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Willingham v. Pounce

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 16, 2014

O. POUNCE, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff, a former state prisoner and current "mental health patient probationer, " dkt. 53 at 3, filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") has been granted. Dkt. 21. Thereafter, he filed an amended complaint against twenty-two named Defendants and "Does 1-400." Dkt. 13.

The Court then issued an order to Plaintiff to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this action. Dkt. 29. Plaintiff has since filed a response to the Court's Order to Show Cause. Dkt. 30. However, the Court now VACATES its Order to Show Cause (dkt. 29) in light of the recent Ninth Circuit ruling in Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc), relating to the proper procedural device for raising the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies. In Albino, the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, overruled Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 2003), which held in part that a claim may be dismissed sua sponte if it is clear from the record that the prisoner has conceded that he did not exhaust administrative remedies and no exception to exhaustion applies. See Wyatt, 315 F.3d at 1120. After Albino, it is no longer clear whether this is still the law of the circuit. Therefore, the Court need not address Plaintiff's response to the now vacated Order to Show Cause.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's amended complaint alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison ("SQSP") from September 22, 2010 to February 2, 2012. Dkt. 13. He seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's amended complaint (dkt. 13), which the Court construes as the operative pleading herein, will be dismissed with leave to amend. See London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981) (holding amended complaint supersedes initial complaint and may not incorporate by reference any parts of original complaint).


I. 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 id. § 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." To comport with Rule 8, "[s]pecific 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, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (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, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. The United States Supreme Court has explained the "plausible on its face" standard of Twombly: "While legal conclusions can provide the complaint's framework, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

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 color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

A supervisor may be liable under § 1983 upon a showing of personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (citation omitted). A supervisor therefore generally "is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them." Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). This includes evidence that a supervisor implemented "a policy so deficient that the policy itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights and is the moving force of the constitutional violation." Redman, 942 F.2d at 1446; see Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 917 (9th Cir. 2001).

II. Amended Complaint

It is difficult to glean from Plaintiff's twenty-eight-page amended complaint what his claims are and what relief he seeks. Further, nowhere does Plaintiff state succinctly and clearly what injury he has suffered, who caused such injury and what he would like the Court to do. Instead, Plaintiff narrates lengthy legal and factual arguments relating to various claims that range from: (1) a planned attack on Plaintiff by Inmate Erik Byrd on February 24, 2011; (2) deliberate indifference to his medical needs stemming from his resulting injuries; (3) false reporting by investigative employees and an alleged "cover-up" of the aforementioned attack; (4) deliberate indifference to his serious dental needs; (5) retaliation by Defendants because Plaintiff claims he is "Jesus Christ the Son of God"; (6) failure to process his inmate grievances relating to various "medical issue[s]"; (7) opening confidential legal mail; (8) further "retaliatory actions to do Plaintiff harm and cause problems and pain and suffering to Plaintiff"; and (9) due process violations at two rules violation hearings, which resulted in the forfeiture of good time credits. (Dkt. 13 at 7-20.)[1] Additionally, Plaintiff refers to various types of relief, some which appear to pertain to injunctive relief stemming from the aforementioned conditions of his confinement at SQSP.[2]

Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the complaint set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A complaint that fails to state the specific acts of the defendant that violated the plaintiff's rights fails to meet the notice requirements of Rule 8(a). See Hutchinson v. United States, 677 F.2d 1322, 1328 n.5 (9th Cir. 1982). Additionally, Rule 8(e) requires that each averment of a pleading be "simple, concise, and direct." See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming dismissal of complaint that was "argumentative, prolix, replete with redundancy, and largely irrelevant"). While the federal rules require brevity in pleading, a complaint ...

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