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Manunga v. Hernandez

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 4, 2014

HERNANDEZ, et al., Defendants.


RALPH ZAREFSKY, Magistrate Judge.

The pro se and in forma pauperis plaintiff in this civil rights action, Jeanne Mundongo Manunga, is an immigration detainee, i.e., is in custody for removal proceedings. She appears to assert in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action that three City of Santa Ana jail employees were deliberately indifferent to her medical needs shortly after she arrived there with injuries she suffered hours earlier in an altercation with an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer. Due to certain pleading flaws discussed below, the Court will dismiss the initial complaint with leave to amend.



The Court must screen all complaints, including Plaintiff's, brought in forma pauperis. See Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (screening of in forma pauperis actions generally). The law requires this Court to"dismiss the case if at any time it determines that... the action... (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

A "complaint... must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory"; otherwise, it is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting, and including original emphasis from, Car Carriers Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679-80, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (courts weighing dismissal should not accept, as true, allegations "that are no more than conclusions" and should dismiss if the well-pleaded allegations do not "plausibly suggest" an entitlement to relief).

A pro se plaintiff's civil rights complaint must be construed liberally, and the plaintiff must be given leave to amend his complaint, "unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment." Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987). A dismissal with leave to amend is a non-dispositive matter within the purview of a Magistrate Judge. McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).



According to Plaintiff, on August 29, 2013, when she was away from the City jail for a scheduled hearing in her removal case, an ICE officer named Louis - not a defendant in this action but sued in a separate action - battered Plaintiff, breaking her coccyx and causing other injuries. These facts per se are not the subject of this lawsuit. (Plaintiff does not mention Louis, her trip from the City jail to the scheduled hearing, the alleged assault, or her return to the jail thereafter in the body of her complaint. She should take care to briefly describe those facts in any amended complaint. Nonetheless, the Court is generally aware of these alleged facts from numerous other filings that Plaintiff has submitted in the past several months.) Rather, the foregoing facts are but a prologue. This lawsuit implicitly if clearly is based on what happened after Plaintiff got back to the jail later on the same date.

Plaintiff, in pain from her injuries, asked jail employees Hernandez and Grevy, now defendants, for medical assistance. They refused. Hernandez moved Plaintiff into a chilly isolation room for six hours without food, and Grevy stopped a jail nurse from treating Plaintiff. Plaintiff also sues a third jail employee, Jane Doe. Doe took pictures of Plaintiff's injuries but "refuse[d] to take the report or send me to the hospital." Like Grevy, Doe prevented a nurse from aiding Plaintiff, "even though she [Doe] saw that my hand was bleeding [and] swelling, [and] my knee was swelling and I couldn't walk." Comp. at 3. Plaintiff allows that the defendants' indifference to her pleas may have resulted, at least in part, from reports - false reports, Plaintiff states - that during her trip back to the City jail from her scheduled hearing, Plaintiff was "fight[ing] [the] driver." Comp. at 5.

Plaintiff sues Hernandez, Grevy and Doe solely in their official capacity, seeking millions of dollars in damages and other relief. (Attached to the complaint are various medical records, all or almost all of which pertain to medical visits long after Plaintiff's August 29, 2013 injuries. In any amended complaint, Plaintiff should omit such materials, for they are irrelevant and wasteful at worst and prematurely submitted at best.)



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