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Leslie James Jones v. A.Z. Scottland

April 8, 2013

LESLIE JAMES JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
A.Z. SCOTTLAND, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has paid the filing fee. This proceeding was referred to the undersigned in accordance with Local Rule 302 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

I. Screening Requirement

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 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. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) & (2).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only '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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint. See Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976). The court must also construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. See Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

Here, however, the allegations in plaintiff's complaint are so vague and conclusory that the court is unable to determine whether the current action is frivolous or fails to state a claim for relief. The complaint does not contain a short and plain statement as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice to the defendants and must allege facts that support the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in that support his claims. Id. Because plaintiff has failed to comply with the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the complaint must be dismissed. The court will, however, grant leave to file an amended complaint. In his amended claim, plaintiff must separately identify each of his claims, the constitutional amendment or federal law upon which the particular claim is based, the defendants named with respect to each claim, and set forth supporting factual allegations with respect to each claim. Below, the court will provide plaintiff with guidance as to the legal requirements applicable to each of the claims it appears he is attempting to present.

II. Plaintiff's Claims

A. Eighth Amendment Claim - Conditions of Confinement in Holding Cell

In his complaint, plaintiff alleges as follows. On May 11, 2010, he was confined in a holding cage for three hours, forced to remain standing even though he is mobility impaired and denied use of the bathroom. As a result, plaintiff's right knee became swollen and painful. Plaintiff names defendants Clark, Ruiz, Singler and Scottland*fn1 with respect to this claim.

Prison officials have a duty to provide humane conditions of confinement and therefore must ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984). However, only "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986); Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 670 (1977); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976). "It is obduracy and wantonness, not inadvertence or error in good faith, that characterize the conduct prohibited by the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause." Whitley, 475 U.S. at 319.

"[A] prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met." Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). "First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, 'sufficiently serious.'" Id. (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). The second requirement, flowing from the principle that only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the Eighth Amendment, is a subjective one; "[t]o violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, a prison official must have had a 'sufficiently culpable state of mind.'" Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297). "In prison-conditions cases that state of mind is one of 'deliberate indifference' to inmate health or safety . . . ." Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-03.)

In his amended complaint, plaintiff must set forth factual allegations that, if proven, would show that each of the named defendants was aware of plaintiff's confinement in the holding cage and was deliberately indifferent about the conditions of that confinement impacting plaintiff's health. Lastly, plaintiff is advised that as a convicted state prisoner a claim challenging the conditions of his confinement is based on the Eighth Amendment and not the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, in any amended complaint he elects to file, plaintiff should challenge the conditions of his confinement under Eighth Amendment standards.

B. Eighth Amendment - Excessive Force

It also appears that plaintiff is attempting to allege two incidents involving claimed excessive use of force by the defendants. First, plaintiff alleges that when he was in the holding cell, he was forced to remain standing for three hours despite his medical condition and that this situation constituted an excessive use of force against him. Second, plaintiff claims that excessive force was ...


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