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Rush Spinks, Jr v. E. Lopez

May 3, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Rush Spinks, Jr., a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on October 12, 2010. This action is proceeding against Defendant Lopez for interfering with Plaintiff's post-operative medical treatment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff's other Eighth Amendment claims, due process claims, state penal code section claims, and claim for declaratory relief were dismissed, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim; and Defendants Lau, Schutt, Doe 1, and Doe 2 were dismissed from the action based on Plaintiff's failure to state any claims against them.

Pursuant to the scheduling order filed on September 18, 2012, the amended pleadings deadline was March 18, 2013, the discovery deadline is May 18, 2013, and the pretrial dispositive motion deadline is July 29, 2013. Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b). On February 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed a timely motion seeking leave to file an amended complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). Defendant filed an opposition on March 11, 2013, and Plaintiff filed a reply on April 1, 2013. Local Rule 230(l).

II. Legal Standard

At this juncture in the proceedings, Plaintiff may only amend with leave of court, and Rule 15 provides that "[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). "[P]ublic policy strongly encourages courts to permit amendments" and "[t]he policy of allowing amendments is to be applied with extreme liberality." Waldrip v. Hall, 548 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2008) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 2415 (2010); also Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003); Owens v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2001); Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Rose, 893 F.2d 1074, 1079 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether to grant leave to amend, courts generally consider four factors: (1) bad faith, (2) undue delay, (3) prejudice to the opposing party, and (4) futility of amendment. In re Korean Airlines Co., Ltd., 642 F.3d 685, 701 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Kaplan v. Rose, 49 F.3d 1363, 1370 (9th Cir. 1994)) (quotation marks omitted); also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227 (1962); Waldrip, 548 F.3d at 732; AmerisourceBergen Corp. v. Dialysis West, Inc., 465 F.3d 946, 951 (9th Cir. 2006); Eminence Capital, LLC, 316 F.3d at 1052. Prejudice carries the greatest weight, and absent prejudice or a strong showing of any of the remaining factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend. Eminence Capital, LLC, 316 F.3d at 1051-52 (quotation marks omitted); accord C. F. ex rel. Farnan v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 654 F.3d 975, 985 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1566 (2012).

III. Discussion

A. Parties' Positions

The only ground for amendment articulated in Plaintiff's motion is his desire to conform his complaint to the operative screening order, filed on June 1, 2012. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

Defendant argues that the motion should be denied because the proposed amendment would serve no other purpose than to burden her, suggesting Plaintiff is seeking leave to amend in bad faith. Defendant contends that there are no new claims or defendants identified in the amended complaint, and while the amended complaint is clearer and more concise, it does nothing more than omit defendants and claims which were previously dismissed, restate the allegations against Defendant, and reduce to amount of damages sought.

In reply, Plaintiff reiterates that he seeks to bring his complaint into conformance with the screening order, and he states that while he failed to address the issue in his motion, he is also attempting to conform the complaint to Rule 8(e)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by reducing the number of pages and reducing the number of exhibits. Plaintiff also states that he seeks to correct the following deficiencies in his original complaint: non-sequential paragraph numbering, a mistake in the verification regarding where it was executed, and the inclusion of excessive, unnecessary allegations. Plaintiff contends that his desire to reduce the damages sought is reasonable in light of the dismissal of his due process claims, but he also states that the allegations in the amended complaint are not identical and he has added three state-created liberty interests.

B. Grounds for Amendment

1. Non-Substantive Matters

The usual purpose behind amendment of a complaint is the desire to add or dismiss claims and/or parties. The rule is not intended to effect inconsequential, non-merits based changes. In this instance, Plaintiff's complaint has already been thoroughly screened and certain claims and parties were dismissed. 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915A. It is unnecessary for Plaintiff to omit either claims and parties already dismissed or facts relating to those claims and parties, and allowing Plaintiff to do so would confer no benefit on Plaintiff while burdening the resources of the Court, which must re-screen the pleading, and Defendant, who must file an answer to the pleading. Assuming Plaintiff's request for relief is motivated by a good faith desire to "clean up" his complaint so that it conforms with the screening order, the Court declines to grant ...

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