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Ball v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 17, 2013




Plaintiff, who is a parolee, filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which he complains about various, seemingly unrelated matters. Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP).[1]

In this Order, the Court dismisses the complaint with leave to amend and orders Plaintiff to file an amended complaint to correct the deficiencies outlined below.


I. Background

Plaintiff's complaint to the Court raises general "violations of [his] constitutional rights." (Compl. at 2.) He first presents allegations regarding a "writ of habeas courpus [sic]" he "filed in Solano County." (Id. at 3.) However, he alleges only that "they failed to answer the writ, " but fails to elaborate with any other details. (Id.) He then claims that prison officials were "negligent" in failing to handle an unspecified 602 inmate appeal properly. (Id.) He adds that after he was transferred to another prison (prior to being paroled) and that his inmate appeal was "forgot[ten], " thus violating his "constitutional rights and [right to] equal protection of the law." (Id. at 5.) However, he has failed to set forth sufficient facts to state a claim with regard to any of the allegations in the complaint.

II. Standard of Review

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, " or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id . § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. 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 alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

III. Analysis

To state a claim arising under federal law, it must be clear from the face of Plaintiff's well-pleaded complaint that there is a federal question. Easton v. Crossland Mortgage Corp. , 114 F.3d 979, 982 (9th Cir. 1997). While a plaintiff is not required to plead his evidence "or specific factual details not ascertainable in advance of discovery, " Gibson v. United States , 781 F.2d 1334, 1340 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1054 (1987), a pleading will not be sufficient to state a claim under § 1983 if the allegations are mere conclusions, Kennedy v. H & M Landing, Inc. , 529 F.2d 987, 989 (9th Cir. 1976). And a complaint that fails to state the specific acts of the defendant which violated the plaintiff's rights fails to meet the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Hutchinson v. United States , 677 F.2d 1322, 1328 n.5 (9th Cir. 1982). District courts must afford pro se prisoner litigants an opportunity to amend to correct any deficiency in their complaints. Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

In this case, Plaintiff has failed to state the specifics regarding alleged mistreatment he suffered from any particular defendant, how his constitutional rights were violated, and the conduct of each defendant that he asserts is responsible for a constitutional violation. As such, Plaintiff will be granted leave to amend to allege specifics regarding any claims he has against any named defendant.

In his amended complaint, Plaintiff must establish legal liability of each person or entity for the claimed violation of his rights. Liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under section 1983 if the plaintiff can show that the defendant proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. See Leer v. Murphy , 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988); Harris v. City of Roseburg , 664 F.2d 1121, 1125 (9th Cir. 1981). A person deprives another of a constitutional right within the meaning of section 1983 if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do, that causes the deprivation of which the plaintiff complains. See Leer , 844 F.2d at 633; see, e.g., Robins v. Meecham , 60 F.3d 1436, 1442 (9th Cir. 1995) (prison official's failure to intervene to prevent 8th Amendment violation may be basis for liability). Sweeping conclusory allegations will not suffice; the plaintiff must instead "set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's" deprivation of protected rights. Leer , 844 F.2d at 634.

Here, Plaintiff has not properly alleged liability on the part of any proper defendants for a constitutional violation. Specifically, Plaintiff's claims against "CDCR Chief Appeals Officer CDW-C[2] M. E. Spearman" are insufficient to state a claim. As mentioned above, Plaintiff must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's actions which violated his rights. See Leer , 844 F.2d at 634. At the pleading stage, "[a] plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights." Barren v. Harrington , 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff's general allegations that Defendant Spearman violated his constitutional rights are not supported by specific facts as to this individual's actions which violated his rights. Plaintiff does not ...

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