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Lyons v. People

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 1, 2013

GREGORY A. LYONS, Plaintiff,


DAVID T. BRISTOW, Magistrate Judge.

Gregory A. Lyons, a California state prisoner currently incarcerated at Terminal Annex, in Los Angeles, California, purported to file a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody herein on March 15, 2013. However, the petition alleged a "violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Retaliation), [sic] of U.S. Constitution, violation of 28 U.S.C. 1654." Further, in an attachment, Lyons appeared to allege that he has suffered retaliation for reporting that several jail deputies burned copies of the Quran. He claimed that, because he is being held in maximum security, he is being denied education, a low-sodium diet, "medical and dental, " and other benefits, and also alleges that he has "suffered beatings from Deputies." By way of a separate minute order dated April 29, 2013, the Court explained that because the claims challenged the conditions, rather than the duration, of Lyon's confinement, they could not properly be asserted in a habeas petition. The Court therefore exercised its discretion to construe the petition as a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Complaint").

On April 22, 2013, Lyons also filed an "Emergency Request for a Protective Order, " which, in the same minute order referenced above, the Court construed as an application for a temporary restraining order ("Application"). The Court denied the Application because Lyons had failed to meet the standard for injunctive relief, but explained that he could renew his application with a discussion of the relevant factors for such relief.

In accordance with the terms of the "Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995" ("PLRA"), the Court now has screened the Complaint, so construed, prior to ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A(b); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).

The Court's screening of the Complaint under the foregoing statutes is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) Lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Love v. United States , 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Moreover, since plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the Complaint liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't , 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin. , 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and complete statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As the Supreme Court has held, Rule 8(a) "requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief, " and that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555-56, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Where the allegations in a complaint "do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]' - that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937; 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, plaintiff must allege a minimum factual and legal basis for each claim that is sufficient to give each defendant fair notice of what plaintiff's claims are and the grounds upon which they rest. See, e.g., Brazil v. United States Dep't of the Navy , 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995); McKeever v. Block , 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991). Moreover, failure to comply with Rule 8(a) constitutes an independent basis for dismissal of a complaint that applies even if the claims in a complaint are not found to be wholly without merit. See McHenry v. Renne , 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996); Nevijel v. North Coast Life Ins. Co. , 651 F.2d 671, 673 (9th Cir. 1981).

After careful review and consideration of the Complaint under the foregoing standards, the Court finds that it suffers from the following pleading deficiencies. First, petitioner has failed to make an adequate showing of indigency. The PLRA amended 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to provide, inter alia , that all prisoners who file civil actions must pay the full amount of the filing fee, and that any prisoner seeking to file a complaint in a civil action without prepayment of fees must submit a completed Declaration in Support of Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In addition, prisoners must submit a certified copy of their prison trust fund account statement for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of his/her complaint, obtained from the appropriate official of the prison at which the prisoner is confined. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)(1)-(2), 1915(b)(1). Here, when plaintiff submitted his "Petition" for filing, he failed to submit a certified copy of his trust account statement for the last six months.

Moreover, as the current action was not submitted on a civil rights complaint form, certain critical information, such as the name and capacity in which the defendants are sued, is lacking. The Court notes that petitioner has merely alleged the "People of the State of California" as the party to his action, but the Eleventh Amendment bars suits by private citizens against state governments. See Natural Resources Defense Council v. California Dep't of Transp. , 96 F.3d 420, 421 (9th Cir. 1996). Finally, it appears from the face of the Complaint that plaintiff has not exhausted this administrative remedies as also required by the PLRA. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

Accordingly, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.[1] See Noll v. Carlson , 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987) (holding that a pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his complaint unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment). If plaintiff still desires to pursue this action, he is ORDERED to file a First Amended Complaint within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order remedying the deficiencies discussed above.

If plaintiff chooses to file a First Amended Complaint, it should bear the docket number assigned in this case; be labeled "First Amended Complaint"; and be complete in and of itself without reference to the original Complaint or any other pleading, attachment, or document. The Clerk is directed to send plaintiff a blank Central District civil rights complaint form, which plaintiff is encouraged to utilize.

Plaintiff is admonished that, if he fails to timely file a First Amended Complaint, the Court will recommend that this action be dismissed with prejudice on the grounds set ...

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