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James v. Oakland Police Dept.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

July 2, 2013

DENNIS LAMAR JAMES, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
OAKLAND POLICE DEPT.; et al., Defendants.

ORDER OF SERVICE

SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Dennis Lamar James, an inmate in custody at the Santa Rita County Jail, filed a pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint is now before the court for review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

BACKGROUND

James alleges the following in his complaint:

On February 19, 2012, James was arrested by members of the Oakland Police

Department. Oakland police officer Ko was dispatched to an address for a report of "an adult male acting erratic and it was a 5150 call." Docket # 1, p. 2. When officer Ko arrived, he saw James "acting erratic and not responding to commands." Id. at 3. Officer Ko failed to call an ambulance or properly secure James. Officer Chacon arrived, and both officers fired their tasers at least ten times at James, causing him severe pain and anguish. Officer Smith arrived and "caused even more injuries to the plaintiff's hip and right leg." Id. James was "a mental patient and had a psychosis." Id. The City of Oakland, Oakland Police Department, and Chief of Police Howard Jordan failed to provide adequate training and supervision regarding the lawful use of a taser, and this caused the injuries James suffered. Id. at 5.

James further alleges that after being arrested on February 19, 2012, he was transported by ambulance to Highland Hospital for treatment. He had been tased repeatedly, "had numerous darts still stuck in him, had head injuries, and a leg injury." Id. at 6. He also needed psychiatric treatment. He was admitted to the hospital "merely for a few hours and was denied proper medical care." Id. He alleges that defendants Dr. David K. English, Dr. Naomi Adler, Dr. Terrence H. Liu, Dr. Eugenia Kang, and Highland Hospital failed to provide proper medical care for his serious medical needs. See id. at 5-6.

DISCUSSION

A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See id. at § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

A claim that a law enforcement officer used excessive force in the course of an arrest or other seizure is analyzed under the Fourth Amendment reasonableness standard. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394-95 (1989); Forrester v. City of San Diego, 25 F.3d 804, 806 (9th Cir. 1994). "Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is reasonable' under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of "the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests" against the countervailing governmental interests at stake." See Graham, 490 U.S. at 396 (citations omitted). Liberally construed, the complaint states a cognizable § 1983 claim against Oakland police officers Ko, Chacon and Smith for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment based on their alleged uses of force on James on February 19, 2012. The complaint also adequately alleges a claim against the City of Oakland, Oakland Police Department, and Chief of Police Howard Jordan for a Fourth Amendment violation based on their alleged failure to train and supervise on the use of force.

In light of the fact that James had not been convicted of a crime, but apparently only had been arrested, "his rights derive from the due process clause rather than the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment." Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002). As a person in custody, he had a right "to not have officials remain deliberately indifferent to [his] serious medical needs.'" Id. (citation omitted). To prove that the response to an arrestee's medical needs was constitutionally deficient, the arrestee must establish (1) a serious medical need and (2) deliberate indifference to that need by the officials. See id.; McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). Giving the pro se complaint the liberal construction to which it is entitled, the complaint states a cognizable claim against Dr. David K. English, Dr. Naomi Adler, Dr. Terrence H. Liu, and Dr. Eugenia Kang for deliberate indifference to James' medical and mental health needs. A claim is not stated against the hospital where the events and omissions occurred.

James has requested that counsel be appointed to assist him in this action. A district court has the discretion under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(1) to designate counsel to represent an indigent civil litigant in exceptional circumstances. See Wilborn v. Escalderon, 789 F.2d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir. 1986). This requires an evaluation of both the likelihood of success on the merits and the ability of the plaintiff to articulate his claims pro se in light of the complexity of the legal issues involved. See id. Neither of these factors is dispositive and both must be viewed together before deciding on a request for counsel under § ...


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