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Robinson v. Prisil

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 22, 2014

ROOSEVELT J. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PRISIL, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff filed this complaint in pro per while a county inmate. He seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated for monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

Screening Requirement

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).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy , 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke , 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona , 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin , 745 F.2d at 1227.

A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-35 (3d ed. 2004). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). "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." Id.

In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees , 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen , 395 U.S. 411, 421(1969).

Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff names the following Solano County Jail (SCJ) psychotherapists as defendants: Dr. Prisil, Dr. Yu, Dr. John, Janet, and Angie. He refers to his "incarceration" at SCJ without specifying whether he was a pretrial detainee, was serving a criminal sentence, or had some other status. Plaintiff alleges that while housed at SCJ beginning in March of 2012, he was seen by defendants on multiple occasions for mental health treatment related to anxiety, depression, risk of suicide and sleeping problems, and was prescribed a number of medications. Since 2013, as the result of overcrowding at SCJ, mental health treatment has been provided at the cell door. Accordingly, the medical files of plaintiff and other inmates have been opened, read and discussed in front of other inmates. Plaintiff filed a grievance about the lack of privacy in dealing with mental health issues, and exhausted his administrative remedies. Plaintiff asserts that the lack of confidentiality impairs the diagnostic process and poses a risk to staff, other inmates and himself. At the time the complaint was filed, plaintiff alleged that he was housed on "A" module with numerous other inmates who also suffered from a lack of adequate medical care as a result of prison overcrowding. He purports to bring this as a class action on behalf of himself and these other inmates. Plaintiff seeks money damages. Complaint, at 3-4.

Class Action

Although plaintiff files this action naming only himself as plaintiff, he purports to be bringing a class action. Plaintiff has made no motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23, seeking to have the court certify the instant matter as a class action. Moreover, plaintiff is a non-lawyer proceeding without counsel. It is well established that a layperson cannot ordinarily represent the interests of a class. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(4)(requiring that class representative be able "to fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class"); see also, McShane v. United States , 366 F.2d 286, 288 (9th Cir. 1966)(lay person lacks authority to appear as an attorney for others). This rule becomes almost absolute when, as here, the putative class representative is incarcerated and proceeding pro se. Oxendine v. Williams , 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975). In direct terms, plaintiff cannot "fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class, " as required by Rule 23(a)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Martin v. Middendorf , 420 F.Supp. 779 (D.D.C. 1976). "[C]ourts have routinely adhered to the general rule prohibiting pro se plaintiffs from pursuing claims on behalf of others. Plaintiff=s privilege to appear in propria persona is a privilege... personal to him. He has no authority to appear as an attorney for others than himself.'" McShane v. U.S. , 366 F.2d 286, 288 (9th Cir.1966), citing Russell v. United States , 308 ...


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