United States District Court, E.D. California
September 5, 2014
ERIC WATKINS, Plaintiff,
DR. KENWORTHY, et al., Defendants.
ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT
GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.
I. Screening Requirement
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
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). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal... fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, " none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A. , 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz , 534 U.S. at 512. 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)).
II. Plaintiff's Claims
Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at Salinas Valley State Prison, brings this lawsuit against defendant Dr. Kenworthy, a psychologist employed by the CDCR at Corcoran State Prison. Plaintiff's sole claim is that Dr. Kenworthy lied to a Lieutenant, falsely accusing Plaintiff of calling her a "bad name." Defendant also allegedly stated that she hopes "that the courts never send you any parole release date." Plaintiff seeks as relief an order giving him a parole release date.
To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant acted under color of state law and (2) the defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los Angeles , 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). "A person deprives another of a constitutional right, where that person does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.'" Hydrick v. Hunter , 500 F.3d 978, 988 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy , 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). "[T]he requisite causal connection can be established not only by some kind of direct, personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion a series of acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.'" Id . (quoting Johnson at 743-44).
The only conduct charged to Dr. Kenworthy is verbal. Mere verbal harassment or abuse is not sufficient to state a constitutional deprivation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Oltarzewski v. Ruggiero , 830 F.2d 136, 139 (9th Cir. 1987). Allegations of threats and harassment do not state a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Keenan v. Hall , 83 F.3d 1083, 1092 (9th Cir. 1996) (assaultive comments by prison guard not enough to implicate Eighth Amendment); Gaut v. Sunn , 810 F.2d 923, 925 (9th Cir. 1987) (mere threat does not constitute constitutional wrong). Plaintiff's allegations do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e) (prisoners cannot bring civil suits in federal court for mental or emotional injuries suffered while incarcerated unless they first show that they suffered physical injury).
Further, the relief Plaintiff seeks, an order granting him a parole release date, is not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. When a prisoner challenges the legality or duration of his custody, or raises a constitutional challenge which could entitle him to an earlier release, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Preiser v. Rodriguez , 411 U.S. 475 (1973); Young v. Kenny , 907 F.2d 874 (9th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1126 (1991). Should Plaintiff desire to file an action for an earlier release date, he should do so by way of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to state a claim for relief under § 1983. The complaint must therefore be dismissed. Plaintiff will, however, be granted leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff need not, however, set forth legal arguments in support of his claims. In order to hold an individual defendant liable, Plaintiff must name the individual defendant, describe where that defendant is employed and in what capacity, and explain how that defendant acted under color of state law. Plaintiff should state clearly, in his or her own words, what happened. Plaintiff must describe what each defendant, by name, did to violate the particular right described by Plaintiff.
III. Conclusion and Order
The Court has screened Plaintiff's complaint and finds that it does not state any claims upon which relief may be granted under section 1983. The Court will provide Plaintiff with the opportunity to file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order. Noll v. Carlson , 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff is cautioned that he may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended complaint. George, 507 F.3d at 607 (no "buckshot" complaints).
Plaintiff's amended complaint should be brief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights, Hydrick , 500 F.3d at 987-88. Although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 554 (2007) (citations omitted).
Finally, Plaintiff is advised that an amended complaint supercedes the original complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc. , 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh , 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the prior or superceded pleading, " Local Rule 15-220. Plaintiff is warned that "[a]ll causes of action alleged in an original complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived." King , 814 F.2d at 567 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand , 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth , 114 F.3d at 1474.
Accordingly, based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed, with leave to amend, for failure to state a claim;
2. The Clerk's Office shall send to Plaintiff a complaint form;
3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint;
4. Plaintiff may not add any new, unrelated claims to this action via his amended complaint and any attempt to do so will result in an order striking the amended complaint; and
5. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint, the Court will recommend that this action be dismissed, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim.
IT IS SO ORDERED.