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Clay v. County of San Bernardino

United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division

May 23, 2014

COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO et al., Defendants.


DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.



Plaintiff Antquan Dupree Clay ("Plaintiff"), a pretrial detainee at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint on May 8, 2014, after being granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Dkt. 3 ("Complaint").[1]

In his Complaint, Plaintiff names the following Defendants in their individual and official capacities: (1) F. Harris, Deputy Sheriff; (2) Lang, Deputy Sheriff; (3) G. Foxwell, Deputy Sheriff; and (4) Robert Warrick, Sergeant. Id. at 3-4. Each of the Defendants is alleged to have worked at WVDC. Id. at 3-5. Plaintiff also names the County of San Bernardino in his caption and his prayer for relief. Id. at 1, 6.

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court must screen the Complaint before ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief might be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.



As best the Court can tell, the focus of Plaintiff's Complaint is a strip search and cavity check inflicted on Plaintiff when he returned to the WVDC facility from a court appearance on September 13, 2013. Plaintiff returned to WVDC at about 12:45 p.m. from the Central Detention Center. Complaint at 5. Upon his arrival at WVDC, Harris "conducted an improper strip search force (cav[i]ty) check." Id . Plaintiff further alleges that Lang and Foxwell both engaged in a "sexual assault on an inmate unlawful penetration by foreign object (force) while in restraints." Id . Plaintiff alleges that Sgt. Warrick "mishandl[ed] a criminal investigation [by] fail[ing] to notify the (police) department when crime happen[ed] in jurisdiction." Id.

Plaintiff alleges an Eighth Amendment claim grounded in his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Id . He also invokes the Ninth Amendment's protection of rights not specifically enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution. Id . He seeks an award of compensation and pain and punitive damages from each of the Defendants. Id. at 7. He also seeks an award of damages for pain and suffering from the County of San Bernardino. Id.



The Court's screening of the Complaint under the foregoing statutes is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Love v. United States , 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Further, since Plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the complaint liberally and must afford Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't , 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 330 n. 9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin. , 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). Moreover, with respect to Plaintiff's pleading burden, the Supreme Court has held that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitlement 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... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted, alteration in original); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (holding that to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' 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." (internal citation omitted)).

If the Court finds that a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, the Court has discretion to dismiss with or without leave to amend. Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-30 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Leave to amend should be granted if it appears possible that the defects in the complaint could be corrected, especially if a plaintiff is pro se. Id. at 1130-31; see also Cato v. United States , 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (noting that "[a] pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint, and some notice of its deficiencies, unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment") (citing Noll v. Carlson , 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987)). However, if, after careful consideration, it is clear that a complaint cannot be cured by amendment, the Court may dismiss without leave to amend. Cato , 70 F.3d at 1105-06; see, e.g., Chaset v. Fleer/Skybox Int'l , 300 F.3d 1083, 1088 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that "there is no need to prolong the litigation by permitting further ...

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