United States District Court, E.D. California
May 6, 2014
MARCELINO CLEMENTE, Plaintiff,
T. PARCIASEPE, et al., Defendants.
KENDALL J. NEWMAN, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 302. Plaintiff consented to proceed before the undersigned for all purposes. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
Plaintiff submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.
Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).
The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).
A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy , 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke , 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona , 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989), superseded by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) ("a judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless."); Franklin , 745 F.2d at 1227.
Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id . However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. , 550 U.S. at 555) (citations and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, id., and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes , 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overrruled on other grounds, Davis v. Scherer , 468 U.S. 183 (1984).
Plaintiff alleges that on January 10, 2013, defendant Parciasepe brought new inmate Villier to plaintiff's cell, and when Villier and plaintiff recognized each other as enemies from past encounters on the streets and prisons, they informed defendant, but defendant ignored their pleas, shut the cell door, stated "handle your business, " and walked away. (ECF No. 1 at 8.) Plaintiff contends that defendant was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's safety, and failed to protect plaintiff, and claims that his failure to address their incompatibility was cruel and unusual punishment.
Plaintiff also alleges that once plaintiff filed an inmate appeal concerning the January 10, 2013 incident, defendant Parciasepe retaliated against plaintiff by trying to convince plaintiff's cellmate, Roy Dorado, to say something that would cause plaintiff to be placed in administrative segregation. Plaintiff contends that defendant had his co-workers constantly harass plaintiff and search plaintiff's cell excessively, allegedly without any cause.
In his third cause of action, plaintiff contends that defendant Warden Knipp is charged with the implementation of administrative protections for the inmates, and is responsible for ensuring that plaintiff's rights were not violated. In addition, plaintiff states that once aware of a violation, "defendants" are charged with correcting any constitutional violations that may have occurred. (ECF No. 1 at 11.)
The court has reviewed plaintiff's complaint and, for the limited purposes of § 1915A screening, finds that it states potentially cognizable Eighth and First Amendment claims against defendant Parciasepe. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
However, plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim against defendant Knipp. The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows:
Every person who, under color of [state law]... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs. , 436 U.S. 658 (1978) ("Congress did not intend § 1983 liability to attach where... causation [is] absent."); Rizzo v. Goode , 423 U.S. 362 (1976) (no affirmative link between the incidents of police misconduct and the adoption of any plan or policy demonstrating their authorization or approval of such misconduct). "A person subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy , 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).
Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley , 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979) (no liability where there is no allegation of personal participation); Mosher v. Saalfeld , 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978) (no liability where there is no evidence of personal participation), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 941 (1979). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982) (complaint devoid of specific factual allegations of personal participation is insufficient).
"Prison officials have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse." Hoptowit v. Ray , 682 F.2d 1237, 1250-51 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994). To establish a violation of this duty, the prisoner must establish that prison officials were "deliberately indifferent" to serious threats to the inmate's safety. See Farmer , 511 U.S. at 834. To demonstrate that a prison official was deliberately indifferent to a serious threat to the inmate's safety, the prison must show that "the official [knew] of and disregard[ed] an excessive risk to inmate... safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and [the official] must also draw the inference." Farmer , 511 U.S. at 837; Anderson v. County of Kern , 45 F.3d 1310, 1313 (9th Cir. 1995). To prove knowledge of the risk, however, the prisoner may rely on circumstantial evidence; in fact, the very obviousness of the risk may be sufficient to establish knowledge. Farmer , 511 U.S. at 842; Wallis v. Baldwin , 70 F.3d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1995).
Plaintiff's specific allegations as to defendant Knipp are based solely on his role as Warden. Plaintiff does not allege that defendant Knipp was aware that Villier and plaintiff were enemies, or that defendant Parciasepe housed them together despite being informed of their incompatibility. Given that inmate Villier was a "new arrival" (ECF No. 1 at 8), it is unlikely that defendant Knipp was aware of defendant Parciasepe's action.
Therefore, the court finds that the complaint does not state a cognizable claim against defendant Knipp. The claim against defendant Knipp is dismissed with leave to amend.
Plaintiff may proceed forthwith to serve defendant Parciasepe and pursue his claims against only defendant Parciasepe, or he may delay serving any defendant and attempt to state a cognizable claim against defendant Knipp.
If plaintiff elects to attempt to amend his complaint to state a cognizable claim against defendant Knipp, he has thirty days so to do. He is not obligated to amend his complaint.
If plaintiff elects to proceed forthwith against defendant Parciasepe, against whom he has stated a potentially cognizable claim for relief, then within thirty days he must return materials for service of process enclosed herewith. In this event the court will construe plaintiff's election as consent to dismissal of all claims against defendant Knipp without prejudice.
Plaintiff is advised that in an amended complaint he must clearly identify each defendant and the action that defendant took that violated his constitutional rights. The court is not required to review exhibits to determine what plaintiff's charging allegations are as to each named defendant. The charging allegations must be set forth in the amended complaint so defendants have fair notice of the claims plaintiff is presenting.
Any amended complaint must show the federal court has jurisdiction, the action is brought in the right place, and plaintiff is entitled to relief if plaintiff's allegations are true. It must contain a request for particular relief. Plaintiff must identify as a defendant only persons who personally participated in a substantial way in depriving plaintiff of a federal constitutional right. Johnson v. Duffy , 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978) (a person subjects another to the deprivation of a constitutional right if he does an act, participates in another's act or omits to perform an act he is legally required to do that causes the alleged deprivation). If plaintiff contends he was the victim of a conspiracy, he must identify the participants and allege their agreement to deprive him of a specific federal constitutional right.
In an amended complaint, the allegations must be set forth in numbered paragraphs. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b). Plaintiff may join multiple claims if they are all against a single defendant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). If plaintiff has more than one claim based upon separate transactions or occurrences, the claims must be set forth in separate paragraphs. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b).
A district court must construe a pro se pleading "liberally" to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000). While detailed factual allegations are not required, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft , 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. , 550 U.S. at 570).
A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.
Ashcroft , 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citations and quotation marks omitted). Although legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations, and are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id . at 1950.
An amended complaint must be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. Local Rule 15-220; see Loux v. Rhay , 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading is superseded.
By signing an amended complaint, plaintiff certifies he has made reasonable inquiry and has evidentiary support for his allegations, and for violation of this rule the court may impose sanctions sufficient to deter repetition by plaintiff or others. Fed.R.Civ.P. 11.
Finally, on March 17, 2014, plaintiff filed a request to join the action filed by Alonzo Joseph, Case No. 2:14-cv-0414 AC (E.D. Cal.), to plaintiff's lawsuit as a class action. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff, however, is a non-lawyer proceeding without counsel. It is well established that a layperson cannot ordinarily represent the interests of a class. See McShane v. United States , 366 F.2d 286 (9th Cir. 1966). This rule becomes almost absolute when, as here, the putative class representative is incarcerated and proceeding pro se. Oxendine v. Williams , 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975). In direct terms, plaintiff cannot "fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class, " as required by Rule 23(a)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Martin v. Middendorf , 420 F.Supp. 779 (D.D.C. 1976). This action, plaintiff's motion to join the action filed by Mr. Joseph is denied.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.
2. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. Plaintiff is assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). All fees shall be collected and paid in accordance with this court's order to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith.
3. Claims against defendant Knipp are dismissed with leave to amend. Within thirty days of service of this order, plaintiff may amend his complaint to attempt to state cognizable claims against defendant Knipp. Plaintiff is not obliged to amend his complaint.
4. The allegations in the pleading are sufficient to state a potentially cognizable claim against defendant Parciasepe. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. With this order the Clerk of the Court shall provide to plaintiff a blank summons, a copy of the pleading filed March 5, 2014, one USM-285 form and instructions for service of process on defendant Parciasepe. Within thirty days of service of this order plaintiff may return the attached Notice of Submission of Documents with the completed summons, the completed USM-285 form, and two copies of the endorsed complaint filed March 5, 2014. The court will transmit them to the United States Marshal for service of process pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4. Defendant Parciasepe will be required to respond to plaintiff's allegations within the deadlines stated in Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a)(1). In this event, the court will construe plaintiff's election to proceed forthwith as consent to an order dismissing his defective claims against defendant Knipp without prejudice.
5. Failure to comply with this order will result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed.
6. Plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 5) is denied.