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Jason Saunders v. Matthew Cate

March 22, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dated: March 22, 2013




Jason Saunders ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on October 13, 2006. (Doc. 1.) On December 7, 2006, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 5.) On April 12, 2007, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend the complaint together with a proposed Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 10.) On August 2, 2007, the Court denied the motion to amend. (Doc. 11.)

On March 17, 2009, the Court denied Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered Plaintiff to pay the filing fee in full within thirty days. (Doc. 16.) Plaintiff failed to pay the filing fee, and on April 6, 2010, the case was dismissed and judgment was entered. (Docs. 28, 29.)

On January 3, 2012, Plaintiff appealed the judgment to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (Doc. 40.) On February 14, 2013, the Ninth Circuit found that the district court improperly denied Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis and erred in denying Plaintiff leave to file his proposed amended complaint. (Doc. 46.) The district court's judgment was vacated, and the case was remanded to the district court. Id. On February 15, 2013, the case was reopened at the district court. (Doc. 47.) On March 11, 2013, the Ninth Circuit issued its formal mandate. (Doc. 48.)

On March 18, 2013, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and filed Plaintiff's proposed Second Amended Complaint, which is now before the Court for screening. (Docs. 50, 51.)


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).


Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at the R. J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California. The events at issue in the Second Amended Complaint occurred at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California, and the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran, California, when Plaintiff was incarcerated at those facilities. Plaintiff names more than forty-nine defendants for violation of his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, denial of due process and equal protection, conspiracy, and related state claims.

A. Rule 8(a)

Under federal notice pleading, a complaint is only required to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences." Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To state a viable claim for relief, Plaintiff must set forth sufficient factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.

Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint consists of sixty-five pages of allegations and claims set forth in one-hundred-seventy-six enumerated paragraphs. Thus, the Second Amended Complaint fails to comport with Rule 8(a)'s instruction that the complaint is only required to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Plaintiff's lengthy narrative does not succinctly allege facts against the named defendants. Plaintiff shall be granted leave to file a Third Amended Complaint that complies with Rule 8(a). Twenty-five pages is more than sufficient for Plaintiff to identify his claims and set forth specific facts in support of those claims. Accordingly, the Third Amended Complaint may not exceed twenty-five pages in length, and it will be stricken from the record if it violates this page limitation.

B. Rule 18(a) - Unrelated Claims

Plaintiff alleges multiple claims in the Second Amended Complaint that are largely unrelated. Plaintiff may not proceed in one action on a myriad of unrelated claims against different staff members. "The controlling principle appears in Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a): 'A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, 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 Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

If Plaintiff pursues unrelated claims in his Third Amended Complaint, the Court shall decide for him which related claims shall be permitted to proceed.


The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

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. "Section 1983 . . . creates a cause of action for violations of the federal Constitution and laws." Sweaney v. Ada County, Idaho, 119 F.3d 1385, 1391 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal quotations omitted). "To the extent that the violation of a state law amounts to the deprivation of a state-created interest that reaches beyond that guaranteed by the federal Constitution, Section 1983 offers no redress." Id.

In the paragraphs that follow, the Court will provide Plaintiff with the legal standards that appear to apply to his claims. Plaintiff should carefully review the standards and amend only those claims that he believes, in good faith, are cognizable.

A. Excessive Force Claim - Eighth Amendment

"What is necessary to show sufficient harm for purposes of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause [of the Eighth Amendment] depends upon the claim at issue . . . ." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). "The objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim is . . . contextual and responsive to contemporary standards of decency." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The malicious and sadistic use of force to cause harm always violates contemporary standards of decency, regardless of whether or not significant injury is evident. Id. at 9; see also Oliver v. Keller, 289 F.3d 623, 628 (9th Cir. 2002) (Eighth Amendment excessive force standard examines de minimis uses of force, not de minimis injuries)). However, not "every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action." Id. at 9. "The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments ...

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