United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DISMISSING CASE WITH LEAVE TO AMEND
LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.
Plaintiff, a California state pretrial detainee proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order. For the reasons stated below, the court dismisses the complaint with leave to amend.
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 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).
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 deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
B. Plaintiff's Claims
Plaintiff alleges that as he was lying on his stomach with his hands behind his back, members of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department hit plaintiff multiple times in the head. Then, they handcuffed plaintiff, and one of the officers kicked plaintiff in the ribs. As a result, plaintiff had to go to the infirmary.
The complaint has several deficiencies that require an amended complaint to be filed. First, liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the plaintiff can show that the defendant's actions both actually and proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. Lemire v. Cal. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation, 726 F.3d 1062, 1085 (9th Cir. 2013); Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). A defendant cannot be held liable simply based on his membership in a group; rather, each individual defendant's participation in unlawful conduct must be shown. Chuman v. Wright, 76 F.3d 292, 294-95 (9th Cir. 1996) (holding jury instruction permitting jury to find individual liable as member of team, without any showing of individual wrongdoing, is improper). Either personal involvement or integral participation of the officers in the alleged constitutional violation is required before liability may be imposed; liability may not be imposed based solely on an officer's presence during the incident. See Hopkins v. Bonvicino, 573 F.3d 752, 769-70 (9th Cir. 2009) (holding that although "integral participant" rule may not be limited to officers who provide armed backup, officer who waits in front yard and does not participate in search of residence not an integral participant). Plaintiff may not merely name the Sheriff's Department as defendants. Plaintiff must name individual defendants and clearly state what each defendant did that made him liable for violating plaintiff's constitutional rights.
In addition, plaintiff's claim against the Alameda County Sheriff's Department is insufficient. Local governments are "persons" subject to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where official policy or custom causes a constitutional tort, see Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978); however, a city or county may not be held vicariously liable for the unconstitutional acts of its employees under the theory of respondeat superior, see Board of Cty. Comm'rs. of Bryan Cty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. To impose municipal liability under § 1983 for a violation of constitutional rights, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the plaintiff possessed a constitutional right of which he or she was deprived; (2) that the municipality had a policy; (3) that this policy amounts to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (4) that the policy is the moving force behind the constitutional violation. See Plumeau v. School Dist. #40 County of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997). Here, it is not clear from plaintiff's complaint that the Alameda County Sheriff's Department had any role other than employing the individual officers who hit and kicked plaintiff.
Accordingly, the complaint is DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Plaintiff will be provided with thirty days in which to amend to correct the deficiencies in his complaint if he can do so in good faith.
For the foregoing reasons, the court hereby ...