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Waiton v. Post

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 2, 2014

KERRI POST, et al., Defendants.


JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate at the Main Adult Detention Facility in Santa Rosa, California, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint was dismissed with leave to amend, and plaintiff filed a timely amended complaint. The Court now reviews the amended complaint and dismisses it for failing to correct the deficiencies in the original complaint.


A. Standard of Review

A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in 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 that 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 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't. , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus , 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, ... 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." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974.

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential 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. See West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

B. Original Complaint

In his original complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendant Doris Maxine Guyer, a private citizen, purposefully ran over plaintiff with her car. Plaintiff was a pedestrian. Plaintiff further alleged that defendant California Highway Patrol ("CHP") Officer Brian Wood prepared a fraudulent report about the incident, and that CHP Supervisor Kerri Post failed to adequately investigate the incident. Plaintiff also alleged that defendant County of Sonoma failed to adequately provide a safe environment for its citizens. Finally, plaintiff named as a defendant Darcy Drew, whom plaintiff identified as an insurance agent for the American Automobile Association. The Court dismissed the complaint and entered judgment on August 27, 2013 because plaintiff had not stated how the alleged acts violated his federal constitutional or statutory rights.

After the action was dismissed, plaintiff filed a letter with the Court dated September 4, 2013 that persuaded the Court that the dismissal order and judgment should be vacated and the case should be reopened. Specifically, plaintiff stated in his letter that CHP Officers Brian Wood and Kerri Post "conspired to prevent a proper report" of the incident and that the CHP "purposely refused to provide a police report." Plaintiff alleged that these acts prevented him from recovering damages, in his "case, " which the Court presumed meant a civil case that plaintiff brought arising out of the incident. Finally, plaintiff stated that CHP Officers Brian Wood and Kerri Post made threats to an attorney that plaintiff retained to help him recover damages from the incident, which threats caused the attorney to "quit."

In its Order of October 16, 2013, the Court found that based on such allegations, plaintiff might be able to allege a violation of his constitutional right of access to the courts as against CHP Officer Brian Wood and CHP Supervisor Kerri Post ("CHP defendants"). The Court found that plaintiff's claims against the remaining defendants remained subject to dismissal, and they were thus terminated from the action.

Plaintiff was advised that to state a claim for denial of access to the courts a plaintiff must allege an "actual injury, " which consists of some specific "instance in which an inmate was actually denied access to the courts." Sands v. Lewis , 886 F.2d 1166, 1171 (9th Cir. 1989), overruled on other grounds by Lewis v. Casey , 518 U.S. 343, 350-55 (1996). It was explained to plaintiff that it is not enough merely to assert that the CHP defendants prevented him from recovering damages. Plaintiff needed to identify the specific acts of the CHP defendants and how those acts actually prevented him or will prevent him from pursuing a civil action for damages. Plaintiff was given leave to amend his complaint to allege facts that cured the noted pleading deficiencies.

Plaintiff was specifically directed to identify in his amended complaint: (1) the location and date of the alleged car crash; (2) whether his arrest arose out of the alleged car crash incident or surrounding events; (3) whether there are any charges pending from the alleged car crash incident; (4) whether he litigated a claim for damages arising out of the alleged car crash incident; (5) if he did litigate a claim, the result of that litigation; (6) the name of the attorney who "quit" and the threats that the CHP defendants allegedly made to the attorney; (7) the alleged fraudulent statements made in the incident report; (8) when and ...

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