but fails to set forth any specific 9 factual allegations related to him. Thus, it appears that Plaintiff seeks to hold Kelso liable in his supervisory capacity only.*fn1 However, there is no respondeat superior liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Palmer v. Sanderson, 9 F.3d 1433, 1437--38 (9th Cir.1993). Instead, "[t]he inquiry into causation must be individualized and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation." Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir.1988) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370--71 (1976)). In order to avoid the respondeat superior bar, Plaintiff must allege personal acts by each individual defendant which have a direct causal connection to the constitutional violation at issue. See Sanders v. Kennedy, 794 F.2d 478, 483 (9th Cir.1986); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir.1989).

Supervisory prison officials may only be held liable for the allegedly unconstitutional violations of a subordinate if Plaintiff sets forth allegations which show: (1) how or to what extent they personally participated in or directed a subordinate's actions, and (2) in either acting or failing to act, they were an actual and proximate cause of the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir.1978). As currently pleaded, however, Plaintiff's complaint fails to set forth facts which might be liberally construed to support an individualized constitutional claim against defendant Kelso.

The same is true for the state causes of action Plaintiff alleges against Kelso for malpractice, intentional tort, and general negligence. Plaintiff concludes that Kelso's acted negligently and was the "legal (proximate) cause" of damages to Plaintiff, but does not state any facts to support such 2 conclusions. Thus, ...

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